By Kia Johnson
RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - An unlikely fusion of Irish dance and hip-hop music is flying high on the internet as a young dreadlocked African-American dancer blends her passions in viral videos of herself in quarantine.
With fast-paced steps, hops and kicks on TikTok, college student Morgan Bullock, 21, has captured more than 1 million views and the hearts of fans worldwide.
"It was really unexpected and it happened really fast," Bullock said in an interview on Sunday in an old power plant in Richmond, Virginia, where the sounds of her footwork echoed off the walls.
Bullock has been dancing since she was 3 and began Irish dance training at age 10. She placed 43rd in 2019 at the World Irish Dance Championships, which have been put on hold during the pandemic.
As Bullock's videos went viral, she faced questions about whether this style of dance is appropriate for her.
"I haven't really had to constantly think about my race as an Irish dancer," she said. "Initially, my mom, my parents had reservations just because it was something that we had never heard of and it's not very typical for someone who looks like me to want to do Irish dancing."
But after years of competing with Irish dancers across the globe, she rejects the criticism of cultural appropriation.
"You wouldn't tell an English girl she can't do ballet just because she's not French," she said.
"It's just a form of dance. And I think because Irish dance is a dance form that was born out of oppression, it's such an amazing thing that it is something that people can enjoy all over the world without, you know, shame from the Irish dance community."
Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar invited Bullock to dance in Ireland via a tweet in May 2020, and the traveling Riverdance tour has asked her to perform with them.
As St. Patrick's Day approaches, Bullock said she is grateful that her dancing can motivate, educate and inspire a wider audience about Irish culture.
"Growing up, I didn't really have someone to look to as an Irish dancer who really looked like me. So the fact that I can be that person for young girls and boys or whoever wants to pursue Irish dancing or do something that's a little bit out of the box for them, it's just really great."
(Reporting by Kia Johnson; Writing by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Richard Chang)