Friday, January 27, 2012

Fun Friday Finds: Volume 1

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I love Irish dance. On top of dance, I love shopping. Combine dance with shopping and the fun really begins! I've been looking at a lot of unique dance-related items online lately, and decided I should share them with all of you lovely readers. Thus, I present to you the first volume of Fun Friday Finds, my favorite Irish dance related products of the week. And no, I'm not sponsored by any of these companies. [I just genuinely love their products.]

Personalized Irish dance duffel bag: $40

I've been looking a tons of dance bags online lately. Seriously, tons. I currently carry a cute pink drawstring backpack, but I find myself constantly digging for my shoes/socks/keys/ipod, which is inconvenient.  This cute duffel is my hands down favorite! Why? I love the large size [I like to carry everything and the kitchen sink to dance class for some reason...], tons of pockets [to organize all of my shoes/necessities], color options [pink is my go-to], Irish dancer embroidery,  and monogram options [try finding something with "Moira" on it...not possible, even in Ireland. I looked!]. Plus, at $40 it won't break the bank :) 
- Available from HTsCreations on

"You Should See Me Dance" graphic tee: $9.80
This super-fun graphic tee was featured by Feisonista back in November, but has recently re-appeared on the Forever 21 website. Clearly, this shirt is in high demand by dancers. I personally bought it back in the fall, and am still loving it. Perfect with jeans for a fun casual look or with your favorite practice clothes for class, you won't go wrong with this shirt.  Did I mention it's under $10? Fashion on a budget is my favorite!
- Available from Forever 21

Reel Cuties, Custom Irish dancer Dolls: $75

I came across these absolutely adorable dolls on Facebook yesterday and fell in LOVE! Although  at 25, I'm beyond the age of carrying around a dolly to match my clothes, I can't help but adore these sweet dolls. Each Reel Cutie is custom made by hand, and every doll matches the dancer's dress perfectly. These miniature dresses are spot on, complete with rhinestones, poodle socks, and dance shoes! On top of that, I love the hand painted faces and crocheted curls. I love the idea of giving a Reel Cutie as a good luck gift, whether for a first feis or the Worlds. They'd even be cute as a keepsake of a favorite dress before it's sold to make room for a new costume. If I had a Reel Cutie for every costume I've worn.... well, I'd have an adorable army of Irish dancing dolls [and a smile on my face].  
- Available from Reel Cuties on EtsyFacebook, and Reel Cuties Blog

What are your favorite Irish dancing products? Stay tuned for more fun finds next Friday!
Happy dancing...and shopping :)
- Moira

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Throwback: Celebrating Dancing Firsts

As the new year began, The Dance Buzz issued a challenge to dance bloggers: post a picture or video of one of your dancing "firsts" and share your story. I love dance, I'm all about blogging, and I happen to have a stack of old dance photos in my desk, so participating in this challenge was an big ol' YES for me.

My first Irish dance performance ever. That's me in the middle! 
This lovely photo is of my very first Irish dancing performance ever: June 6th, 1998 at the Arts Center in Venice, Florida. My Irish dancing best friend, Rayna [on the left], and I were so excited to finally perform the steps we'd been working so diligently to perfect. We were thrilled, but hated wearing our white blouses and black pleated skirts [or "Denny's waitress outfits" as we called them] before we got our first Butler School dresses. From the looks of it, we were dancing a beginner slip jig in this picture. Kudos to whoever took this picture! [I'm guessing Rayna's wonderful Mom...I love you Mama Gubersky!]

I've learned a lot since this performance. Mainly...
-   Smile! Dancing is fun, remember? Why were we all so serious?
-   Wear taller socks. We didn't have poodle socks yet, whoops.
-   And last, certainly but not least...Don't look down at your feet. They'll dance even if you're not staring at them!

Despite the rookie mistakes captured in this photo, I'm seriously kicking my butt and I'm learning to get up on my toes! [wait a second, that's the name of my blog...]  And look at that tiny little waist! Maybe that black pleated skirt wasn't all bad.

