Jean and Cara's mother, Ann Josephine, originally from County Mayo, Ireland. As well as driving Jean and Cara to there dance classes. Was also the "anchor" that gave them both support and a little Irish nudge now and then to keep their interests focused on their dancing. Jean reflected during A very good interview she gave to the Daily Mirror, July 11th, 1996; "she didn't have to beat me to practice, but my sister was a different story." Jean than reflects, "My dad built a stage in the basement and I remember my mum throwing the dance shoes down the stairs at Cara and locking her in the basement. There was a lot of screaming."
After graduating from Wheatley Hills High School in 1990, Jean attended Hofstra University for one-year, before transferring to the University of Birmingham, England, where she earned an honors degree in Theater and Drama in July of 1994. However, it was not only College book work for Jean during those years. She also spent a lot of her time dancing with such notable performers as the Chieftains.
In fact, Jean Butler has appeared with the Chieftains on a Chieftains video, An Irish Evening with Roger Daltrey, (The Who) and Nancy Griffith. Jean Butler really "lets loose" during "Damhsa," a pretty Hornpipe song.
It was also while attending Birmingham University that Jean Butler began dancing with Colin Dunne. And it would be with Colin in 1993 at the Mayo 5000 concert, that Jean would be chosen to be the female lead dancer in Riverdance.Earlier, In 1992, at "Expo 92," in Seville, Miss Butler represented Ireland, and then at the Royal Premier of "Far and Away" preformed for the former Princess of Wales. And in 1993, danced for the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. However, for Jean Butler, it was on the evening of April 30, 1994, at the Point Theater in Dublin, that three-years later is still being felt around the world, Riverdance. During the intermission at the Eurovision Song Contest, the then 23-year-old Jean Butler came onto the darkened stage with Bill Whelan's music in the background. It was then that the magical chemistry of Jean Butler, Michael Flatley and the other dancers in the show overwhelmed the audience in attendance, as well as the millions of television viewers watching in Europe. And from that success, the planning of the masterpiece Riverdance began to develop into the show that is still playing around the world three-years later to sold out audiences.
As well as choreographing much of the female dancing in the show, Uisce Beatha (Riverdance,) Jean Butler was also deeply involved with the original development of the masterpiece. In the spring of 1996, The World of Hibernia Magazine published an issue with Miss Butler on the cover titled, The Beauty of Riverdance . According the the 1996 issue, Jean Butler said about her first Riverdance performance; "When everyone stood up and started clapping I thought, wow, we must have danced well!" says Butler. "Being American I was not particularly aware of the ultural sense of expanding and celebrating that Riverdance created. It took me quite a long time to understand the historical context of it. But you have to realize that the old image of Irish dancing was always an image that was contrained in Ireland. The stigma was Irish-based. When Riverdance plays in America I don't think the reaction will be 'Oh, thank God, Irish dancing can be sexy.' It will be 'isn't this an incredible art form?'"
Jean Butler's Riverdance performance was not only standing ovations and roses. Just two good examples point to what a strong character the woman has. With only five days remaining before the shows opening night in Dublin. Jean Butler suffered a foot injury; Doctors became concerned if she would heal in time for opening night. She did; and went on to star in the show taking it into the fame it has now reached. Another telling incident happened at the time that the original male lead dancer, Michael Flatley left Riverdance. Jean suffered an injury that required her to use crutches for a time. But she worked hard to bring her legs back to their fantastic stuff, and went on to continue the Riverdance tour with Colin Dunne.
Miss Butler is now turning her beautiful eyes toward an acting career having stared in, The Brylcreem Boys. In November 1996, Jean Butler went to numerous interviews with Hollywood agents when Riverdance reached Southern California. The cast was scheduled to perform at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. It was there that Jean Butler announced her plans to leave the cast. Miss Butler's understudy, world champion, Dublin resident, Eileen Martin than became the new lead dancer. During the time that Miss Butler was with Riverdance; her legs were insured for 1-million pounds.
On May 31st, 1997, Jean Butler and fellow actor, Gabriel Byrne hosted an even to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the great Irish famine. Other performers included, Maighread Meabh, Eleanor McEvoy, Brian Kennedy, The Corrs, and none other than The Chieftains. At the end of the event, that had the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson lighting a candle in remembrance of the dead, and those who immigrated during the famine years. The Irish Times wrote; "For a finale, The Chieftains and The Corrs were joined by Macnas puppets and the rest of the performers for a Live Aidstyle, arm-in-arm love-in. The near-capacity 5,000 or so present in the audience lapped it up and went home with their appetite for commemoration duly sated."
Jean's latest work is in Celtic Electric, a CBC and Salter street co-production that was shot at the electropolis in Halifax, Nova Scotia February 1998. Her co-stars as well as many other talented dancers is none other than her very own sister, Cara, and her friend, Donny Golden.
Jean Butler Photo Gallery
List of Dancers