With more than five decades of Irish step dance under his feet, Rhode Island-born Kevin Doyle is a son of County Roscommon through his mother Margaret Taylor Doyle. He is a grandson of County Longford through his father John, whose Irish parents came to live in Providence, Rhode Island's Fox Point in the early 1900's.
At the age of eight, Doyle, along with his sister Maureen, began to learn their first Irish dance steps from their mother. He recalls his mother lilting (a way of vocalizing rhythmically using syllables rather than words) old tunes like "McLeod's Reel," which she had learned from her own mother in Ireland. In the 1960s, Doyle studied at the Pat Fallon School of Irish Dance with visiting Boston instructors Steve Carney and Mary Sullivan, and at the McCorry School of Dance in Pawtucket, where he learned steps traceable to the old dance masters of Ireland.
From the age of ten and throughout his teenage years, Doyle competed successfully in many East Coast feis (competitions), earning U.S. Irish Dance Champion honors. Inspired by Fox Point famous son George M. Cohan, Doyle also began to learn American tap during this period, studying at Pawtucket's Theresa Landry School of Dancing. Today, Doyle continues to teach and assist Landry in addition to teaching in schools and at workshops throughout Providence and New England.
The athleticism of his steps brought early acclaim to Doyle. He twice won the votes of America's audience for his performances on Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour, a precursor to today's American Idol and America's Got Talent. Numerous awards have followed, including ensemble honors shared with Rhode Island Celtic music performers Pendragon (revival) and folk performers Atwater-Donnelly (revival). Doyle's regional and national work in choreography, direction, and dance includes Brian O'Donovan's Christmas Celtic Sojourn, Doyle's collaboration with Boston-based dancer/choreographer Kieran Jordan, and his performances with international Irish dance ensemble Atlantic Steps.
Beyond his love of Irish dance, there is no greater love in Doyle's life than his family—his wife, Donna, and three children are his constant audience. Through apprenticeship awards with the Southern New England Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Kevin taught his daughter Shannon traditional Irish dance and she has gone on to become an Irish dance teacher herself. In 2013, Doyle was awarded a Folk Arts Fellowship from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.
Note on video: Kevin Doyle performs at the 2013 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert with 2013 Heritage Fellow Séamus Connolly (Irish Fiddler), Zan McLeod (guitar), Billy McComisky (accordion), Jimmy Noonan (flute), and Kevin Doyle (step dancer).
2014 NEA National Heritage Fellow Kevin Doyle performs at the 2013 NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert with 2013 Heritage Fellow Séamus Connolly (Irish Fiddler), Zan McLeod (guitar), Billy McComisky (accordion), Jimmy Noonan (flute), and Kevin Doyle (step dancer). Photo by Tom Pich
Photo by Tom Pich
Kevin Doyle talks about his life-long passion for dance.