Lauren CroweMueller

2023 Ambassador Lauren Crowe-Mueller

Sarita (00:00):

Okay. I’m Sarita. I am on the Dance Wire Board and I’m here with Lauren, and Lauren, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (00:09):

Sure. I am Lauren Crowe-Mueller. I’m one of the Co-Directors of An Daire Academy of Irish Dance. 

Sarita (00:14):

Amazing. We’re super happy to have you. Lauren is part of our new Ambassador Cohort this year, so welcome to the Dance Wire Ambassador Cohort. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (00:24):

Thank you, so excited.

Sarita (00:25):

So let’s go ahead and hear an overview of how you got started in dance. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (00:32):

I actually came to dance much older. I wanted to do it my whole life. My mom will tell you I was interested in every form of dance possible, but was just not in a position growing up to be able to take advantage of that, and so by the time I got into high school and it was part of musical theater, that’s where I really caught the bug and I thought, “gosh, if there’s any way I could do this for the rest of my life, that would be awesome.” And I ended up being encouraged to do something responsible. I’m going to say this because I know that other creatives out there have heard this, but, “what’s going to pay the bills?” And so to satiate my parents, I did go to college and I did do the responsible thing. I also really loved healthcare and nursing, so I got my certification as a nurse and all the while taking theater classes and musical theater in particular and just really loving the dance portion. And it wasn’t until I moved out on my own as an adult and had my own spending money and my own time and schedule that I found Irish dancing. It was just kind of this lovely blend of everything I’d grown up with, watching tap you know Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen and White Christmas, Singing In the Rain. I just loved all of that and it had a lovely component of the soft shoe, very balletic things I was attracted to, but also that hard shoe tap. So, I didn’t start until again my adult years and was very fortunate to have great success with that in that I was able to compete and then was invited into a show and then also invited to start working with my instructor to open a school and eventually married one of my classmates and have the school together and here we are. It’s been wonderful. 

Sarita (02:18):

Amazing. Quick little side question, what was the first musical that got you into the dance world? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (02:25):

Oh, okay. So, I had a little dance piece in Sound of Music. It was Louisa von Trapp and we did <sings> “cuckoo,” this one, you know? So a little bit of dancing there, which was super fun, but Fame was the next one I did, and I got to do the role of Hilary and she was the ballet dancer and I faked my way through that. Any of you actual ballet dancers out there would’ve cringed to see me do what I did on stage. It was nothing appropriate, I’m sure, but it’s what I thought ballet looked like or should look like at the time. And I discovered a lot of myself actually, the first time I started doing Irish dancing I took it from a non-certified instructor who was pulling from their past childhood experience and copying what it should look like, and it wasn’t until I found my instructor here in the Pacific Northwest, Tony Comerford, he was a certified instructor, that I was taught all the ins and outs and the rules and the actual technique and things, and I thought, “oh my gosh, I know nothing. This man is magical. He’s amazing.” And so instead of going back, I was looking back east to the time I stayed here to learn from him, and that’s where it all started for me. It was wonderful.

Sarita (03:40):

That’s amazing. Wow. So tell me, what does dance mean to you or what has it meant to you throughout your life? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (03:48):

It has been a means of expression and of just expressing the music. I’ve always said this to my students too, “show me what the music looks like with your movements. Show me how you feel it.” And I feel like when you can connect with the music, it brings life to the movements in a way that takes it beyond just your instructed to put your foot here and your arm here and this and that. When you really embody the movements and put them to the music it’s just freedom. It’s freedom. It’s flying. It has meant also a stress release for me when I was going to nursing school. I couldn’t wait to just be done reading. I used to dangle it as a carrot for myself. If you could just get through this chapter, you can go dance. And again, my freedom from that, my reward, and so I feel like, yeah, freedom. Freedom, yeah. 

Sarita (04:47):

One word. That’s it. I love it. That’s perfect. Tell us about the challenges that you’ve faced so far as a dance artist. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (04:58):

