Bridging Tradition and Innovation: The Evolution of Irish Dance Through the Eyes of Brent Pace

In the world of performing arts, where tradition meets contemporary flair, ‘A Taste of Ireland’ emerges as a beacon of cultural celebration. This touring production, acclaimed for its spectacular blend of music, dance, and storytelling, is set to captivate audiences once again with its dynamic portrayal of Irish heritage. Under the visionary leadership of Brent Pace, a co-producer and director with deep roots in Irish dancing, the show promises an enchanting experience that transcends the conventional boundaries of performance.

With over three decades of experience in Irish dance, Pace brings to the stage a unique combination of competitive excellence and creative brilliance. ‘A Taste of Ireland’ is not just a dance show; it is a theatrical spectacle that invites audiences to journey through the rich tapestry of Ireland’s history, culture, and folklore. From the energetic rhythms of traditional Irish music to the intricate choreography of world champion dancers, the production showcases the essence of Ireland with modern flair and unparalleled skill.

As the show prepares to embark on its Australian tour, starting at the iconic Palms at Crown Melbourne on St Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2024, before making its way across various cities and eventually debuting on Broadway, it stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of Irish dance. Brent Pace, alongside his partner Ceili Moore, has crafted ‘A Taste of Ireland’ into a global phenomenon that resonates with audiences worldwide, proving that the spirit of Ireland’s dance and music is alive and flourishing.

In this feature, we delve into the mind of Brent Pace, exploring his journey from a world-class competitor to a visionary director, the influences that have shaped his approach to the show, and his insights into the future of Irish dance and theatre productions. Ultimately we gain an intimate understanding of the passion, challenges, and triumphs behind ‘A Taste of Ireland’, a production that continues to evolve and inspire, setting the stage for a new decade of Celtic performance art.



Pace’s shift from competitive dancing to producing and directing wasn’t abrupt but a natural progression of his lifelong passion for performance and storytelling. “I’ve always had a really passionate interest in shows and the theatre,” Pace explains. His competitive days, characterized more by his flair for showmanship than technical perfection, laid the groundwork for his future in theatre. “A Taste of Ireland was for me, really the way in which I could combine my skill set with taking a step into professional producing and directing in the theatre world,” he adds, underscoring the blend of technical choreography and storytelling that defines the show.

With over 30 years of experience in Irish dancing and having achieved multiple world medals and national championships, what inspired you to transition from being a world-class competitor to a co-producer and director of ‘A Taste of Ireland’? How has your competitive background influenced your approach to producing and directing the show?

I’ve always had a really passionate interest in shows and the theatre. I think competitive Irish dance is almost like a sport as opposed to an art form (but the Jurys still out), and I was always considered a bit more of a ’show’ style competitor as opposed to a technically perfect one so for me my goal was always based around performing rather than competing. I loved entertaining the audience and even the judges at a competition. Although technically I started out as an Irish dancer by trade, I have used Irish dance as the basis for the development of my directorial skills and am really starting to branch into more mainstream theatre as a director and producer. A Taste of Ireland was for me, really the way in which I could combine my skills set with taking a step into  professional producing and directing in the theatre world. I think everyone has a different journey into it. With that being said, I also hold my Irish dance teachers qualifications with my background in the competitive world A Taste of Ireland does have quite technical choreography with all of the time signatures and musical nuances based on those that would be seen within the competitive arena. It makes the requirement for our cast members to be really strong competitive dancers super important.

Growing up under the tutelage of one of Australia’s most prominent Irish dance teachers and training internationally, Pace was exposed to a plethora of choreographic styles and dramatic interpretations. These experiences, particularly his time with a leading figure dancing school in the UK, profoundly influenced his creative approach. “It was through being in that studio that I learned how to interpret historic stories into a dance piece,” Pace recalls, highlighting how ‘A Taste of Ireland’ incorporates various elements of Irish dance to narrate Ireland’s rich history beyond the stereotypes.

Growing up as the son of one of Australia’s most prominent Irish dance teachers and training alongside the best in London, Dublin, and the United States, how have these experiences and influences shaped your vision for ‘A Taste of Ireland’? Can you share how your heritage and international exposure have contributed to the thematic and choreographic choices in the show?

