Morgan Bullock, 20, from Virginia has taken the internet by storm. The talented young woman is on the lips of almost everyone at the moment. Bullock posted a 12-second video clip of her Irish dance moves on TikTok and already she is chatting on Joe Duffy’s Liveline.
She has been invited to dance in Dublin’s 2021 St. Patrick’s festivities next year by Taoiseach (head of government in Ireland) Leo Varadkar. The 20-year-old blends traditional Irish dance choreography with hip-hop hits to produce something truly exciting.
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The internet sensation said she just fell in love with Irish dancing. “It was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” she said, recalling the first time she encountered Irish dancing at a recital in Richmond, Virginia, where she grew up. “It was so cool and exciting. I immediately asked my mom if I could try it.”
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I am so honored to be among the amazing artists chosen to take part in the US Embassy of Irelands “Shades of Green” series. Here is the original piece I choreographed for the project! Dancing to “The Game” by @shreemmusic #irishdance #shadesofgreen Shoutout to my Alex for being the most patient videographer ♥
Bullock is an accomplished Irish dancer who has competed in Ireland and the United States, ranking highly. Since the success of her TikTok video a few weeks ago, she has released more clips.
“It’s been really surreal, honestly. Surreal is the word I would use. With all that’s happening with lockdown and COVID, it’s so strange to be spending my time doing this (being interviewed). I just didn’t expect this to happen,” Morgan told The Irish World.
Bullock joined TikTok shortly before the pandemic. “I first heard about it from some of the younger kids at my dance school. They were doing all these viral dances with choppy choreography, so I gave it a go”.
“I was terrible! I tried to learn the routine to Savage, a song by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé, but I couldn’t move fluidly. So I tried Irish dancing to it, instead, doing the tricky footwork like rocks and toe-stands, trebles, drums,” she said.
“To my surprise, hip-hop works well with Irish dance choreography: you can tap out the beats with your shoes. I posted a video in the evening; at about 3 am, I woke up and there were thousands of comments on everything from Russian to Chinese, and so many from people in Ireland. When the Irish author Emma Dabiri posted it on Twitter, even more, flocked to my page”.
Bullock said she started getting Facebook friend requests from older Irish people saying how much joy it gives them “to see me dance and that my mum must be so proud. The video has had more than 1 million views; even Beyoncé’s mum reposted it”.
Within days, her clip was tweeted by many including the then taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who wrote: “Some brilliant moves there, we’d love to have you over.” She got invited to Ireland to dance on St Patrick’s Day.
During an interview on Irish radio, she was surprised to talk to the director of Riverdance, Padraic Moyles, on the phone. “He told me what I was doing was unique and asked me to take part in the touring show. I would definitely have gone to see it when it came to Virginia; now I’m going to be in It,” she said.
Despite the accolades, she had to endure a vile wave of racist abuse from online trolls. Bullock has been criticized. She was told that as a black American she should stop Irish dancing. According to her critics, it’s ‘cultural appropriation’.
She became even more popular when she responded to her critics. She made headlines in the British and Irish media for talking about the handful of negative comments under some of her videos.
In an interview with the BBC, she said that “it’s important for people to recognize that there’s a difference between appropriation and appreciation.”
Morgan Bullock is an African-American Irish dancer from Richmond, Virginia— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) July 18, 2020
After a TikTok video of her lightning-footed jigs went viral, she was accused of “cultural appropriation”
Then she got a call from Riverdance…💃 https://t.co/R5DSqf9jlG pic.twitter.com/sCCFXhl5br
According to Bullock, who is studying to be a primary school teacher, she loves Irish dancing and has been doing it for more than half her life. “It’s always been a dream for me. I definitely consider Irish dance more than just a hobby just because it’s been my life for almost eleven years now. Competitively it just takes so much time and dedication”.
“I have teaching as another passion of mine; it sounds kind of bad to say it this way but kind of as a back-up plan because becoming a professional dancer is not something that everyone gets the opportunity to do so I decided to pursue something else that is a passion of mine in teaching.”
Bullock hopes to combine both her dancing and singing passions by teaching Irish dancing while helping with the beginners at her dancing studio.