Local Irish dance teacher, Nikki Carter, stars at Queen's Theatre
IRISH House Party is a revolt against twee Irish stereotypes. Promised is a dose of no-nonsense craic performed by time-served musicians whose wish is to get back to the old ways of singing, playing and dancing.
Intimacy is the key here, hence the House Party name.
Joining them on stage for a local guest spot is North Devon's own Nikki Carter, who will be demonstrating her dancing skills on the night with a dance of her choice. She has opted to perform a treble reel – a fast and impressive show dance. The Ilfracombe dance teacher, 24, is full of fervour for the event:
"House Party is an exciting, fresh and professional company showcasing the very best of traditional Irish music and dancing," she says. "It is spreading Ireland's heritage and culture across the world in a wonderful way."
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Since being inspired by Michael Flatley when she was 8, Cambridge-born Donna enrolled in Peterborough's Stanley School of Irish Dancing and went on to perform successfully in many feiseanna (dancing comps). Lack of funds prevented her from entering at higher levels, but this setback only made her all the more determined to perfect her art.
"I practised whenever I got the chance. While my friends went out to play, I would go to a dance studio at the local gym instead, going through my dance steps hour after hour."
This dedication continued throughout college and university as Nikki could be seen performing frequently at various folk, art and music festivals. In 2009, however, she suffered another great setback: a serious knee injury brought a temporary halt to her burgeoning career.
Again intent on pursuing what she loves most, Nikki turned to teaching and found reward in helping others to realise their true potential. In 2011 she moved to North Devon and made her mark at events such as Pilton's Green Man and the Lynton and Lynmouth Arts Festival. Since becoming known in the area she was asked about starting classes here, and hasn't looked back.
"It has just flown in popularity. I have six classes running now with demand for more in the near future. It has blown me away, I never expected it to take off like it has."
Nikki's doggedness to dance is not her only asset. She fits in perfectly with the House Party spirit by demonstrating her ability to breathe new life into traditional Irish music.
Declan Quinn from the Irish House Party is delighted to have her in the show: "Our show is based on exactly what the title suggests, an Irish House Party, and a key element of these events is always spontaneity – we couldn't think of a better way to do that than to have someone local to join us on stage as a guest. We are really looking forward to working with Nikki when we get to Barnstaple."
Nikki hopes to put her own stamp, quite literally, into her fiery footwork.
"I am a very creative dancer and love to put my own spin on the traditional steps. While it is important to stay true to tradition I think it is crucial to keep exploring new ways of pushing it out there, because if we stagnate we die."
With the world at her dancing feet, I'd say stagnation is not on the menu for Nikki Carter.
Irish House Party is at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on Saturday, March 23, 7.45pm. Tickets: £20 (full), £18.50 (NDT supporters). Box office: 01271 324242 or visit www.north devontheatres.org.uk