James Devine is a three-time World Champion Dancer and the “World’s Fastest Dancer” according to Guinness World Records.
Lord of the Dance and GaelForce have both featured James since he was a child. He has also featured on big television programmes such as ‘LIVE with Regis and Kellly’ (New York), ‘Royal Variety Show’ (London) and ‘MTV Italia’ (Italy) (Milan). Live at the 69th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
How did you grow up and where did you grow up?
I am from Limerick. At 5, my parents relocated to Ardnacrusha, but I stayed in Limerick City (Scoil Ide and later on St. Clements College before attending at the University of Limerick).
My father worked at Hydro Electric. During our migration to the country, my mother developed a brain tumour. As a result, she became immobile and needed a wheelchair, which devastated her as she had always Irish danced.
Looking back, I believe my childhood was a little different because I had to cook and aid my mother with her personal needs from a young age. While it was tough at times, I opted to focus on the positives, such as prioritising others’ needs and having a close relationship with my mother. My mum had to live with her impairment till she died in 2017.
When did you realise you loved dance?
My mum worked in Limerick as a typist. When she got sick, she worked from home. On my summer vacations, I was often in the same room as her when she typed. I remembered her quick typing. I’d pass the time by tapping my foot in time with her typing. I told my mother I wanted to learn Irish dancing so I could compete as she had. She trained at the famed O’Rourke school of Irish dancing in Limerick city. She started teaching me the basics and I was instantly hooked. I won my first gold medal in the All-Irelands after a year and a half of daily practise. I was in.
I used to get tormented at school for my love of dance. I’ve never understood why someone would bully others for following their ambitions. Athletes are terrific at football, and I am brilliant at dancing. Dance was always my refuge, my place to grow and thrive. My mother used to tell me that it was because I was doing something amazing that they felt compelled to humiliate me. This encouraged me to persevere and pursue my passions.
Who inspires you?
Personal – my mother. So I believe in myself without restrictions. Her excellent lessons have taught me to dream big. She taught me to overcome hurdles and keep looking forward.
Both Michael Flatley (with whom I worked early in the show days) and David Geaney (another amazing dancer from Dingle) have inspired me in my dance career.
What is your proudest moment?
My childhood dream was to win the World Championships in Irish dance, which I won three times. My greatest dance feat was breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest tap dancing at 38 taps per second, which still holds. I also won “Best Corporate Entertainer” at the Irish Event Industry Awards in Dublin a few years ago.
What is your proudest performance?
Creating and presenting my debut play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006, which was then successfully translated to Broadway the following year. The New York Times praised it after its Broadway premiere. When I read the review, I felt absolute delight and relief at the same time. A harsh New York Times review may make or break a show. That was fortunate.
Has it been difficult to get to where you are now?
To get here, my life has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. My career has two huge lowlights in 2008 and 2020. I had just secured a contract with a management company to tour my show across Australia and Asia in 2008 and 2009. It was my biggest dance contract yet, and the future looked bright until the Great Recession hit in early 2008, devastating theatre, dance, music, and the arts. Due to the global economic crisis, many successful shows had to close. My own show went belly up, and I, along with my cast, lost our jobs. No more tours were announced.
In March 2020, a new show I co-created with David Geaney and Columbia Artist Management was cancelled due to the worldwide closure of theatres and venues due to Covid. The last two years have been difficult for all artists globally.
What recommendations would you give to aspiring dancers?
Remember that when you are brave enough to listen to your inner voice rather than the voices of doubt, you will always achieve and improve.
The Irish Dance Coach
As a certified Strength and Conditioning coach, I created The Irish Dance Coach to help dancers of all styles improve their performance, avoid injury, and fuel their bodies. I’m passionate about assisting injured dancers in their rehabilitation and return to dance. I’ve had some injuries over the years, and having the right people around you is crucial to a long and successful career in dance or any activity.
Describe your five-year plan.
I am passionate about furthering my studies and hope to one day establish my own sports injury clinic after completing my Masters in Strength & Conditioning.
Of course, I’ll keep dancing and expanding my social media outlets to see where it takes me.
How about the city of Limerick itself?
I’ve liked exploring Limerick’s laneways and street art while filming my dancing films. When people stop to watch me dance, they always compliment me. I also feel a strong connection to the city’s vitality, sports and music culture. I’m excited to see it all in full effect in 2022.