As a 12 year old beginner, I started Irish dance pretty late in the game according to dancer standards. When many pre-teen Irish dancers were getting ready for the Oireachtas or even Worlds, I was learning light jigs...and LOVING it! I was hooked on Irish dance from the get-go, and my love for dancing continued to grow since this photo was taken 14 years ago. Take a way the shiny new wigs, rhinestone buckles, and  thousand dollar dresses, and isn't that what Irish dancing is all about? I wholeheartedly think so.

What are your favorite dancing firsts?

Thanks to The Dance Buzz for this fun challenge!

Friday, January 20, 2012

"It's in your Blood"

Former champion dancer and recent 1st runner up to Miss America, Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson, recently pinpointed how I'm currently feeling about Irish dancing in 140 characters or less...

Competing really is in my blood. I love any kind of Irish dancing, with our without the competition, but I I started wondering... how many other 20-something Irish dancers feel the same? How many of us miss preparing for a major competition, or even a local feis? How many of us miss waking up early in a hotel room and putting on our dresses and wigs? How many of us miss learning new steps at 3-hour dance classes with our best friends? How many of us even miss feeling like our legs may actually fall off at a weekend-long workshop, yet loving every second of it? And how many of us think about taking our shoes off the shelf and giving it a go again?

I'm not even certain if the winning is what I miss about competing. Now, don't get me wrong. I loved standing on top of a podium holding a trophy or Waterford crystal vase... absolutely LOVED it. [Seriously... I still have all my medals and trophies displayed in my room back home] Nothing feels better than pushing yourself to your limits and being rewarded for it with a big "W."

Drake dancers at Feis na Tara... and my 1st Prelim win
[wonderful memories and a sweet trophy]

Fort Lauderdale Feis, atop of the podium
... & how many hours of practice went into that?
More than my undying affection for medals, trophies, and crystal, I miss the emotions and atmosphere of being at a feis. I miss wearing warm ups and legwarmers [usually in a matching color to my solo dress, of course], listening to my set on my Ipod [or discman ;) ..back in the day] out in the hallways, and standing side-stage waiting for my turn to dance. I long for the high of being alone on stage, only accompanied by a musician and the silent eyes of the audience and adjudicators. I miss that feeling of floating, if only for a few seconds, seemingly suspended in mid-air, and knowing I put my heart and soul into those 90 seconds of dancing. I miss pushing myself to perfection, and leaving everything on the stage.

But enough with the nostalgia...back to reality:

This week I began my semester-long internship with a local not-for-profit dance school, with classes offered in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and Irish. Although the main teacher, Sarah [or Mrs. Sarah, as she's lovingly called at class] isn't a TCRG, she was taught by one, and regularly brings in TCRGs and dancers from shows like Riverdance for workshops. The students LOVE Irish dance, but competition isn't their focus. They prepare for shows [including performances with Cherish the Ladies and Donny Golden], local events, and recitals. The advanced Irish dancers are currently preparing a choreography set to music from Lord of the Dance for an audition for a "Spotlight on Youth," showcasing talented high-schoolers from all over North Central Florida. Tonight I did more 7's and 3's with the beginning Irish dancers than I have in years, and I danced The Blackbird for the first time in about 10 years :)

Getting back to basics and focusing on technique, with no pressure of competition is a whole new feeling for me. It's actually really refreshing and quite fun. However, I have to admit that everything I danced tonight in classes reminded me of some aspect of competition. Dancing 3's and 7's reminded me of performing my first reel at a feis, how much fun I had dancing 2-hands with my best friends [and getting a medal for it!], and competing in the Oireachtas with my team's dreaded but beloved Senior Mixed Ceili: The Gates of Derry. Practicing The Blackbird instantly brought me back to how excited I was to dance a traditional set for the first time, how much more excited I was to dance my first non-traditional set [The Three Sea Captains], how intricate and difficult my later sets were, and how successful I felt after mastering them all.

