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always a risk Ireland’s first pro ballet dancer says he grew up as a gay man in a very different Ireland

Roy Galvin: “Something as simple as walking down the street at night, you had to be very careful and watch over your shoulder just in case”

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Roy Galvin

Roy Galvin

Roy Galvin

The man who became Ireland’s first professional ballet dancer has told how he grew up as a gay man in a very different Ireland.

Limerick man Roy Galvin grew up in Limerick’s inner city and became the first male ballet dancer in Ireland.

In the final episode of Finné, to air on TG4 on March 9th, he reflects on his extraordinary career as a musician and professional ballet dancer, while also recounting his story of growing up gay in a very different Ireland.

“Something as simple as walking down the street at night, you had to be very careful and watch over your shoulder just in case,” he says in the documentary.

“Everyone knew I was gay. There was always a risk that a man would hurt you.”

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Roy Galvin

Roy Galvin

Roy Galvin

 

He added that Gardaí didn’t have the power to support LGBT people because homosexuality at the time was illegal.

“Thinking back on the system that I came from, when we were illegal, when we were a sin according to the church, when we were mentally ill according to the WHO.

“These days, people say: ‘Isn’t it great you can get married and you can put the bad days behind you’. My response is - wait a minute now. You are the sum of all your parts.”

Roy was 20 when he started professional ballet training with Cork ballet having seen a ballet at the Abbey Theatre and decided this was what he wanted to do with his life.

He already had a lucrative career in music but was willing to give this up for dance. At 25 he moved back to Dublin and set up Pas de Deux ballet company which became a huge success.

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In 2014 he and his long time partner Tom were in a civil partnership. He had had to give up performing ballet but found a new style of dancing - Irish step dancing. In 2015 he actively campaigned locally for the marriage referendum.

The latest series of Finné has provided rare insights into extraordinary stories as told through the eyes of those still bearing the scars and living with the consequences.

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Roy Galvin and ballerina Joanna Banks

Roy Galvin and ballerina Joanna Banks

Roy Galvin and ballerina Joanna Banks

“Every year we look for stories that have not been explored in detail by Irish documentaries, but are enhanced by being viewed through a contemporary lens.

Many of us will remember the Eco-warriors protest in the Glen of the Downs or the tragedy of the Stardust fire, but it’s by delving into the personal stories of these ‘witnesses’ do we really see how these events still resonate today.” says Tua Films’ Paddy Hayes, series producer.

Finné, TG4, 9.30pm March 9th.

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