A random Thursday night at Fenian's Pub in 1998 sparked a long-term love of Irish dance for Catherine Sherer Bishop. That night, Bishop saw the Jackson Irish Dancers, then a newly formed group, performing and asked to join in their next dance. Although they discouraged her, saying that the dance was not for the faint of heart, she quickly learned the steps and performed it perfectly that night.
"They love to tell the story though, because apparently, I did the same dance at some point later and botched it," Bishop says.
Bishop, then the principal ballerina and ballet mistress at Ballet Mississippi, joined the group and quickly took on an instructor's role, thanks to her formal dance background.
Having studied ballet since she was 4, Bishop found herself drawn to Irish dance. Although she had trained in jazz, tap and modern dance, she saw a similarity between Irish dance and ballet with their emphasis on eight-count forms.
"The ordered part of that really appeals to me," Bishop says.
Bishop grew up in Charleston, S.C., and attended the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, where she earned a degree in speech communication in 1990. She moved to Jackson in 1997.
In 1999, Bishop left Jackson to pursue a master's in fine arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. As part of the master's program, she trained for a summer in Ireland. Bishop returned to Ireland in 2002 on a Fulbright Fellowship, studying ethnochoreology--the anthropology of dance--at the University of Limerick. After finishing the fellowship, she remained to work on her certification as an Irish dance instructor.
Now 43, Bishop teaches ballet at Mississippi College and leads Pilates and ballet classes around Jackson. She lives in the city with her husband, Charles, who performs with her in the Irish music group St. Brigid's, and their two children.
Today at 5 p.m., Bishop performs with the Jackson Irish Dancers and St. Brigid's as part of Irish Night at Broad Street Bakery in Banner Hall (4465 Interstate 55 North, 601-366-3371). The performance features each of the three major styles in Irish dance--solo, set and ceili--Bishop says.