My old 8-hand partner, Ailill [a long time friend and accomplished champion dancer], and I have deemed 2012 "The Year of the Comeback" and joke about practicing in gray sweatsuits with the theme from Rocky playing in the background, and gearing up for competing at the Oireachtas. We're mostly joking, but at the same time, we both miss the competitive side of Irish dance. Even now, in the middle of finishing my degree, applying to nursing school, and interning at a dance school, I can't help but fantasize about competing again.  With World's being held in Boston next year, how can I not? ;) How many other 20-somethings are dreaming of being on that stage again? ...It's in our blood.

- Moira

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Irish Dancing their way to the Crown: Miss America 2012 Reaction

And then there were two...
The last two contestants standing at the 2012 Miss America pageant were opera singer, Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, and Irish dancer, Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson. 

Our new Miss America 2012 is... not an Irish dancer. However, Laura Kaeppeler is stunning, intelligent, and talented. She will be a fabulous representative as Miss America 2012...but back to the Irish dancers.

As the pageant began, Betty was off to a smashing start. She had already won the judges over, who selected Betty as a preliminary talent winner, accounting for 35% of her score before the televised finals on Saturday night. As Chris Harrison [host of TV's "The Bachelor"] announced the semi-finalists he began with the coveted "America's Choice" spot. The America's Choice winner was voted for online by fans. Who was America's Choice? None other than our own Irish dancing queen, Betty!  She was joined by 14 other state titleholders, including my hometown favorite, Miss Florida, Kristina Janolo. Neither Miss Alaska, Katy Lovegreen, nor Miss Delaware, Maria Cahill [the other two Irish Dancers competing for the crown] made the semi-finals. 

The semi-finalists quickly scampered off stage to change into their Komplique  swimsuits. Komplique is the official swimwear sponsor for Miss America, and I absolutely loved the contemporary, flattering suits worn by the contestants. In my opinion, these were the best looking swimsuits worn on the Miss America stage in years! Betty quickly proved that Irish dancing does a body good! Her 5'2'' frame could not have looked better as she dazzled the judges in swimwear. 

Proof that Irish dancing is great for the core!

As the top 12 contestants were announced to move onto evening wear, Betty was called last... which was incredibly stressful for those of us watching from home! I think Team Betty collectively held our breath until Miss Oklahoma's name was finally announced. Her exquisite white, crystal embellished evening gown was designed and custom made by Project Runway's Jonathan Kayne. The gown's design was influenced by Betty's interest in Greek mythology. Betty's goddess inspired gown not only showed off her tiny waist and hourglass figure, but definitely had enough bling to compete with a Gavin any day. 

Betty *sparkled* in evening gown... 
and not just because of the rhinestones. 

Following the evening gown phase of competion, the top 12 contestants rushed to change into their talent costumes. Betty could be seen tying her hard shoes onstage, waiting for her name to be called. The reality-TV style talent phase of competition left no time for Betty [as well as the other dancers and singers] to warm up. Although drama and suspense increase ratings and interest, I hated that the contestants were informed whether or not they were going to perform their talents after they were already dressed and onstage. My own Miss Florida, Kristina Janolo, was the first to be told that she would not be performing her talent and moving on to the top 10. I will say, however, that both she and Miss South Carolina, Bree Boyce, handled their eliminations from the competition with true Southern grace. Luckily for Betty, she went on to perform her talent! 

Betty's Irish dance routine was set to "Warriors" from Lord of the Dance. Jason Hays, a fellow McTeggart dancer, helped choreograph the routine. On top of being a World Champion, Jason has toured with Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames. If you ask me, Betty's charismatic and technically excellent performance should have scored her straight 10's from the judges [but perhaps I'm a bit biased]! On top of that, she managed to dance her routine on one of the slipperiest floors I've seen [I swear you could see her reflection in it!] and danced with such intensity that one of her shoe mics partially came off her heel. I also loved that while Betty was preparing to begin her performance, a home video of a young Betty dancing a light jig was being shown behind her. That may be the first time a light jig made it to the Miss America stage :)

Look at that smile! She has so much to be proud of!

Betty went on top the top five where she answered her onstage question thoughtfully and concisely. And then it was time for the announcement of Miss America 2012! 

The top five awaiting crowning... my mantra during this time?

