About Our School
SOUTHERN Irish Dance is located in Middle Tennessee. Directors Jennifer Marshall and Aoibheann O'Brien Barbera have unique backgrounds and training from Ireland, England, and America which give our school diversity and experience in all areas of dance including team and solo competition, performance, exercise, and sharing the love of the tradition and culture of Irish dance. We each share the passion of teaching, and we are committed to the education and success of every student. Our lives have been influenced by many great teachers and dancers, and we are excited to pass on our knowledge to our dancers.
Jennifer Marshall, ADCRG
C0-director of SOUTHERN
Jennifer was born in London, England and raised in Kent. She trained under Olivia Lawlor, James Murphy and Tony Tyrell. Jennifer studied under all three teachers until 2005. Throughout her competitive career she placed 5th at the British Nationals and first qualified for the World Championships at the age of 14, placing every year as a solo competitor.
From the age of 19 to 22 she performed with Free Mac Guinness band with her sister Patricia who has also been dancing since 1997. They became known as the 'Kerry Colleens' and performed at charity events, private events and corporate functions.
At the age of 22 Jennifer passed her TCRG exam in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Nashville. Her knowledge of Irish dance is diverse and she instructs students with a highly competitive European style of teaching. For over 10 years, she has created choreography for both Irish dance performances and competitions in England and United States. Her passion for Irish dance brought her to the United States to work diligently with students of all ages and abilities.
To continue to assist dancers at the highest level Jennifer became a Licensed Massage Therapist in 2015. She focuses her therapy on active individuals and has worked on professional athletes and with dancers to improve their performance and keep them active. In May 2017, Jenny passed her ADCRG exam and is now a certified adjudicator.
Aoibheann O'Brien Barbera, ADCRG
C0-director of SOUTHERN
Aoibheann, who is a certified TCRG (Irish dance teacher) was born and raised in Co. Meath, Ireland. When she was just three years old, she started taking Irish dancing lessons in Dublin city with the Inis Ealga school of Irish Dance. When she was 10 years old she began to study under the world famous Marie Duffy School of Irish Dance. In her competitive career she has won numerous Leinster (regional), All Ireland and World Championship medals for both solo and team dancing.
In 1994, when she was just sixteen years old, she became an original cast member of Riverdance The Show as one of its youngest members. She performed to sold out audiences in London’s famous Apollo Theatre, Dublin’s Point Depot Theatre, New York’s Radio City Music Hall just to name a few.
In 1999, she was cast for the international phenomenon Michael Flatley’s Feet of Flames. She toured all over the world to sold out arenas and stadiums to crowds up to 110,000 people, including Madison Square Garden (New York) , Budapest Stadium (Hungary), and Stormont Castle (Belfast, Ireland). She has also performed in prestigious events including The Royal Command performance for Prince Charles, in the Royal Albert hall in London, The Ryder Cup Golf Tournament in Birmingham and many more.
In 2001 she moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to join the cast of Lord of the Dance in The Venetian Resort and Casino. She married Jay Barbera in 2004 and they moved to Tennessee where they still live with their two children today.
Aoibheann attended Dublin City University (DCU) where she received the national certificate in exercise and fitness. She loves sharing her experiences and the culture of Ireland with her students and loves teaching Irish dancing to both young and old.
In December 2017 Aoibheann passed her ADCRG exam and is now a certified Irish dance adjudicator.
Lily Lansden, TCRG
Lily received her Irish Dance training here at Southern Irish Dance in Nashville. Shortly after her competitive career, she began assisting in the classroom in 2013 and has since obtained her TCRG certification in 2021. Her training under Jennifer and Aoibheann fostered a strong love of performance, solo, and ceili dancing at the local, national, and world levels. Lily has performed in venues across the U.S. and continues to enjoy picking up her hard shoes to busk with local bands. Above all though, she enjoys teaching the next generation of Irish dancers. Lily’s background in music influences her love of rhythm, and she enjoys working with those who struggle to understand it. Additionally, she loves to motivate dancers who are recovering from injuries and returning to the dance world.
Lily taught in the Metro Nashville Public School system for two years, and her strong classroom management skills aid her ability to tier and scale lessons for all ages and abilities. Lily has a Master’s of Education degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, working most recently in trauma therapy with incarcerated women. Her experiences in the mental health field opened her eyes to the vast needs of connection and care in all age groups and walks of life, which highly influence her personalized and encouraging style of teaching today. Lily helped open the Chattanooga location of Southern in Spring, 2021 and is enjoying the growth of the school in the mountains.