Ailbhe O’Rourke (RAD, RTS, PTS, BA HONS) is the Principal of the O'Rourke School of Ballet, Kildare. In 2018, she was selected to work as a Practical Teaching Supervisor, examining student teachers for the RAD. In the same year she was voted in as a member of the RAD regional committee for Ireland.
Could you tell us about your dance journey so far? Have you overcome any obstacles?
I was a late comer to ballet, starting at the age of 12. I lived and breathed ballet through my secondary school years, and was overjoyed to be accepted into professional training at the age of 17.
From the age of 17-21 I had amazing performing and training opportunities. However, I was subjected to extreme bullying by some of my teachers and began to suffer with my mental health. By my final year, I only took teacher training modules as my self-worth was too low to dance.
I had started my ballet school at the age of 26 when I was diagnosed with a tumour in my foot. Initially, the doctors were unsure if my leg would need to be amputated, and then they weren’t sure if I could walk let alone teach.
It was through my rehab that I discovered my joy of dancing again. My injury gave me permission to be kind to myself. Around the time of my rehab, I discovered Dance Ireland. In the professional classes, I found a welcoming diverse community and began to find my love of dance again.
What has been the highlight of your dance journey so far?
Probably my last show that I staged in the Helix. We did Swan Lake Act 2 and a contemporary piece, and my students worked so hard and did such an amazing job.
How has Dance Ireland supported you as a professional member?
Through my membership, I have been enormously lucky to have use of the members' studio. I have used that time to complete to Royal Academy of Dance professional grades. My 21 year old self would never believe what my 36 year old feet can do now!
What are your hopes for the future?
Over the last few years, we have seen certain industries speak out about mental health and bullying. That change is also occurring in ballet. For the future, I hope to instill confidence in my students, and make the studio a place where all body types and abilities are welcome, and the only thing standing between dancers and their goals is hard work.