Irish dancers worldwide were rooting for one of our own, Betty Thompson, to win the 91st Miss America Pageant. When Miss Wisconsin was announced as the winner, Betty graciously and genuinely congratulated Laura, with her gorgeous smile still on her beautiful face. Although Betty did not go home with the crown, she definitely stole our hearts. As one Irish dancer so eloquently tweeted, "She is the Brogan of the pageant." Betty may have ended up as 1st Runner Up, but she will always be our Irish dancing Miss America. She has a lot to be proud of, and even more to be smile about. On top of the priceless memories she'll take home from the Miss America pageant, she also earned a $25,000 scholarship to further her education! 

Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, and her Runners Up
Miss Arizona, Jennifer Sedler/ Miss Oklahoma, Betty Thompson/ 
Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte / Miss California, Noelle Freeman 

And the good news doesn't end with Betty! Miss Delaware, Maria Cahill, won the non-finalist talent award with her Irish dance! The Irish dancing community has much to be proud of. We were represented well at Miss America 2012. Congratulations to Betty, Maria, and our new Miss America!   

- Moira

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Irish Dancing their way to the Crown: Miss America 2012

More than a handful of Irish Dancers have graced the Miss America stage over the years.  Not only are these young women beautiful, talented, and college educated, they clearly have the best talent ever. What audience doesn't LOVE when an Irish dancer walks out on stage? As a former pageant contestant and life-long Irish dancer, I always root for the few Irish dancers that are vying for the crown. In recent years, Miss Virigina 2010 and my state's own Miss Florida 2009 performed Irish dance as their Miss America talents. 
Miss Virginia 2010: Caitlin Uze
Miss Florida 2009: Rachael Todd
While I love the all Irish dancers and really enjoy seeing them compete for the prestigious Miss America crown, the 2012 Miss America Pageant marks an exciting milestone for Irish dancers. Instead of the occasional Irish dancer competing for the crown, three state titleholders will be performing an Irish dance as their talent! This year Miss Alaska, Miss Delaware, and Miss Oklahoma will be bringing the luck of the Irish all the way to Las Vegas for this year's pageant. I hope to see all three ladies when Miss America airs on ABC this Saturday, January 14th at 9pm! 

Miss Alaska 2011: Katy Lovegreen
Age: 21
Platform: Speak Out: Promoting Public Speaking and Debate Programs for Youth
Miss America Talent: Irish dance to "Stereo Love"
Dance Stats: Katy dances for Northern Lights Celtic Dancers, instructed by Pat Hall TCRG-ADCRG.
My Thoughts: Katy is a lovely dancer. I watched her perform at the 2010 National Sweetheart pageant in Hoopeston Illinois, where she was Miss Alaska's Sweetheart. Good luck Katy!  
Katy dancing at Miss America 2012

Miss Delaware 2011: Maria Cahill
Age: 20
Platform: Project 16-26: Drive Safe, Drive Smart
Miss America Talent: Irish dance to "Riverdance"
Dance Stats: Maria danced for the Burke-Conroy School of Irish Dance (Pittsburgh, PA) and currently dances for the Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dance in Delaware, where she is also a teacher. Maria is not only a world qualifier, but also placed 16th and 22nd at the World Championships! You can read more about Maria's experience in Irish dance at her Miss Delaware Blog. She also posted a great video of she and her 6 brothers and sisters performing together!
My Thoughts: Maria looks like the real deal to me. She's gorgeous, and placed at Worlds twice. What more could the judges want? I love the costume she wore at Miss America as well! The open back makes the dress contemporary. Love it! I really hope a video of her talent routine turns up on YouTube soon.  
Maria Dancing at Miss America 2012
I love the open back of her costume! 

