The American Company of Irish Dance is the region’s only independent, nonprofit professional dance company whose mission is
- to increase awareness and appreciation of traditional and progressive Irish dance,
- to continue to elevate Irish dance as an art form, and
- to educate the public about the cultural value of Irish dance.
This new, not-for-profit, Irish dance company fulfills a demonstrated need for a year round cultural presence for professional Irish dance in the region and beyond. This professional performing arts group will give all energetic and experienced performers, regardless of where they trained, the opportunity to showcase their talents to an ever-increasing audience as well as provide the community with greater access to one of the most captivating performing art forms available.
To fulfill its mission, the dance company board sought the best possible artistic talent. In working with the local Irish cultural and dance communities, the board was introduced to Paula Goulding and Shane McAvinchy. Paula and Shane are former Riverdance stars and founders of the professional Irish dance training program known as Take the Floor.
To date, the Take the Floor program has been held exclusively in Ireland. Take the Floor is highly unique because the producers, Shane and Paula, conduct online auditions of the best Irish dancers from around the world and choose a group of 40 to be part of a 14 day session that concludes with a full Irish dance performance.
The goal of each Take the Floor workshop is to prepare highly talented Irish dancers for performance at the professional level and many of the attendees move on to professional engagements. It is precisely this expertise that Paula and Shane will bring to Milwaukee to assemble the inaugural troupe of the American Company of Irish Dance.
So now, after three program years ‘across the pond,’ Paula and Shane are eager to bring their talents, methods, energy, and passion to the USA to launch the American Company of Irish Dance. Shane and Paula conducted a master class in Milwaukee from August 21-23 which also served as an audition for the new Milwaukee-based dance company. Over 200 dancers from around the world participated in an online audition with 33 qualifying for participation in the master class.
The board of directors of the American Company of Irish Dance share in Shane and Paula’s energy and passion for this inspiring art form. Paula and Shane bring a tremendous recruiting platform and professional network to assist the American Company of Irish Dance in filling out their first season’s roster.
Their ability to bring together previously unfamiliar dancers into a cohesive unit in a brief period of time is truly unique. While Shane and Paula are eager to work with the American Company of Irish Dance in Ireland’s favorite city in the Midwest, the American Company of Irish Dance is grateful to Paula and Shane for bringing their expertise and artistic vision to this new performance venture.
With touring opportunities and the chance to perform new choreography, the American Company of Irish Dance seeks to further the experiences and careers of local Irish dancers.
The American Company of Irish Dance is predicated on giving an opportunity to all members of every local, Milwaukee-area Irish dance school to tour and demonstrate the art form that they love and to expand their horizons as artists and individuals.
These same, rare opportunities will be available to members of the Irish musical performance community as well. It is the goal of the American Company of Irish Dance to showcase Milwaukee as a cultural center in the United State for Irish dance, the Irish arts, and the preservation of Irish heritage.
Milwaukee will be one of few communities in the country that will offer the opportunity to young Irish dancers to tour, perform, and grow through this unique not-for-profit artistic endeavor.
Milwaukee has a rich and vibrant performing arts community. The American Company of Irish Dance is pleased to join this group and looks forward to living up to its high standards and to preserving and enhancing this unique art form.
The American Company of Irish Dance Board of Directors
Joan Rudnitzki, President
Joan has been accredited as a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) since 1996. The CRFE accreditation is considered to be a premier designation in the fundraising and development fields. Joan has achieved and maintained this status by combining 27 years of philanthropic experience with formal education in business management in order to utilize the best practices from both fields. Throughout her long career, Joan has worked with not-for-profit organizations in furthering their missions while ensuring the public trust. She achieves these ends through keeping the best interest of donors as a priority and with careful adherence to the Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethics and the Donor Bill of Rights.
As a development executive, Joan has demonstrated success in all aspects of fund development including annual, capital and planned giving campaigns. From this, she has raised millions of philanthropic dollars for the not-for-profit community in Southeastern Wisconsin. During her career, Joan has been employed by a wide variety of organizations whose annual operating budgets ranged from $350,000 to $12,000,000 and whose areas of focus include the environment, social service, and arts and culture. Joan has also created successful first time development programs for four different not-for-profits. She has been elected to numerous boards of directors and currently also serves as the Treasurer for the Wisconsin Public Radio Association. Additionally, she is the chairperson for the annual donor appreciation event for the West Bend Community Foundation. Professionally, Joan is the primary counsel for Rudnitzki & Associates where she provides consulting services to not-for-profit entities on issues relating to resource development and organizational management.
Paul Larson, Vice President
Paul Larson is President and Owner of TAYLAR Development, with offices in Milwaukee and Chicago. Under Paul’s direct management, TAYLAR specializes in providing cost effective development and marketing campaigns to the not-for-profit arts industry. TAYLAR has fundraising, marketing, or consulting relationships with over 70 not-for-profit entities and is responsible for raising $4.7 million annually for 25 different arts and culture organizations nationwide. Paul obtained his BBA in Marketing and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1998. As the head of TAYLAR, Paul draws on a background in finance and operations as well as his for-profit experience to create and execute progressively more successful fundraising and marketing campaigns for TAYLAR’s clients. In addition, Paul has spoken at and led training sessions within the performing arts industry on various topics surrounding annual fund, donor relationships, and fundraising strategies.
Don DiDio, Treasurer
Don DiDio is an attorney and longtime head of a private practice specializing in tax law. Don has a deep background of knowledge and experience that compasses the areas of finance, business management, auditing, and compliance. In addition, Don has a lifelong affinity for the arts and specifically Irish dance, of which he has been a fan and supporter in the community for over thirty years. Don’s academic credentials include a BA from Dartmouth University, a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School, an MBA from the Tuck School, and the advanced Master of Laws and Taxation Degree from Georgetown University. Previous to starting his private practice, Don worked for the Internal Revenue Service National Office in Washington, D.C., Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City, and for Ernst and Ernst, now currently Ernst and Young.
A.J. Rudnitzki, Secretary
A.J. has served with the dance company in various roles for the last 12 years. As such, he brings to the board a deep institutional knowledge. A.J. has over two decades of comprehensive business experience and specializes in management, accounting, and operations. During this same time span, A.J. has been a volunteer for numerous not-for-profit organizations and has performed duties ranging from front line event liaison to major gifts cultivation. The primary focus of A.J.’s volunteerism has been with conservation and arts organizations which reflects his personal beliefs and interests. Professionally, A.J. has been the Portfolio Manager for a privately held real estate investment company for the last 10 years. He holds a BBA with Honors in Finance from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and had been a finalist at graduation for the Outstanding Student Award.
Kelly Voss, Director at Large
Kelly has been working in the not-for-profit sector for the past decade, helping organizations to raise between 300k to over 13 million dollars annually. Most recently she served as an Executive Director for a small organization dedicated to finding a cure for ovarian cancer. She brings both nonprofit and fund development experience as well as social media marketing and integrated fund raising efforts to the American Company of Irish Dance. She holds her MS in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. Kelly loves the arts and once raised over 1 million dollars to support an arts fund in less than six months!