So in my particular genre of Irish dance, it is not extremely common for an adult to have the success I’ve had. In fact, we made the cover of Irish Dance Magazine, my husband and I, because we were the two adults that made it. It was sweet how they promoted that, but I didn’t realize at the time because I was in it and I was just nose to the grindstone pursuing my dreams that it was unusual, and I’ve come to know since then from other colleagues from different countries and things that, especially over in the Ireland and UK, you’re meant to take Irish dance almost like a gym class, it’s part of their tradition and history so you have to take it to a certain point. Like in elementary school, you learn the Gaelic language, do the Irish dance, and if you choose to do it beyond that, what they’ve told me is, “there’s something wrong with you, like why would you do that? We were forced to do it.” But then here in the States, we got Riverdance back in the nineties and it was just a whole new world for all of us. If you hadn’t seen it, if you weren’t in that demographic and that culture, you didn’t necessarily know it even existed, and it really put it on the map in a way that everybody wanted it. And I was part of that original Riverdance wave that went looking for it after seeing it, and it just checked all the boxes for me and my age was an issue. I think that is why, well, I know it’s why I chose the instructor that I was with, Tony Comerford, because he actually took some flack for taking us on. There was several of us that he called his senior senior dancers that he put into regular competition, and at the time, my husband and I were both competing in age groups that were 13 and over, and I remember getting comments in the restroom changing out of my costume where people just talk a little bit loud enough so you can overhear about, 

“well, I just don’t think it’s fair to have someone that’s so experienced and older in a category competing against the children.” And I just wanted to say, “your child probably knows more than I do. I haven’t been doing this for this long and it’s definitely not my choice to be in the 13 and overs,” but there I was. And so I really had to pay my dues and I think in several ways it caused me to work harder. I really had to get organized and work with my body and try to figure out how I could get it to do what these younger bodies were doing. And I think that has been just enormously helpful as a teacher because I do have a lot of dancers just discovering this as adults and knowing that that stigma was out there and how I had to work has helped me to be able to assist them. And over time now, things have really changed. Adults are really being embraced in Irish dance and we just opened a category of championships for them. They can go to [inaudible], they can go to the nationals, but working on the worlds, getting them to the worlds because there’s some amazing dancers out there. It’s just at the nationals and they are absolutely amazing. So I would like to say I was at the start of that wave and it’s definitely a wave that’s grown and it’s just really been amazing to see. I’m hoping that these dancers are having far less resistance to what I experienced when I started.

Sarita (08:13):

Yeah that’s incredible. I know very, very little about Irish dance in general. What kind of time commitment is it to compete at the level that you’re speaking about? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (08:27):

Sure. Well, and it’ll be different for everyone’s individual body, but I think the sport is, there’s traditional aspects to it, but it’s also still very much what I call living art form in that we are always looking for inspiration from other sports and other forms of dance and then incorporating those things into what we call our traditional technique and form. And so we will look at a figure skater and see them flying through the air and go, “oh, I wonder if I can do that turned out, crossed over and with my hands by my sides.” And so we are incorporating these new things and it’s gotten quite athletic and I will say even some of the adults are failing the push to be a lot more athletic with their ability. So I would say cross training is a really big thing. People are, they’re going to two, sometimes three classes a week if they can get them, but then they’re going to the gym on the days in between and watching what they fuel their bodies with and hydrating and trying to get enough sleep and all this, especially my college age and my adult students, I have so much respect for because they’re doing this with jobs and families and all these other obligations. And then the kids now with all the homework they have and all the other after school activities. So I would say the work would be seven days a week, whether it’s physical or whether it’s just being mindful of getting your sleep, your hydration and eating well. But it’s definitely what we do is anaerobic. So there is training those fast twitch muscles and then your flexibility and strength are definitely all part of that training regime. 

Sarita (09:59):

Yeah, amazing, and stamina I would imagine too. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (10:01):

Yeah, stamina. Yeah, because everything we do is without oxygen, so they’re very quick explosive movements and short durations of time, but oh my gosh, you just feel like crushing when you get done. It’s always amazing. People are like, “can’t you dance for five minutes? Can you bring,” I love the question around St. Patrick’s Day, “can you bring two dancers and do a half hour show?” And I’m like, “oh my gosh, no. I’m so sorry. We cannot because we would die.” So yeah, no, we just, at our championship level, about a minute to a minute twenty is about all you dance, but in that minute to minute twenty, you will have done about 40 explosive type jumps and you will have moved from corner to corner on a 40 by 40 stage and at least three times around and around that stage during that time. It’s quite something to see. Super impressive. It’s amazing to watch these dancers. 

