An Irish dancer who has won over a thousand medals and toured the world as a performer has given it all up to teach Irish dancing to children.

Rachel Downey, 22, of Rolls Park Road in Chingford, has come home after four years spent starring in shows around America, South Africa and Europe and even joining Riverdance in order to pursue her dream of passing on her skills to youngsters.

The world championship medallist started Irish dancing at school aged just four, and since then her proud mother spent weekends taking her to competitions around the country.

She said: “Dancing has shaped my entire life. I’ve been so lucky because it’s given me an excuse to see the world. It’s been a rollercoaster experience.

“I’ve won over 1,000 medals and 50 trophies but they’re all boxed up in the shed, we’ve ran out of room at home.”

At 18 Miss Downey had left school and was working odd jobs to earn money, but felt her life lacked direction, not thinking to make use of her talent.

Her mother persuaded her to email a dance company in Germany advertising for dancers for an upcoming show, and she was surprised to get a starring role.

She said: “I loved performing on stage. The lifestyle was hectic – you’d be up at 5am travelling all day then staying up very late for the shows.

“But the buzz from performing in front of 5,000 people who give a standing ovation is absolutely unbelievable.”

After making her name touring around Europe, the young dancer was invited to audition for Riverdance in June 2010, joining the group in summer 2011.

Miss Downey said: “It was incredible. The training was so hard but it’s worth it, we’ve done Israel, Australia, South Africa, it’s been such a brilliant experience.”

“It’s made me more confident and ambitious enough to pursue my dream of having my own dance school. I’m sad to have left touring but it’s given me the time to organise it.”

Despite this she still manages to fit in television performances, and appeared with Paddy McGuiness on his television show Mad Mad World last summer, with more scheduled this year.

She has set up Downey Academy of Irish Dance at Walthamstow Conservative Club in Church Lane, and is inviting children aged between four and 16 to join her for the first class, starting Tuesday, March 19.

For more details please phone her on 07536 064 831 or email

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