History of Burke Irish Dance

Photo of Tessie BurkeThe Burke School of Irish Dance (f. 1958) was founded by an Irish American, Theresa Burke, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Thomas Scott, (b. 1906) immigrated from County Sligo in the 1920s to the United States, and initially settled in the Bronx, New York. Her mother was born in County Clare and came to the United States a few years after Thomas.

Scott was a musician and dance teacher in Cleveland.  He was a fiddler who often played with the famous Sligo musician Michael Coleman. According to Theresa, he was the first person in Cleveland to teach traditional Irish dancing to a competitive standard.   She began assisting her father at the age of nine when, in 1942 he opened a traditional Irish step dancing school in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Sharing her father’s love for Irish dance and following his retirement, “Tessie,” as she is popularly known, opened her own school in 1958. Burke is the founder and owner of two Irish dance schools in the state of Ohio, one in Cleveland, the other in Youngstown (f. 1965), and one out of state, in Pennsylvania, (f. 1971).

After traveling overseas to study with master teachers, in 1965 she became the first North American-born woman, and the second overall, to receive her Irish dancing teacher certification (TCRG) and Irish dancing adjudicator certification (ADRG).  She currently teaches in Cleveland, Youngstown and Pittsburgh.
Many of her students have gone on to become certified teachers and adjudicators, among them her sister Betty Scott Kish.  At least 31 are registered across the country and four former students, all certified teachers, now assist her.

Tessie has had many first place winners in regional and national Irish dance competitions as well as medal winners in the world championships every year since 1984.  Each year the Burke School of Irish Dance has qualified many dancers for world competitions.

Tessie celebrated her 50th year of teaching in 2008.

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