A Coalisland man is, quite literally, dancing for joy after making it big in the ‘Big Apple’.
Eoghan Peter Dillon is currently a professional dancer working in New York City for one of the world’s best-known touring dance companies, Parsons Dance.
However, having travelled the world working with the best dancers and artists, he is hoping to set out on his own and inspire other local aspiring artists to follow their dreams.
He explained: “I grew up in Coalisland and obviously there wasn’t many options for a little boy to even take a dance class, but my interest for dance and performance became clear early on.
“My mother is the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters so whether we were all in the kitchen at my house or over at one of my aunt’s and uncle’s homes up the road, I always had a big audience at my disposal.
“Whether it was dancing around the living room while my dad played the guitar, running around the back yard making up dance routines with my cousins, or pretending to be Michael Flatly in the kitchen after dinner, there was always a show going on.
“One of my earliest memories is actually an image of me sitting in my Nanny’s house in Lower Annagher and replaying “The Lord of the Dance” over and over again on VHS.
“Watching Michael Flatley, the Irishman who made the world his stage, was definitely an inciting incident for me and my career.
“At age four, my father got an opportunity for work in Ottawa, Canada so the family got up and left Coalisland behind to start living in North America.
“Because we really were the first family in a long time to leave the area we were constantly back and fourth across the ocean, spending as many holidays as we could in Tyrone.
“After training at all the best studios in Ottawa, I auditioned for one of the most prestigious dance schools in the world The Ailey School at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Midtown, New York City.
“After a rigorous audition process, with dancers from all over the world, I was one of 15 dancers awarded a full scholarship to attend the school that year, so at 17 years old I packed up my stuff and headed to America, half excited, half scared to death.
“Besides The Ailey School, I also had the opportunity to attend the world’s largest summer dance festival at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts.
“This is another competitive program that only accepts 12 boys and 12 girls per summer from countries all over the world.
“These two prestigious acceptances changed my life completely, I never thought that I would be looked at as a top tier dancer at such a young age, so this kept the fire in me going and I trained harder than ever.
“In 2015, thinking it was a long shot but would be great experience, I auditioned for The Parsons Dance Company.
“Parsons Dance is famous contemporary dance company that employs eight full time dancers and travels the world performing in all the major venues.
“Out of 500+ dancers at that audition I was given the one slot in the company available that year.
“I remember feeling like I was in a dream. There was no way in my mind a little boy from Country Tyrone had achieved his seemingly impossible dream of dancing as a professional in NYC.”
Besides teaching and dancing all over the world, Eoghan has also worked with large companies on marketing campaigns, most recently with ‘GAP’ on their “Dress Normal Campaign”.
“With Parsons Dance I have travelled all over the world.
“However while I was a company member I help construct and spearhead an initiative to bring dance to children with special needs.
“The whole company would go to school and dance with the children with a specialized program used to help them communicate, exercise and be creative with us.
“ We also performed “Sensory Friendly Performances” that were altered so that anyone who might not usually be able to attend and sit through a dance show could comfortably do so. This chapter with my time in Parsons Dance was the highlight of my dance career so far as it showed me the true power of dance beyond performance.
“The therapeutic power of being able to communicate with one’s body when it may not be possible to do so with words opens up so many amazing and essential opportunities for therapy and helping those in need.
“Now, after four years performing with the company, one of which I was promoted to rehearsal director of the group, I have decided it was time to take everything I have learnt and head out on my own. Currently I am choreographing on major companies in the United States and going on teaching tours all over the world building a program for both young aspiring dancers as well as children with special needs who need a place to express themselves.
“It’s exciting times and if it’s possible for a young lad in Coalisland to make it in the big apple as an artist, it must be true that anything is possible.
“I would love to have the chance to inspire any other local aspiring artists to go after their true passions in life too.”
However never forgetting his ‘hometown’, Eoghan recently returned to Coalisland to spend quality time with his friends and family.
He added: “Coalisland is always in my heart and I was home last month; it brings back so many fantastic memories of growing up.
“I spent time with those important to me especially my Nanny, and went to Donegal for a wedding.
“I didn’t do any official dancing this time around though, but I am desperate to become a part of the arts community in Ireland.
“I’m currently in conversation with companies all over the island including Dance Ireland about getting a relationship going. As I said to them, my long term goal is to be based both out of Ireland and the US and bring professional dance and education on a larger scale back home.
“Once I have my special needs dance program set up I will also be making sure to offer classes whenever I’m home, which will hopefully be more and more over the next few years.
“If it’s possible for a young lad in Coalisland to make it in the big apple as an artist, it must be true that anything is possible, so all I can say is...follow your dreams and make them a reality.”