It really allowed me exposure to some different perceptions on choreography and dramatic interpretation. Don’t get me wrong, I loved dancing for my mother and she was a truly exceptional teacher, but through the opportunities I gained by dancing with some amazing teachers and through training in some of the most inspiring classes it caused me to think of performance differently. When I was in the UK during my teens for example, I danced for a school that was at the time the top figure dancing school in the world in Irish dance. It was through being in that studio that I learned how to interpret historic stories into a 5x minute dance piece using only group formations to music in light shoes. In A Taste of Ireland, the number ‘Hurling’ which is based on the 1959 Hurling Cup between Kilkenny & Waterford is one such piece and it is performed solely light shoes (so no taps or rhythmic pieces), and it is a full cast number. It has been really important for me to combine all of the elements of Irish dance into the show, telling all of the stories of Ireland. I think there is a large stereotype associate with firstly Irish dance ie. it is people tapping in a line with their arms down, and secondly with Irish stories traditionally being told, a lot of which are theatrically set between 1850 – 1950 showing a culture of costume including paddy caps and petticoats. It was a crucial dramatic choice for me to develop the story and the art form simultaneously by not only using different influences in Irish dance, such as tap, contemporary, figure and ceili dancing, heavy shoe dancing, and of course Irish ’show dancing’ – that everyone has come to know since Eurovision 94 – but also to tell the rich parts of Irish history such as the Vikings & Brian Boru, the Fíanna (the ancient warrior tribes of Ireland), and the mythology surrounding stories such as the Children of Lír.

Transitioning to a leadership role in the arts, Pace faced and continues to confront imposter syndrome. “I was just an Irish dancer, who sort of fell into it due to my family,” he admits, reflecting on the unconventional path that led him to where he is today. Despite these challenges, Pace takes pride in the evolution of ‘A Taste of Ireland’ from a small production to an international touring show. The launch of his production company, Pace Live, in the UK and America, marks significant milestones in his career, showcasing his ambition and dedication to the arts.

Transitioning from a lead dancer to a principal role in major productions and now to a co-producer and director, what have been some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced in these roles? Conversely, what achievements are you most proud of in your career, particularly in relation to ‘A Taste of Ireland’?

Honestly, imposter syndrome is probably the hardest challenge I’ve faced and still face. I was just an Irish dancer, who sort of fell into it due to my family. It’s not really a professional game, everyone only really does it on an amateur level unless they tour for a bit here or there and then maybe start teaching as a side job. So for me it was always the confusion of combating the feeling of the fact that, as an Australian having grown up in North West Melbourne I had to prove, what I did. It was a tad awkward when everyone sat around in high school and discussed that they wanted to go to uni and do things like Engineering, Sports Science etc. when I wanted to go to overseas to Irish dance and perform. It always raised a few eyebrows. I always knew I wanted to move into the process of creating shows (and not just Irish ones) but perform first and the toughest thing has been the long journey that it has taken to get to this point so far. Additionally I’d say that I have had to turn down some really big performing contracts as a show dancer myself such as Lord of the Dance to focus on my own show and company at the age of 21. My own ego and achievements as a performer have had to take a backseat so I could concentrate on the longevity of my career as a producer and director. Having said that though, I am probably most proud of the fact that A Taste of Ireland has survived time so far as a show and evolved from a very small production over 10 years ago to the International touring production it is today. It is never a stagnant show, we always change and upgrade the choreography, lighting, visual effects and make it more refined every year. At the end of 2022 we launched our production company Pace Live in the UK with A Taste of Ireland’s A Celtic Christmas and I am very proud of opening the show and our production company Pace Live in the UK at the end of 2022 and then in America at the end of last year. Additionally we are opening A Taste of Ireland Off Broadway this year so I am really proud of what we have done so far, but I am very excited as I feel like things are about to really get some momentum.

Pace’s partnership with Ceili Moore, both in life and in work, plays a crucial role in the success of ‘A Taste of Ireland.’ Despite the challenges of working closely with a partner, Pace credits Moore for her invaluable contributions to the show and their company. “We both work across the producing and the performance side of the show,” he notes, emphasizing the balance and support they provide each other in their shared creative endeavors.