Miss Oklahoma 2011: Betty Thompson 
***Preliminary Talent Winner, Miss America 2012***
Age: 23
Platform: Milk: It really does a body good
Miss America Talent: Irish dance to "Warriors" from Lord of the Dance
Dance Stats: Betty dances for the McTeggart Irish Dancers. She has competed in at the World Championships 5 times, as well as 4 times at the All-Irelands. Betty was also the first Oklahoman to come home with a medal from the All-Irelands! She has also performed with the Cheiftans, Eileen Ivers, and Natalie McMaster. Betty currently teaches private lessons, and plans to earn her TCRG in the future! 
My Thoughts: Betty has a legitimate chance of being crowned Miss America 2012. As a World's competitor and All-Ireland medal holder, she's clearly got technique to spare. On top of that, she looks to be the type of dancer that commands the stage. She is simultaneously cute as a button and stunning, in an All-American girl way. The judges have already shown they love her by awarding her a Preliminary Talent Award. She won a beautiful Miss America trophy and a $2,000 scholarship. I really hope to see Betty on TV Saturday night! Even better if the night ends with a crown atop her brunette locks. Below is a video of Betty and Preliminary swimsuit winner, Miss Texas, Kendall Morris, after winning their prelim awards at Miss America Wednesday night. You can watch Betty dancing a short portion of her routine and accepting her award. You can see her flawless technique even in those few moments! 

Betty was also interviewed by her local news after winning Miss Oklahoma, and can be seen dancing a bit here.

Betty dancing her WINNING
talent routine at Miss America 2012
Betty dancing at Miss Oklahoma...
Seriously, how lovely is she?
I love the creativity and stage presence that Miss America contestants bring to Irish dance, not to mention the fabulous costumes they all wear! Betty Thompson has already won a preliminary talent award, so her chances of being in the finals is off to a great start! Best of luck to all three Irish dancers competing for the crown this year! 

Don't forget to tune into the 2012 Miss America Pageant, this Saturday, January 14th at 9pm on ABC! 

- Moira

PS: I can't finish this post without wishing Miss Florida, Kristina Janola, best of luck as well! She might not be an Irish dancer, but boy is this girl talented! I've had the pleasure of meeting her through pageants in Florida. Not only is she beautiful, but also sweet and intelligent. Below is her winning performance at Miss Florida 2011. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shortcuts to Happiness

Limbo. That's where I was as 20-something semi-retired dancer for too long. I wasn't prepared to compete as an Open Champion, but I didn't want to compete as an adult. I love teaching, but I didn't have time to study for the TCRG exam. Dancing was is a part of me, but finding a place for dance in my life was a challenge. 

And then I met my boyfriend, Brent. 

"Blue-eyed boy meets a brown-eyed girl,
Oh oh oh, the sweetest thing" - U2
Upon meeting Brent, he shared his unusual hobby with me [Confession: I had no idea this existed until I met him]... he races go-karts. My initial reaction was some combination of confusion and intrigue. As it turns out, go-kart racing karting is the real deal. Apparently, go-karts are not just for amusement parks. I quickly learned that karting is the purest form of motor sports, and the most popular in the world. Why does my boyfriend spend his free time karting, you ask? Because he LOVES it!  Brent practices his butt off, competes in Florida and other states, and even raced in the Superkarts USA SuperNationals this year. He's pretty speedy on the track. Did I mention I'm starting to get pretty jealous that he's constantly bringing home medals and trophies? 

Meet Brent and his kart. Or as I like to say, the other woman.
As Brent and I continued to know each other, Irish dance eventually came up. We chatted about how I "used to dance," but don't anymore. His initial reaction was to ask why I stopped. I spouted off my usual list of reasons ["I'm too old," "My dance school is too far away," "It's been YEARS," ect.] but instead of agreeing with me, he basically told me I was full of excuses! In the immortal words of Stephanie Tanner, "How rude!" His logic was simple. I want to dance? Dance. I want to teach? Go teach. I want to open my own school? Make it happen. ["Typical guy. It's not that easy," I thought to myself. Obviously he didn't understand the challenges I was faced with.] 

You said it, sister. Honestly...

Then something changed. 

Could it be? Maybe returning to dance was easy? The more I watched Brent head out to the track to practice, pack all his gear to go to a race, or return home with a shiny new award, the more I missed dance. As I listened to him talk about karting, his love for the sport was obvious. Every time he went to the track, I remembered the joy I feel every time I enter a dance studio. Every time he traveled to a race, memories of countless feisanna filled my thoughts. Every time he came home with a trophy, I wanted one of my own! 

