My Irish Dance Story

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One March morning, five years ago, my elementary school had an assembly that changed my life. I was in the 4th grade and I was a student at Granite Elementary. On that morning, a group of Irish dancers known as Claddagh came and performed a dance routine, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. I did not know it at that time, but Saint Patrick’s Day would forever be a significant holiday for me.

I was seated on the second row, as I watched these Irish dancers leap, turn, and skip across the elementary gym floor. I observed this dancing in amazement, and I was thrilled to watch this dance performance. It was absolutely astonishing to me and I wanted to be just like those performers. It was love at first sight.

After the dancing concluded, the teacher of the dance school, Amy, handed out fliers that included; the school’s address, phone number, and a coupon for a free month of lessons. I took the flier home and told my mother all about what I had seen, felt, and heard in the assembly. I begged and pleaded for Irish dance lessons and my mother finally said that I could try it for a month. (These few years later, we laugh at how expensive that free month really was!)

I started out just like everyone else does, learning basic steps such as “hop two three”, and I progressed from there. I attended a forty-five minute class a week (beginning with only soft shoes). Irish dancing quickly became my favorite thing to do in life.

After participating enough to learn some basic steps, my parents purchased my first Irish school dress. Along with the dress, I also needed an Irish dance wig. (When performing or competing in Irish Dance, a big curly wig is a must.) Wearing this wig was a fun and new experience for me. Armed with these exciting new purchases, I was ready to compete in my first Feis, or competition. These initial dancing competitions were a humbling experience, but I was rarely discouraged and always looked forward to being on stage and dancing!

After six months of dancing, I thought I had really become about as good as I was going to get and starting giving my mom a bad time about going to practices. She sat me down and told me that she was not going to beg me to go to my lessons. She also said that she thought I had honest potential and that it would be a mistake to quit at that time. It was left up to me, with the understandings that if I was to ever complain again about going to lessons, my lessons would be over. I decided right then that I was going to give it my best and have a positive attitude.

Time passed and I practiced more and more. I learned more advanced and different steps. Soon I completed the first two dancing levels, “Beginner I and Beginner II”. I found that practicing paid off and I was quickly improving. “Novice”, was my next dancing level, and the steps and competition to pass this level of dance became more difficult. My parents took me to several states throughout the West to compete. I started to recognize and become friends with girls that I competed against. The more dancing and competing I did, the more I enjoyed it.
When I reached the dance level of “Prizewinner”, I qualified to compete in my first Oireachtas, a North American Regional dancing competition. The competition was in Denver, Colorado. I would be competing against 129 other girls. I practiced hard and my hopes were high. My placement was devastating! My scores placed me at 114th out of 129th. I felt like I had wasted my parent’s time and money.
My teacher and my parents would not let me be discouraged. I could only improve! Slowly, I did improve. My practice times grew to three days a week. Each lesson was three hours in length. Soon, Saturday mornings were also included. I started receiving special attention and encouragement from my dance teachers and friends.

My next 11 months of dancing and practice really were not very significant, or so I thought at the time. I had achieved the dancing rank of a “Preliminary Champion”. I thought competitions would be easy for me now. However, during my next three Preliminary competitions I didn’t do as well as I hoped I would. My confidence and enthusiasm for the sport was challenged. The best I could do at this dance level was a 4th place finish and because of this low placement I was extremely nervous for my next Oireachtas, (the annual regional competition). I didn’t want to be let down and crushed once more, and so I practiced and practiced and hoped for the best.

When the Oireachtas week arrived, I found myself in Sacramento, California, competing in the 2010 Western Regional Oireachtas Championships. I was determined to give this competition my best effort, and as I walked up on that performing stage, I held my head high, and put a confident smile on my face. I danced as well as I could that afternoon and left the stage without any regrets, confident that I had done my best.

I wanted to place within the top 50% of the dancers. (The top 50% receive an award and since there were 150 girls competing, I needed to place 75th, or better.) I just kept thinking and hoping that all I really wanted to do was to prove to myself that I could be a worthy competitor on a regional level.

It seemed like hours as I waited for the list to be posted that contained the top 75 dancers. I was overjoyed to see that my name was included on that list. I really could not have been happier. All my hard work seemed to be paying off. The names of some of my closest friends were also on the list, so I was able to share my excitement with others from my dancing school.

Once the awards ceremony started, those dancers whose names had been posted were required to line up on stage so that we could learn our final placement and receive our award. We were all nervous to hear our placement and to see if perhaps any of us qualified to compete in the upcoming National Championships. (To qualify, we would need to finish in the top 40.) We wished each other a good luck.
The lowest ranking that any girl on the stage could receive would be 75th. After my disaster of the year before, I was just happy to be on stage and would have been content with that placement. The announcer started calling out the names, starting with 75th and working up to 1st place. My name wasn’t called first! The names were called quickly and I was surprised as each girl stepped forward to receive her award. Other girl’s numbers continued to be called, but not mine. As I waited on stage with fewer and fewer girls, I began to wonder if somehow, someway, a mistake had been made, and my name had either been missed, or even worse, maybe I shouldn’t have been on stage at all.
My concern grew as I realized that I remained on stage with some of the best dancers in the North American Western Region. I started looking for ways to “sneak” off the stage without being noticed since I convinced myself that I wasn’t supposed to be up there anymore. How could this have happened? As I looked down, I could see my mother’s look of concern. She thought I was good, but not that good!
Finally 20th place was announced and my name was called. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. I had qualified for the North American National Championships; I had finished ahead of so many others who were more experienced dancers, and I had reached my goal of competing against the best and enjoying the entire competition.

The following two Feis’s or dance competitions became extremely important. I won them both, and became an “Open Champion” in 2 months time, a rapid progression through the ranks of Irish dancers.

What I am facing now is the national Irish Dancing competition, held this year in Nashville, Tennessee. I hope to qualify for the World Championship, held next April, in Northern Ireland. I have worked hard in Irish Dance hope to become a member of the BYU Folk Dance Team. My dream is to continue to be involved in Irish dancing throughout my life.

I did not know it at the time, but that March morning my life would be changed forever. I am very thankful for that change





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M501athletic said...
May 26, 2016 at 4:52 pm
Whoa! I love this story! Great job! How many years did you do Irish dancing? I was thinking about taking up the sport and other forms of dance as well. This story is such an inspiration that as long as you keep believing in yourself you will accomplish anything! Do you think that now I'm a teenager that it's too late to start? Thanks again for this article, it's amazing!
 
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