Your partnership with Ceili Moore, both professionally and personally, has been a notable aspect of your career. How does this partnership influence the creative and operational aspects of ‘A Taste of Ireland’? Can you discuss the dynamics of working closely with someone who is both a life and business partner in such a large-scale production?

Look I am not going to say it is easy working with your partner, but the show and our company would not be where it is today without her. We are also trying to organise our wedding amongst tour schedules at the moment and with our calendar in both hemispheres it is proving slightly tough. We’ve been engaged for almost 5 years now and have a 2 year old daughter so it would be nice to be able to finally tie the knot and organise something for ourselves that isn’t work. Ceili and I have a really great work relationship, we don’t always work in the same office at the same time – we tried that and it was a bit of overkill, as in her killing me haha – but we do work on different areas of the show and company. Ceili is a World champion Irish dancer, and she has also toured as a professional Irish dancer and has a lot of the same interests as me so it really does work. We both work across the producing and the performance side of the show. She is a genius at marketing, branding, and promoting the shows and is also really great at looking at transitional elements within the performance of the show that from a choreographic perspective I may miss. She has choreographed for the show as well as she has training in ballet, contemporary, and styles that I do not, as she is a really well rounded dancer. I suppose it makes life a lot easier when you can sort things out there and then on the spot, and we work to balance each other out as we assist each other with things that the other could not do. I couldn’t ask for a better work partner but also life partner. I am however looking forward to a work free holiday soon though… maybe the honeymoon or somewhere that there isn’t a theatre for a few miles.

Looking ahead, Pace sees the evolution of Irish dance as akin to ballet’s journey, with room for growth and exploration in dramatic settings. He envisions a future where Irish dance transcends traditional formats to incorporate diverse influences and theatrical elements. ‘A Taste of Ireland,’ while rooted in showcasing the essence of Irish culture, is a step towards this future, connecting with audiences worldwide through its dynamic portrayal of Ireland’s stories and traditions.

Having been featured in the ‘Dancing Down Under’ documentary and with your extensive experience in the world of Irish dance, how do you see the future of Irish dance and dance productions evolving? With ‘A Taste of Ireland’ set to debut on Broadway after the Australian tour, what do you believe are the key elements that will continue to draw audiences to Irish dance shows in this decade and beyond?


The competitive arena of Irish dance has really changed in the last year or so and more so since Dancing Down Under was filmed. I feel like I was part of Irish dance’s heyday and as much as I love the sport side of it, it is quite restrictive as to what you can or cannot do as a competitive dancer which is detracting from its lustre. The competitive world really took off in the mid 90s due to Eurovision and Flatley, and this was great for Irish dance but it was the show aspect that made it such an attractive art form. I do now however think that the outside world perceives Irish dance to be either a very rigid dance style or to be that of a ‘show format’ with a man running up and down a line with people tapping with their arms by their side, as opposed to a dance style itself. Irish dance is a relatively young art form in terms of the professional arena and I think much the same way that ballet has developed, it will develop too. With so many different influences within it, Irish dance just needs to be used in different dramatic settings to explore what has been done with other dance styles. Our company for example is developing an all female show about goddesses living in the modern world which is not a large ‘dance troupe’ performance that Irish dance is typically known for. It also combines with other dance styles, music and theatrical elements so nothing like what people’s perceptions of Irish dance are. A Taste of Ireland was itself never set out to reinvent the wheel. It was created to be a really solid Irish dance show that showcased things that the culture could relate to. I think the fact that the Irish diaspora is spread so far has really built a connection with so many audiences as they can relate to some part of the show. Irish love to have the ‘craic’, which means fun in Gaelic and you’re always up for a bit of craic when you head out to see shows like A Taste of Ireland.

Brent Pace’s journey from the competitive Irish dance scene to the forefront of theatrical production illustrates the transformative power of passion and creativity. Through ‘A Taste of Ireland,’ he not only pays homage to his roots but also paves the way for the evolution of Irish dance, inviting audiences to experience the art form’s rich heritage and boundless potential.

So, if you’re ready for a night of epic Irish dancing, killer tunes, and stories that’ll stick with you, grab your tickets to ‘A Taste of Ireland’ on its national tour of Australia HERE.

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