You're not seeing things. This trophy is
as big as the seat... and wearing a seat belt. 
I had to get out of my self-imposed dance limbo. 

As I begin my new journey in dance, I have many people to thank for encouraging me to follow my heart and do what I love, but one person was the catalyst. Brent was the kick in the yoga pants I needed. In his own well-meaning, tough love way, he lit the fire under my arse that landed me back in my dance shoes.  I'm not totally sure where my dance shoes and I are headed, but we're reuinted [and it feels so good!] and we have Brent to thank. Novelist, Vicki Baum, penned one my favorite dance quotes: "There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them." Dancing is my shortcut to happiness, and so is having a wonderful, encouraging [and dare I say it, good looking] boyfriend. 

By now I'm sure you're wondering,"why on earth is she writing this karting meets Irish dance love story?" 

Because it's Brent's birthday, of course! So Happy Birthday to Brent, and happy dancing to all of you!

- Moira

Sunday, January 8, 2012

OMJ... Oh My JIG: Live Blog!

Here we go people... the US television premier of JIG on TLC!!! I'm so psyched, even though I've already watched the DVD an undisclosed number of times :) Thanks for being here for my first live blog adventure as well!!
8:03: Love these two little girls. When I went to the worlds for the "very first time" I was 17.  Always impressed with the dedication and talent of young champion dancers. They are committed beyond their years. Also, Brogan has such a grateful attitude. I really admire her appreciation for what she's been given. 

8:06: Julia is so talented.. good lord that child has beautiful feet. I also think her parents are completely adorable. Buy the dress? Check. Buy the wig? Check. Go to Ireland? Check. What awesome parents. 

8:12: John is sooooooo adorable. Love him. Joe is ridiculously gifted, hardworking, and  is living quite the Irish dancing dream. Can you imagine you parents picking up everything to move across the Atlantic so you can pursue your dream of winning the Worlds? Incredible. 

--1st commercial break--

8:18: "If you do it wrong, you have to get it right. You can't just leave it" - Julia O'Rourke. Love her dedication, and her turnout! Also, Brogan doing sit-ups in rhinestoned skinny jeans is too cute. 

8:20: How are they ALREADY at the Worlds?! The edited version of this movie is flying by!  

8:22: Listening to Brogan and her mother talk about her Gran is so touching. Who else has chills? 

--2nd commercial break--

8:26: "Costumes cost $2,500." - I'm so lucky I have a mom who can make anything. She made all my dresses and NONE of them looked home-made ;) Even the one I wore at Worlds. However, Brogan and Julia both have gorgeous dresses. I love the new softer skirts. I wish those existed when I was competing... I always felt like I was dancing in a lampshade. 

8:27: "You have to be foot perfect." - John Carey. Boy oh boy, is Joe Bitter ever foot perfect. I would love to see his whole set to music. Little John is so precious when he's not dancing, but when that boy is competing, he is unstoppable. The height and energy in his steps are incredible. 

8:30: Holy Sparkles. And holy dancing. Brogan and Julia are the kind of dancers you can't look away from... as is Joe. Also, I love his competition look. I'm not super into the embroidered vests on young men. They can be a little over the top on some guys. 

--3rd commercial break-- 

8:37: Kind of wish this weird merry-go-round music wasn't playing in the background, but I love the dancing. Soft-shoe was always my favorite. Also, Brogan's leg muscles make me want to hit the gym right now. And her dress makes me want to start bedazzling everything I own. I just adore little John, and John Carey. Also, I think I have that same jacket John Carey is wearing ;)

8:38: I've watched this movie already, and I'm still nervous listening to the scores get announced. Wait, they're already getting their scores?! Seriously, this is going by too fast! 

8:39: YAY JOHN! He's still the littlest one, even on the top of the podium. Love it. 

