Arts Q&A: Choreographer Jennifer Rooney on Kate Atkinson, the Muppets and REM

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, choreographer Jennifer Rooney?

Jennifer Rooney – a fan of Canada

1. When did you think about a career in dance and what were your first steps into it?

I have been dancing since the age of three and choreographing from not long after that. It is definitely something that has always been a part of my being, never really feeling like a hobby but more of a way of life, a vocation. I was lucky to have parents who supported me to go to Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds to train and I had some fantastic teachers locally at the Curran School of Irish Dance.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I was lucky enough to see REM live several times but one of their best gigs was at the Odyssey Arena – it was just perfect. We were sitting right at the very back; we actually could not have been further away from the stage but we felt every single emotion through every note because of the showmanship of Michael Stipe, the lead singer.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

I love 90s music and am also partial to music from the Woodstock era but would either of those genres be good at a party or wedding? So I think for a good dance I shall have the Glen Miller Orchestra.?

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

The Muppet Show Album. It has everything from madcap humour to heartwarming, sentimental songs. I loved it as a child and still love it now. It brings back memories of singing and dancing around the living room.

5. And the book you’d take?

Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson. It is my all-time favourite book, the one I recommend to everyone and I could read it over and over.

6. Top three films?

Back to the Future, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella) – it is an emotional but humorous story of love and loss. It is perfect.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

I have a very short attention span if I don’t like something, I will decide very early on and will not watch the rest. There have been numerous films abandoned. They immediately get dismissed from my radar so I cannot even remember any titles.

8. Favourite authors?

Kate Atkinson.

9. Sports you most enjoy?

I don’t often watch sport but enjoy gymnastics and quite like ski jumping and trampolining. I think it must be the idea of flying through the air and getting money and glory for being good at it that appeals to me.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

A trip I have been meaning to take is from Banff to Vancouver by train through the mountains. I adore Canada and I have not managed to visit that part of it yet.

11. Pet hates?

People dropping litter in the street makes me really angry.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Lasagne.

Dessert? Cheesecake.

Drink? Fresh lemonade (with gin the odd time).

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I have a handful of school friends that have been with me through thick and thin. We will be pals forever.

14. Is there a God?

I never talk about religion or politics. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion but...

Jennifer Rooney choreographs Turnabout, a new dance and music piece commissioned by Maiden Voyage Dance Company made in collaboration with composer Elaine Agnew with lyrics inspired by the hopes of Belfast schoolchildren. It will be premiered as part of the Belfast Children’s Art Festival from March 6 to 14. Book your free screening at

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