WMU News

Irish student uses Fulbright to study dance at WMU

Nov. 5, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- With all of the attention being paid in recent years to traditional Irish step dancing, one often doesn't associate modern dance with the land of jigs and reels.

But talk to Edel Quinlan or watch her dance and you might have a different impression.

Quinlan, who hails from Wexford, Ireland, is currently studying at Western Michigan University under a Fulbright Scholarship. But there will be no traditional Irish dance for her.

"I'm more into the contemporary and ballet and jazz side of things," says the chipper 21-year-old. "I just like watching Irish dancing. I never actually trained as an Irish dancer."

Quinlan, a Dublin native, began dancing as an after-school activity. Her father was a professional ballroom dancer, so dancing was definitely in her blood from the outset.

Her dancing pursuits took a big turn as a student at Inchicore College in Dublin. At the time, Quinlan was studying to become a dance teacher, but took a contemporary dance class with Adrienne Brown. Brown saw something special in Quinlan and urged her to pursue dance as a profession.

Her parents stood behind her decision.

"It was always my own choice," Quinlan says, "and they backed me completely in whatever decision I made, which I was very thankful for."

During her last year at Inchicore, Quinlan's mother spotted a newspaper article about the opportunity for students to obtain Fulbright Scholarships for study abroad. Quinlan decided to give it a shot and sent in her application last November. In late February, she learned she had been short-listed for an audition. Quinlan auditioned and found out a short time later that she had won a fine arts Fulbright.

"I think shock was my initial reaction," Quinlan says, "because there are so many young artists wanting to study abroad and because there is so much competition, particularly in England, which is the big center for dance. I thought I had a chance, but at the same time there were so many people going for it."

When the shock wore off, Quinlan was thrilled that she was actually going to America to study. But where would she go to school?

She researched U.S. universities with top dance schools, including the University of Utah and the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She eventually chose WMU.

Quinlan says she's been very pleased with both WMU and life in America in general since arriving here in late August.

"I love it," she says. "I thought I would be really homesick, but I'm not. I don't have time to feel lonely."

Quinlan isn't the only one happy with her choice of WMU.

"For Edel to choose us over the University of Utah and Tisch School of the Arts, both of which have excellent dance programs, really says a lot for what we have to offer," says. Trudy Cobb, WMU associate professor of dance.

Quinlan has adjusted to life in America quickly. She already has made many friends and is excited about visiting with a friend's family over Thanksgiving. While not going to class and working on her dance technique, she is being shown around Kalamazoo and the region. Friends plan to take her to Chicago soon.

"Everybody has been so friendly," she says. "I couldn't imagine it being like this in a huge city like New York. I think the biggest thing I've had to adjust to is driving on the other side of the road."

As part of her scholarship, Quinlan must return to Ireland for at least two years to bring back to her homeland what she has learned here. She hopes to land a spot in a contemporary dance troupe when she returns, while completing her degree.

"I would like to return having achieved what I wanted to and go home knowing that I had made a lot of new friends and experienced American culture," Quinlan says. "I want to gain as much experience and knowledge as I can and bring that back to Ireland."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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