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The Best High in the World This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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“Wake up” she hears her father mutter at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Alice sits up in her bed and stares into the dark nothingness of her room. Either because she feels tired or maybe because she wants to mentally prepare herself for her day. After a few seconds she stands up and turns on her light. Quite like a zombie, she walks over to her dresser and pulls out a pair of black shorts and a t-shirt. Once dressed, she pulls her hair into a messy bun, puts on her shoes, grabs her jacket and bag, then walks out the door. Her, her brother, and her father get in the car and begin their long journey from San Antonio to Houston.

Upon their arrival at the Irish dance studio, the mental checklist begins:

Feet wrapped



Socks put on



Legs stretched



Starbucks chugged


Almost instantly dancers begin flooding in for the first class- beginner. All the people line up on the wall as she sits in an opposite corner just waiting. She watches the little kid’s smiling faces as they dance around the room. She watches her father loving what he does. And she feels home.

“I want you to take this group and teach them the light jig” her dad suddenly says to her. She gladly stands up and takes the three small girls to the other studio room to teach them. Mary picks up the steps first, as usual. Not far behind, Sammy gets them down. Though she probably cares less about the steps and more about the fact that she gets to use up all of her energy. And last, but definitely not least, Julia. Julia who learns a bit slower than the rest, but when she does learn she dances just as well, perhaps better than the rest. Alice goes through intermediate class the same way. Waiting and watching. Every few minutes getting to teach, and she loves it. She wouldn’t want to change a thing.

The next class is ceili*. This has to be one of the craziest times of the day. Everyone trying to figure out who to partner with and which way to go. Stressing about guidelines and keeping perfect hold. But Alice doesn’t mind. She takes everything she possibly can in from the best ceili dancer in the world, her teacher, her father. They go from two hands, to four hands, to six hands, to eight hands. Never knowing if her partner would know all the dances, or none at all. But this still does not bother her, she just wants to dance.

*- ceili is Irish for gathering. But in Irish dance terms it refers to group dancing.


The next class, the hardest class, the most frustrating class, the most demanding class, championship. It only takes a few minutes before someone decides which shoe to start in, As usual its Megan, and as usual she picks hard shoe. Alice slowly ties her black leather shoes then buckles the straps. She stands first in line for the exercises. Clicks…great. She goes through each different movement. Front clicks, back clicks, double clicks, jump clicks, kick backs. She listens to all the corrections from her teacher:

“Stretch more, lift more, turn faster, click louder” Each comment makes her push a little bit harder. Once the exercises are done, Alice sits on the floor, breathing heavily. “Work harder” she tells herself. Now everyone sat on the floor gasping. Her teacher stands in the middle of the room staring into space.

“None of you are getting any better,” he says suddenly, “Each week you should be getting better,” he speaks again, “but all I’m doing is yelling the same corrections over and over and I’m getting frustrated. They know what he means. Everyone seems to just push for the wrong things. Always wanting more advance steps but never actually working to make them better. Caring more about winning than anything else. “Work harder” she tells herself again. They begin running all of their steps for competition. Everyone forms a line against the wall. First up, Sarah, who will do well as long as she actually starts on time with the music. Next comes Eileen, who dances amazing even though she just had knee surgery. After her comes Abigail who dances amazing…end of story. Megan dances next using more energy than a five year old. And last in line stands Alice. This part of class scares her. She worries about her steps not being good enough or not dancing well enough. She thinks about how everyone else worked up to this level while she was just thrown in after three years of hardly dancing at all. She stretches her legs on the bar before going up. “Work harder” she tells herself again. She takes in a slow, deep breathe. On 1 and 2 she becomes more focused. On 3 and 4 she stands up straighter. On 6 and 7 she points her toe. And on 8 she gets ready to take off. She pushes all of the energy out of her. Jumping higher, standing on her toes, moving more, having control. “Work harder. Work harder. Work harder!” She keeps telling herself over and over again. As she comes to her last step she feels weakness envelop her. But she keeps pushing. “Work harder!” she tells herself one last time. When she finishes she looks to her father for his comment.

“Lift higher” he tells her and walks the other way.

Alice sits down against the wall. She breathes heavily and feels the sweat running down her back. She leans her head back and closes her eyes. A picture of that little girl Irish dancing all around the house floats into her head. She remembers always dreaming to make it to where she is right now. She smiles and thinks to herself, “This has got to be the best high in the world.”





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