Sarita (11:00):

That’s amazing. Let’s speak about, let’s see, we talked about challenges. What people, resources and opportunities do you feel that have helped you the most through your dance journey? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (11:16):

Well, definitely I can’t say enough about Tony Comerford giving me an opportunity that most people wouldn’t because of my age. And I definitely want to be that same instructor and I strive to be that same instructor because that was a huge open door for me. I think just our art form being that living art form that is still adapting and changing. I’m really proud of my organization for embracing this change, especially the pandemic has taught us so much about using technology and just about embracing diversity too. I love Irish dance that there’s no certain body type and there’s no, you don’t have to be Irish to do it. And there’s boys and girls and it’s a very masculine dance form for the boys too. I love that for them. And I love how beautiful and feminine it is for the girls, and I love that there are times when we get to dance together, not just in the shows, but on teams and in figure choreographies, we have dance teams that do synchronized dancing. We do dramas where we act out stories in dance where we get to collaborate with them. So I feel like all of those resources are available to people. You don’t have to fit inside a box to be an Irish dancer. And now especially the age thing, like I described before, is starting to not be an issue, there are so many more opportunities open and it’s worldwide. We’re in almost every country. That’s the goal. We’re almost in every country now, but you can find Irish dance a lot more easily than you could when I started dancing. When I started, there was only 3000 certified instructors on the entire planet, and now I would say triple that. Yeah, it’s growing. 

Sarita (13:01):

That’s amazing. So what stage do you feel like you’re at in your career currently? How do you feel you want to move forward? And then are there any goals that you have? I think you just mentioned one about Irish dance globally. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (13:16):

Yeah, yeah. So I am super pleased to be at the part where I am the teacher. I love the dancing. I still get to do that in classes, but once you become certified, you can’t compete anymore, and that’s okay.

Sarita (13:28):

Oh that’s so interesting. I didn’t know that. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (13:30):

Yeah, it’s pretty incredible to watch. And so, I actually have found a niche in our organization that, again, with this broadening our horizons, especially due to the pandemic and all this online technology, we’ve discovered that it is growing globally and there aren’t as many teachers as there is the demand. And so I have been able to fill a role of helping to cultivate teachers. There’s a lot of people out there that kind of maybe don’t know where to start to become an Irish dance teacher. They have an interest or they’ve done some dancing or they’re a ballet instructor or a tap instructor, and they’d like to offer it in their studio, and they know that there’s an organization and they don’t know how to break in and how to get started. So that’s kind of where I’ve been kind of functioning I think, is helping these teachers to become Irish dance teachers, certified Irish dance teachers. I love it. I love it. It’s amazing. The people I’ve gotten to meet and work with through this process are just so uber talented, and all the students that they have the opportunity to work with, and it’s just been really fun to see that grow. My goal with that would be to just make myself as available as possible to help people and help educate them about our Irish dancing world and how they can get involved. And also just as a teacher here locally, make my classes as available as possible. We have three locations in Portland, east Portland, Oregon City, and we just opened in Hillsboro. And I do have an online program as well still where I teach in several different time zones. It’s been really fun and I think goals would be, gosh, to just keep recovering from the pandemic for a while. People had to really kind of pull back and it was a little bit scary to get out and be social again. And we just had our first St. Patrick’s Day back last year, and it was amazing. It was amazing. It was so much fun. We were back at the pubs again. I know that sounds like, “oh, you take children to pubs,” but they do set up these lovely family tents and they had us outdoors and as safe as possible with the fresh air and the outdoors. And people are just so lovely when the kids take the stage, they’re just so excited for them to show them what they’ve learned and to celebrate the dance and music with them. And the crowds are always just so warm and welcoming and we miss that. It was a long time incoming. I always call myself an energy vampire. I get great energy from people when they’re giving good energy, and so it’s just this big love fest. So it was a huge love fest this year over St. Patrick’s Day, and I can’t wait to have more of that. So very exciting. 

Sarita (16:13):

Yes, absolutely. You were speaking about three studios locally and teaching in various time zones. So do you find it challenging balancing the administrative side of dancing, or how do you feel about that? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (16:32):

Oh my gosh, yes. That is something I’ve cultivated over the years. I’ve talked to many other artistic people who said, “I just wanted to paint,” or “I just wanted to teach dance,” or whatever. And there’s an aspect of having to manage the business that you just have to do. And I think, I mean, thank goodness I’ve gotten more balanced over the years, but I’m also a mom and I love that role. And so finding time for family and also self-care too, because if I want to keep doing this very physical activity, I need to be able to still move as well. And as someone who has been to PT a few times because my brain feels like I can do things that my body is telling me, “maybe not today”, I really noticed that I have have to work in my own workout to each day as well. And so yeah, finding that balance has been a little tricky. I have alarms and bells and whistles set up, and I try to limit myself to keep good balance and try to create a schedule because I feel like that way in my brain, I can at least tell myself I am chipping away in all areas, even if it’s baby steps, I’m getting it all done. So that helps the stress level to be more managed. But I think it would be super easy to get kind of deep into any one of those. And I think balance is super important. So I’m thankful for that challenge. It keeps me grounded. 