--4th commercial break--

8:44: Watching Joe Bitter dance in real time is like watching any normal dancer in fast forward. Did I already say I would love to see him dance? Because I really would. Thanks TLC for leaving in almost a full two minutes of his dancing :) Also, I didn't blink for those two minutes. Seriously. 

8:48: YAY JOE! His dedication and talent earned him that win. Loved the little interaction between Julia and Brogan... very sweet, and sportsman like. While both of them are incredible little dancers, I almost prefer Brogan's dancing, but the also showed her for a lot longer. Julia's rocks are lovely. They both make dancing at that level look easy, which is a feat in itself. 

8:51: I love seeing the joy in Julia's face listening to her scores. I wish both Julia and Brogan could win! They're little... they could fit on the top of the podium together :)

--5th commercial break-- 

8:59: This is nerve-racking, and I already know who won. Julia's little friend with the highlighter yellow bow headband is too cute. Julia's reaction to winning is so genuine. I literally have tears in my eyes watching her achieve her dream :) And I admire Brogan's ability to congratulate Julia and really mean it. Many dancers older than her don't have the ability to lose not win with such grace. I hope she wins it someday!  I'm thrilled she won it in 2011!

9:00: It's over already?!?! How did that happen. Love that TLC aired JIG, even if it was super edited. 

Now it's time for me to eat a very late dinner: Hope all of you enjoyed watching JIG on TLC as much as I did :) And thanks for reading!

- Moira 

OMJ... Oh My JIG!

"Aye, I can. Watch me." - Brogan McCay

Like most all Irish dancers, I can't hide my excitement that TLC is debuting JIG, the documentary of the 2010 Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne [World Championships of Irish Dance], tonight at 8pm. 

I was also a little excited when my copy of
the DVD came in the mail... Thanks Dad!

Aside from PBS fundraisers, news clips during St. Patrick's day, and last years broadcast of Riverdance on Ice, Irish dancing rarely gets airtime on cable television. Is it just me or does this feel like a coming out party for competitive Irish dance? If you've been on facebook or twitter lately, almost every dancer's status is a reminder to watch the movie tonight and take a peek into the hidden world of world class Irish step dancing. I'm more than thrilled to be a part of this Irish dancing community and can't wait to see the premier on TLC tonight.

Check back in starting at 8:00 pm when I will be live-blogging while watching JIG!

- Moira

Friday, January 6, 2012

More than a Little White Dress

Watching Conan is not out of the ordinary for me. Conan is high-larious. I'm also quite the night owl, so he's on at the perfect time. On top of CoCo's usual comedic antics & celebrity guests, Wednesday night's episode had an extra added bonus..

Emmy Rossum walked out in a gorgeous Cynthia Rowley dress. So stunning, in fact, that my boyfriend even commented on how beautiful it was before I had a chance to say anything. [What can I say? He has good taste.] This obviously wasn't just any little white dress. I love the delicate lattice pattern, tailored bodice, and flouncy, feminine skirt. Instead of a metallic shoe, a la the Cynthia Rowley runway look, Emmy paired the dress with a vibrant cobalt shoe. Her relaxed hair and matte, red lips finished the look like a cherry atop a perfect cake. Behold...

Cynthia Rowley, Spring 2012 / Emmy Rossum on Conan 1/4/2012
This is what perfection looks like. 
Maybe I just have dance on the brain [duh], but my next thought was, "I love all white solo dresses!" I really do love a champion dancer in a white solo costume, when done right. [When done wrong, white solo costumes can border on figure skating costumes.] Maybe it's because I think white dresses are classic, feminine, and graceful. Maybe it's because my pageant friends always say, "Winners win in White." Maybe it's because Bernadette Flynn wears a stunning white lace costume as the lead in Feet of Flames during "Stolen Kiss." 

I couldn't help myself. Bernadette Flynn is too extraordinary to not show up in this post.
And in four different all white looks! 
White dresses are something special. They aren't for everyone, but whether worn by Emmy Rossum, Bernadette Flynn, or a champion dancer, the perfect little white dress can take your breath away [or my boyfriends!]. So here is my Emmy Rossum/Cynthia Rowley inspired Irish dance look. The dazzling, ethereal dress is by Doire Dress Designs. Paired with blue patent leather soft shoes [available from Fay's Irish Dancing Shoes] and red lips, this look is meant to turn heads. 

