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Ms Jean Butler
Mr Jean Butler MA '05
2009 Recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Arts & Culture Alumni Award

American-born Jean Butler has been dancing for over thirty years. Though trained in Ballet and Tap, it was Irish Step Dancing - under the tuition of renowned New York-based teacher Donny Golden and with the encouragement of her own Mayo-born mother - which became Jean's speciality. She went on to successfully compete in consecutive regional, national and world championships and since then, has toured as a soloist with Irish music artists Mick Moloney, Cherish the Ladies, Donal Lunny, Solas, Kila, and The Chieftains.

(l-r) ULAA Chairperson, Mr Fintan Breen, Ms Jean Butler, Prof Don Barry, UL President and Mr Gerry Reeves, Bank of Ireland Regional Manager (West Munster)Best known as Co–Choreographer for ‘Riverdance, The Show' and originator of the Principle Female Role, Jean toured with the show for three years. After performing for Popes, Presidents, Kings and Queens, she left to produce and choreograph her own show. ‘Dancing on Dangerous Ground' had exclusive engagements at Drury Lane, London (1999) and Radio City Music Hall, New York (2000). Anna Kisselgoff of the NY Times reviewed the show as "a successful attempt at channeling Irish step dancing into genuine artistic expression.”

In 2005, Jean completed a Masters in Contemporary Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at UL where she was also Artist in Residence (2003-2005).

Jean's solo work has been commissioned, supported and presented by the Irish Arts Council, Dublin Dance Festival, Project Arts Centre (Dublin), Daghdha Dance Company (Limerick), Plankton Productions (Japan) and Movement Research Open Series (New York). In 2007, she choreographed her first solo show entitled 'does she take sugar?' which ran at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin. The show was awarded ‘Most Innovative Production' in the critics' survey in Ballet-Tanz Magazine Yearbook 2007. In April 2008, Jean remounted her show at the invitation of Laurie Uprichard for the Dublin Dance Festival where Jodi Melnick mentored the project.

Ms Jean Butler with her husband Cuan HanlyJean teaches Irish Dance Master Classes internationally and has been a Guest Lecturer at NYU, Notre Dame University, and Trinity College, Dublin. She is also Associate Editor of Critical Correspondence, the online initiative of NY-based dance organisation, Movement Research.

Today, Jean lives in New York with her husband, designer Cuan Hanly. Her next project, commissioned by The Abbey Theatre, Dublin will be a solo piece choreographed by Tere O'Conner, to premiere in May 2010.

Through her leading role in modernising and globalising Irish Dance, Jean's contribution to Arts and Culture to-date has been both immense and enduring.

The above text is an extract from the 2009 UL Alumni Awards Souvenir Booklet.
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