step dance • damhsa • niimihk • jig • gigue
Danielle is a dancer, fiddler, and enthochoreologist (dance anthropologist). She grew up steeped in Irish music and dance, and has family connections to Métis and Quebecois dance and fiddle traditions. Danielle is an Irish step-dancer, and a sean-nós (old-style) dancer. She specializes in the old, regional Irish dance master traditions and styles, and their relationship to European and North American dance practices.
With her comprehensive knowledge of the historical and cultural paradigms of cross-cultural dance traditions and her fiddle practice, Danielle brings a unique depth to the work she does. In the world of Irish dance, Danielle has a toe in both competitive and old-style/sean-nós dance. She has studied dance in Cork, Kerry, and Belfast, and has direct links to the old dancing master lineages of Cork and Kerry. Danielle is an expert in the dance master traditions in Ireland, Europe, and North America/Turtle Island and has presented papers and performances on topics ranging from the role of dance in forming and signaling cultural identity throughout history, to dance and traditional art practices in pre-and post-colonial cultures, to issues around community, race, and accessibility in dance and tradition.
"When Danielle dances, she imbues grace, delicacy, and artistry.”
-Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh, Altan
"Danielle’s deep embodied knowledge informs her pathbreaking research at the intersection of old-style Irish dance, and sean-nós"
Danielle holds an MA in dance research from Munster Technological University in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland. This MA program is unique within the academic world. Danielle spent two years conducting primary and secondary research, and teaching dance and movement courses in the college. The resulting thesis is titled Historical and Cultural Paradigms of the Dance Tradition in County Cork. Cork was an important crossroads in the dance master tradition, and the development of Irish step dance. Danielle's work examined the relationship between the Irish dance master tradition, and Baroque popular culture that spanned from Europe to North America. Her thesis outlines the cultural and political developments of dance in Ireland through the Gaelic Revival and the fight for Irish Independence. It also looks at the contributions of Irish dance masters in North American Minstrelsy and Vaudeville.
Danielle also has a Diploma in Traditional Irish Music from Univerity College Cork in Cork City, Ireland. Her studies included fiddle, dance, Irish cultural studies, ethnography, music theory, and improvisation. There she studied with some of Irish music's greats, including Connie O'Connell, Matt Cranitch, and Bobby Gardner. While in Cork she also developed a relationship and studied with Peggy McTeggart, a legendary force in Irish dance in the 20th century.
Danielle's familial roots also inform her practice and research. Her Métis grandfather and Quebecois grandmother both grew up dancing and fiddling in kitchens and barns in their respective communities.
Various dancers and knowledge holders have helped to guide Danielle in reconnecting to her family traditions. Jane Peck, a historian and dancer, is one of few Baroque dance historians in North America. She holds a wealth of knowledge in the French court dances, and the French and Indigenous cultural interactions in North America. She has been a resource and mentor for Danielle in her own research, and the two now collaborate.
Danielle has learned French Canadian step dance from the two leading dance researchers in Quebec, Pierre Chartrand and Normand Legault. Both have experience dancing and collecting steps from Jonquiere, the hometown of Danielle's grandmother, Thérèse. Danielle's Métis influences include her family and knowledge holders in the Métis culture. Danielle's family comes from St. Francois Xavier in the Red River Valley, and her family roots go back to The Battle of Frog Plain. Her family names include Pelletier, Fournier, Gagnon, Lapierre, Cyr, MacPherson, and Aymont. She has learned Métis customs, beadwork, and the Métis language (Michif, which is a mixture of Cree and French) from Natalie Pepin. Dancers Yvonne Chartrand, Madelaine McCallum, and Bev Lambert have influenced Danielle's dancing. Emerging Cree and Métis Elder, Joseph Neytowhow has generously shared his knowledge with Danielle. Danielle has learned Métis tunes from Patti Kusturok who learned fiddling from contemporaries of Danielle's great-grandfather and uncle, Laurent and Barnabé Nadon. Danielle has also learned Métis steps from Jane Peck and Julie Young Walser, both of whom learned from Sandy Poitras in Turtle Mountain, the Métis and Ojibwe Reservation in North Dakota.
Among some of the first dancers in the USA to study and teach these dance forms, Danielle's roots go deep in Ireland. She has lived in Cork, Kerry, and Belfast, and has worked with dancers with direct ties to some of the last itinerant dancing masters in Ireland: Cormac O’Keefe, Jeremiah Molyneaux, and Stevie Comerford. These influences have formed lasting foundations in Danielle's dancing.
Danielle has taught and performed in venues across North America and Europe including - Milwaukee Irish Fest, BBC Alba, Dance Research Forum Ireland, Munster Technological University, The Flurry Festival, UW Milwaukee, The New York Trad Fest, and O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat. She has worked with many wonderful musicians over the years, these include - Paddy O’Brien, Sean McComiskey, Josh Dukes, Anna Colliton, Altan, Manus McGuire, Enda Scahill, Paul Brock, Daithi Sproule, Liz Carroll, Kevin Crawford, Colin Farrell, John Doyle, Julie Fowlis, Lúnasa, David Munnelly, Ann Heymann, and Danny, Diamond.
Danielle’s current projects and partnerships reimagine step-dance, digging into historical contexts, and forging new paths. In 2018 Danielle founded The Step Collective, a project that brings dancers, musicians, a tradition bearers from the various practices in North America, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and parts of Europe together in one space for education, exploration, and to deepen the understanding of shared connections and unique threads within the various traditions. Danielle's latest musical project with New York-based Bodhrán player, Anna Colliton, The Bad Neighbors Rhythm Project is a "refreshing" and cutting edge exploration into traditional rhythms, historical contexts, exploring rhythmic boundaries, and bringing two rhythmic and percussive accompaniment forms together in fresh, exciting, and thought-provoking ways.
Danielle's work extends beyond dance and music. She is a trained teacher in the Waldorf/Steiner education system, has worked in museum program development and exhibit management, and works in advocacy locally and abroad. Danielle has taught in elementary school classrooms in Berlin and has developed and taught college-level coursework for dance and movement for Early Childhood Education, Disability Studies, Cultural Studies, and Physical Education. Danielle has been involved in housing justice in Minneapolis. Her work in education and advocacy is currently focused on the Padoc Area Scholars Society, an education non-profit based in Minnesota and South Sudan, headed by Ting Mayai, one of the Lost Boys Of Sudan. Danielle is also an advocate for disability awareness. She lives with a traumatic brain injury/post-concussion syndrome, sustained in 2018, an experience which has deepened her understanding of the mind-body connection and opened her eyes to the need for an accessible and equitable world.