A 15-year-old Black Dancer Has Become a Rising Star in Irish Dance

Imani Johnson is changing the face of Irish dance across the country. The 15-year-old from Atlanta began watching YouTube videos of Irish dancers after being introduced by friends on the playground at a young age.

“Everyone told me I was a natural,” Johnson said. In 2021 she placed second in her age group at the U.S. nationals and won Southern regionals in 2018 and 2019.

Even though Johnson is among the few Black dancers at her competitions she says, “I would want to see someone like me, so I could have someone to relate to.” 

According to Lisa Petri, president of Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America, it has become more diverse over the years with dance schools “from China to Mexico”. 

And while many still claim non-Irish dancers of cultural appropriation, Emma Burke of Atlanta Irish Dance by Burke Connolly says, “I would say probably over 70 percent of our dancers have no Irish connection whatsoever. I think that’s true for a significant portion of Irish dance schools around the world. A vast majority of it is people who’ve just fallen in love with the dance form.” 

Johnson continues to be an inspiration to young dancers of color and wants to motivate them to keep dancing despite not fitting into the typical mold of Irish dancing.

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