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Alan marks 30 years in West Cork

June 10th, 2023 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Alan marks 30 years in West Cork Image
Alan Foley jumped at the chance to teach ballet in West Cork, and opened his first school in Skibbereen in 1991.

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THE Alan Foley Academy of Dance is celebrating 30 years of teaching ballet and modern dance to the youth of West Cork.

Alan, also the founder and artistic director of Cork City Ballet, opened his first ballet school in the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen in 1991.

‘So, in fact we’re 32 years old, but Covid wiped out a couple of those years when we had to close, so we’re proud to celebrate our 30th year anniversary this year,’ he said. 

The renowned dancer recalls teaching in the Joan Denise Moriarty School of Dance in Cork when she asked for someone to consider teaching in Skibbereen once a week.

‘I volunteered because growing up in the countryside (Fountainstown was the countryside back then!) I liked the idea of decentralisation and wanted to give something back to children far away from the city. 

‘I was familiar with West Cork because I have a lot of relations living there including my lovely aunty Mandy who divided her time between Tripoli in Libya and Bantry and Glengarriff for many years. We used to visit her for holidays as kids,’ remembers Alan. 

He currently teaches in the Skibbereen branch in Uillinn and  in the Clonakilty branch which is based in the Leisure Centre of the Park Hotel. 

‘Miss Lindsay teaches in the Bantry Boys’ Club every Friday and Miss Ciara teaches in the Carrigaline branch every Thursday. 

Kevin Hayes (originally from Skibbereen and one of my students for many years) teaches my adult programme at the Firkin Crane every Wednesday evening. These classes are hugely popular and always oversubscribed,’ he said. 

Students from his West Cork classes performed in a special anniversary show in the Everyman Theatre last Sunday, where they created special memories, he said. 

Alan, performing here in ‘Le Corsaire,’ has worked alongside some of the most illustrious dancers of this generation.


Highlights of the past 30 years are plentiful, said Alan who lives in Carrigaline, but who also spends time in his home in Sweden. 

‘It’s lovely to look back fondly over the years and think of the successes we’ve had. They include former students like Mary Wycherley from Skibbereen who has just been named as the new director of Dance Limerick. 

‘Chloe Pisco is currently in production for her new film ‘Dances With Whales’ and was recently a guest speaker at the World Science Festival in Brisbane. Averil Murphy from Clonakilty is a professional stunt woman and has featured in many films including ‘The Rhythm Section’. Kevin Hayes has had a prolific career in dance (including many seasons with Cork City Ballet) and I’m delighted that he’s now teaching with me,’ said Alan. 

Now retired from the professional stage, he says his classes are for everyone. 

‘Professional dance (and ballet in particular) is a very difficult profession to get in to because it’s so demanding physically and emotionally – and you need a very strong constitution to thrive in that environment. 

‘That said, the benefits of young people doing ballet and dance even once a week are enormous including improving deportment and grooming, posture, strength, working as part of a team, experiencing the arts including music, set design, lighting, costumes, choreography and the discipline of class and rehearsal,’ he said.  

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