Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan spur country jiving craze

By Greg McKevitt
BBC News

  • Published
Jiving class at Tullyglass Hotel in BallymenaImage source, Skip Alexander
Image caption,
Some classes attract hundreds of people, like this one at a Ballymena hotel

Roll over Hardwell and tell Miley Cyrus the news... Irish country jiving is the dance that has got footloose teenagers swirling and twirling in packed venues up and down the land.

While Daniel O'Donnell's record of having a hit album in the UK charts for 25 years in a row shows the continuing appeal of Country and Irish music, it has traditionally attracted an older crowd.

This audience is being rejuvenated by young stars like Nathan Carter and Derek Ryan, who are sparking a "massive surge of interest" in jiving classes, according to dance teacher Gerard Butler.

Image source, NAthan Carter
Image caption,
Nathan Carter grew up listening to Country and Irish music

"I've been teaching classes for 22 years but this young blood is coming into the scene and making country music popular," he says.

"People going to see them want to learn the dance as well."

Nathan Carter has built up a huge following of teenage girls since he set out on the road four years ago, and his cover of Bob Dylan song Wagon Wheel has more than 1,400,000 views on YouTube.

The Liverpool-born singer spent his childhood summer holidays in his mother's hometown of Warrenpoint, County Down, and he grew up playing the accordion and listening to Irish country stars like Philomena Begley and Big Tom.

He says that while his audience spans the generations he attracts a much younger crowd than his musical idols.

"We put on more of a show with the lighting and things like that," says the Enniskillen-based singer.

"It's not all about drinking alcohol - people just want to jive all night."

Carter says he is interested in doing music that is "country with a bit of pop, like Taylor Swift".

"I'm going out to Nashville later this year and I'll be meeting with some writers there," he says.

"I'll always stay close to my country roots."

Image source, Derek Ryan
Image caption,
Derek Ryan says his fans span the generations

Derek Ryan has already tasted pop success as a member of boyband D-Side, who had three UK top-10 hits in 2003, but he says he will be keeping it country in his future career.

"It was always my plan to come home eventually and write my own country album, and it all worked out for the best," he says.

"I always say about country gigs compared to nightclubs, you could have three or four generations at one gig and it's a great family night out.

"The young lads are learning how to jive because they have to know how to do it if they want to get chatting to girls. It's a social thing and it's lovely to see it."

The frenzy surrounding US star Garth Brooks' Croke Park comeback gigs - more than 400,000 tickets sold for five Dublin stadium shows - suggests a huge appetite still exists for country music, and Ryan says Brooks was an early inspiration for him.

"I first saw him in 1997 in Croke Park and while I always loved country, he made it cool - he was a rock star and from that moment on, that's what I wanted to do," he says.

Carter is also a big fan. "When my album went to number one in Ireland, it was the first country album to do that since Garth," he says.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Garth Brooks has sold out five nights at Croke Park stadium in Dublin

Gerard Butler says his jiving classes are attracting many people who would have never danced before.

"There are three different factors: the footwork, hip work and the arm work," he says.

"We start with the basic footwork on the first night, then move onto the hip movements then the arms and then put it all together to go forth and dance."

'Mating ritual'

He says the Irish country jiving has its roots in the popular 1950s dance, but this new music is played at a faster tempo.

"When Irish people went away to America, they'd come home with a country jive of their own," he says.

"The Irish saw what was going on and tried their own version, put their own stamp on it."

One man who has been taking lessons along with his wife says it has been "a great form of exercise with a social dimension".

Declan Power, 50, from Derrylin in County Fermanagh says he has always enjoyed dancing but the lessons have been useful, and up to 350 people have been attending the classes.

"It's good to know what you're doing - if you don't have the rules in your head, it can be like a tug-of-war," he says.

"There's all ages at the classes, singles and married people.

"The man gets to do swirls and twists - all the flashy peacock sort of stuff - and the dancing can be a bit like a mating ritual."

Country fan Emma Hamill, 24, says she persuaded her partner to take classes with her because "he needs a bit of a push to get on the dancefloor".

The 24-year-old from Broughshane in County Antrim says a lot more people are jiving on nights out and it's important to know how to dance properly.

"The worst thing is when a guy asks you to jive and they can't do it at all," she says.

"You think to yourself, 'oh goodness, get me out of here'.

"It's always good to get a fella who can dance."

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