In love with Irish dancing
Jim Mueller's reason for taking an Irish dance class wasn't very deep, he wanted to meet girls.
His plan worked better than he'd hoped. Not only did he meet his future wife, Lauren Crowe-Mueller, he fell in love with the dance itself.
“I was in my early twenties and had never taken a dance lesson in my life before that,” he said. “But I found I had a natural talent for it.”
The 47-year-old and his wife run an Irish dance school in Portland, Oregon and travel the world judging competitions.
The dance takes different forms: festival dancing, the old style of dancing known as Sean nós, and modern step dancing. Mr Mueller teaches the modern form.
The Bermuda Islands Pipe Band brought him to the island to expand the repertoire of its group of highland dancers.
“One of the things we worked on was taking their knowledge of highland dancing and adapting that technique to the Irish dancing,” he said. “While the two dance forms are closely related, there are some fundamental differences.”
Although there's only a subtle difference between the way the feet and legs are turned, Irish dancers keep their arms straight by their sides; highland dancers move their arms more.
For a lark, some of Mr Mueller's 16 students here tried to teach him Scottish moves.
“They ambushed me,” he laughed. “I couldn't do it. I was terrible. That gave me more respect for my students, because they have picked up Irish dancing very quickly. They probably learnt four months' worth of teaching in a very short amount of time.”
The dance teacher won several championships before he stopped competing. He and his wife travel to Ireland regularly to watch their students in competition.
The trips have also given him the chance to explore his cultural heritage; his mother's family are from Donegal and Kildare.
“My wife and I found out she was pregnant with our first child a few hours before catching a flight to Ireland to compete in the world championships,” he said. “We found her name, Maren, in a gift shop at the end of Killarney in County Kerry.”
Their nine-year-old son also has an Irish name, Aidan.
“They both dance,” Mr Mueller said proudly. “Hopefully, one day I'll be able to retire with a cold drink in my hand and let them take over.”
Marisa Stones, dance director of the BIPB, said one of the biggest misconceptions was that you had to be Irish or Scottish to do the dancing.
“People ask me that all the time,” she said. “It doesn't matter who you are. Anyone can do it.”
The Muellers opened the first certified Irish dancing school in Hawaii. They're looking forward to seeing a programme start up in Bermuda.
“I'd love to come back,” he said. “It's really beautiful here. I think the next time I come I'll bring my family.”
•Contact BIPB on bipb.bm or 297-1805.