Sarita (17:59):

So do you have any days off? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (18:02):

No. No, but I try to fill my days with things that are worth getting up for in the morning. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. And that’s what I always tell people that the day that I open my eyes and say, “oh my gosh, I don’t want to do this,” is the day that maybe I need to think about doing something else. Because so much of what we give as artists and performers is from our heart, and if that is not beating the way it should, you’re just not going to give the way you need to. And people are going to sense that, they’re not going to feel from you what they want to feel because I really feel like when people come to you for something, they really want to just listen to you and just receive what you have to give. And I feel like if your heart gets broken or if it stops beating in a healthy way, you can’t really give. And people will sense that. And so I love what I do and I get so energized. Again, it’s that energy vampire in me. I get so energized from what I do, and I’m very thankful for that. I have wonderful, amazing people in my school that just fill my cup every time I go teach a class, and then I go sit down on my computer and I empty my cup so I can go back to class and fill it up again. So yeah, it’s a good cycle though. It works for me and I’m very thankful. 

Sarita (19:14):

Amazing. Let’s talk about the current dance scene in Portland. How would you describe it? What’s fabulous and what needs work? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (19:25):

Well, for the dance scene, I unfortunately, I live in this little Irish dance bubble, and being part of the ambassador program has been amazing in that I’ve gotten to meet other people in very different dance genres, which has been exciting. In fact, I just had the opportunity to fill in for one of them at a performance they were going to do and they needed someone to kind of sub last minute. And it was at this multicultural event and right out in Hillsboro where I live, but never knew it existed. And so I just met again these amazing talented people through that opportunity. And so, what I really know of Portland is that it is very culturally diverse. We have a lot going on here. We’re very fortunate in Portland, especially I think as one of the few cities that you could literally find every form of dance here. I believe it. I was just, after we had our very first Ambassador orientation, I just thought, “I never knew there was so many forms of dance”, and I started doing searches on Google and gosh, you can pull up everything right here in Portland. So I feel very fortunate to live here. I feel very fortunate that there is a movement to celebrate cultural diversity with so many different fairs and festivals and multicultural arts activities. I think Portland’s a great place to live. I mean, we’re known for our food carts, but I think we’re known for our ethnic diversity and the arts are definitely part of that. So I think the Portland scene is great. I think everyone as a whole is still recovering from the pandemic. I think it’s not quite to where it was pre-pandemic, but I think we’re all moving that direction. I think we all want to move that direction. 

Sarita (21:02):

And as we’re moving that direction, how would you like to see the Portland dance scene in 10 years? 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (21:12):

Oh gosh. I would love to see us back to, I don’t know, we used to have these big, well, we still do,they’re just now coming back, the waterfront festivals. We have so many performance halls in this city. I would love to see just multicultural events, like really big showcases come to this city to celebrate different dance forms. I love what Dance Wire is doing with promoting all the different dance forms and connecting people working as that connector to create some synergy with getting people working together and just aware of what’s here in Portland. I think we need more of that. I think if we take advantage of those opportunities to get out and start socially networking with each other to get connected by using places like Dance Wire and bringing just our personal drive and energy to wanting these connections to happen, I think in 10 years this could be an amazing art mecca of cultural extravaganza. I don’t know. I think it’d be really fun to see just all the different dance forms just really expressed in a way that represent our community and our cultural diversity here. So I think good things in 10 years. That’s what I think. I’m excited. 

Sarita (22:33):

Yeah. Yes, absolutely. Question that is not on our list. Last one, do you have any upcoming events or shows or things happening at your studio that you want to do a quick shout out for? Anything like that?  

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (22:48):

Oh sure. Actually, we have Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day coming up, and it looks like we’ll be at Kells and Dullahans to help them celebrate. That is September 17th, but I think they might be doing a little something on the Friday and Saturday nights before that on the 15th and 16th as well. And then we will be all over town on the St. Patrick’s Day week, which is so much fun for us, and we do have a few Irish dance competitions. We have something in January, we do something called grade exams in February. We have another feis that we do in June in another state, in Washington, but we are busy all year long and we have a website you can visit that to kind of figure out what we’re doing and see if it’s something you might be able to go to. It’s always open to the public and free, and we’d love to have you. 

Sarita (23:31):

Amazing. We’ll add that in the notes, but it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today, Lauren. Thank you for being here. 

Lauren Crowe-Mueller (23:38):

Thank you so much.