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


  1. Hi there!
    I saw your post on about being a "& Overs" dancer. I'm 23 and wanting to get back into dance, too! I danced with the FSU Irish Dancers (I saw you were a Gator!) for two years there and then didn't dance for 2 years because I didn't like the girls who were running it :) Where are you in Sunny FL? I'm in Tampa! feel free to email me at!

  2. Hi Kara!
    Thanks for the comment & for reading my blog! Tampa is a great place to dance :) There are a few great schools in the area. I'm still in Gainesville. Are you planning on getting back into dancing?

  3. Hi there, I'm a dancer in Australia and I've just read your post. I'm 24 and have just returned to dancing after a very long break. I danced for 10 years, and gave up when i was 13. I don't know how I lived without it for so long, but I saw jig in December and was back at my old dance school by February of this year. I'm having a custom dress made by a local dress maker and have my first local feis coming up in two weeks. So it really has been the year of the come back for me. And although it's been hard, I love it just as much as i used to, and it really is in my blood. I'll never be without it completely again, whether I teach or one day put my children into Irish dance lessons.

    It's never too late to go back and compete again!I know now that I won't win or get top 3 like i used to, but I'm genuinely just doing it for fitness, and a bit of fun. In what other sport would you ever get to dress up and wear a beautiful costume, a big curly wig and a crystal tiara!!!

    Thanks for articulating what so many of us 20 something ex Irish dancers feel!!!xxx


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