Flawless and Sparkling
Totally red carpet parade of champions worthy. 


PS: While writing this post, something funny happened. When you type "Bernadette Flynn Stolen Kiss" into Google, this photo of Bernadette's husband, Damien O'Kane, is found. 

Damien O'Kane at Camp Rince Ceol
Finding a photo of Bernadette's hubster really isn't that weird, except... wait... who's that girl on the far right in the pink shirt? Oh yeah. It's me! This shot is from Camp Rince Ceol, where Bernadette and Damien were instructors, and I was a counselor. I'm standing next to my friend Jessie Baffa, who is currently touring with Riverdance. Caitlin Kelly, a new TCRG and dress designer [Fairy Reel Dancewear], and James Keegan, Lord of the Dance lead and former World Champion, are also in the background :) 

Moral of the story: When you google Bernadette Flynn [6 time world champion, original Lord of the Dance lead, & my favorite dancer of all time] a photo of me shows up. Coincidence? I think not. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Coming out of dancing retirement at 25...

"Great dancers are not great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion."          
 - Martha Graham

In my high school yearbook, that was the quote next to my senior picture. That was 8 years ago. [Want to know a secret? I just cringed typing "8 years ago."]  

Despite having stopped competing in 2004, my passion for Irish dance has not diminished in my "retirement." Why? Well, let's take a journey to the past & I'll give you the abridged version...

At age 12, I attended my first real Irish dancing class [not including the time my mother dragged the whole family to a ceili class in approximately the 4th grade] and fell in madly in love. From the get go, Wednesday night classes with the Butler School of Irish Dance were more than an after school activity in the Bingo hall of St. Martha's Church.  I made a new best friend [shout-out to Rayna Gubersky] and we spent any and all free time practicing, choreographing new dances, wearing out our VHS tapes of Riverdance, building websites about Irish dance, and designing our dream solo costumes. Suddenly, Irish dance was all I wanted to do. 

Rayna: My dancing BFF and partner in crime...and 2-Hands 
Competition was never something I was crazy about. I loathed the swim meets and piano competitions I'd participated in over the years. That all changed when I found out about Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, the World Championships of Irish Dance. From that point on, I knew where I needed to go: Worlds! 

Over a 4 year period, I worked my way from beginner to Open Champion. My loving parents built me a stage on our back porch, where I danced countless hours a day in the Florida heat. On top of my regular 2-3 classes a week with the Drake School of Irish Dance, I attended workshops with world renowned dancers and teachers at Boston College's Gaelic Roots and Camp Rince Ceol.  In 2003, my relentless practicing earned me a spot on the podium of the Southern Region Oireachtas and qualified me for the 2004 World Championships in Belfast. I had achieved my goal, and it was a dream come true!

In 2004, I graduated high school and began college. As any college Irish dancer will tell you, finding the time to practice is next to impossible, especially when your dance school is hours away. So I hung up my shoes and stopped competing. I didn't forget about dance entirely. I danced with a school club and worked for 3 summers at Camp Rince Ceol. I've had the joy of watching some of my best friends tour in Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, and Feet of Flames. I still mindlessly dance steps on my fingers, and doodle new costume designs. Dance has never been far from my mind. 

SRO 2011: Haley, Ailill, Kelsey, Paul, and me
As 2011 came to a close, I attened the Southern Regional Oireachtas in Orlando, Florida. While watching the dancing with Ailill, my old friend and former 8-hand partner [Gates of Derry, 2003 Oireachtas champs!], I knew it was time to dust off my shoes. The next part of my journey as a dancer will be notably different. I'll be interning at a non-profit dance school in a small town [in contrast to competing under a TCRG] and helping young dancers prepare for community performances and recitals. Despite the changes, the atmosphere is the same: a school of dance centered around learning and loving dance. And as 2012 begins, I couldn't be more excited :)

- Moira

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