Friday, June 15, 2012

Irish dancing her way to the Crown:
Interview with Miss Delaware, Maria Cahill

Maria Cahill has more than a few impressive accomplishments under her belt as an Irish dancer. An Open Champion dancer for the Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dance in Delaware, Maria has not only competed at Worlds multiple times, but has placed 16th and 22nd! Back in January, Maria was one of three Irish dancers to compete for the title of Miss America this January, representing the great state of Delaware. Although she didn't walk away with the crown, she did walk away with a non-finalist talent win! 

As Miss Delaware, Maria represented Irish dancers worldwide beautifully at the 2012 Miss America Scholarship Pageant. She was even featured in a clip about the Miss America pageant on Good Morning America! Check out her amazing footwork in the a capella routine she performed on the Tim Qualls Show: 

LOVE her solo dress, and sophisticated natural hairstyle!

I was lucky enough to email Maria about her experiences at Miss America and in Irish dancing. Keep reading for more on pageantry, solo dresses, evening gowns, and more... 

Maria performing her award-winning talent at Miss America 2012
On My Toes Blog: What was Irish dancing on the Miss America Stage like?

 Maria Cahill: It was incredible! It was my first time Irish Dancing on a national stage in about 5 years, so I was excited to get out there and show America what I could do.  It was awesome to see the judges, especially Mark Ballas (from Dancing with the Stars) bobbing his head with my rhythm.  My favorite part, as weird as it sounds, was the end.  As I stood in my last pose, I knew it was the best I had danced and felt so proud of myself!

OMTB: What gave you more “butterflies,” competing in Miss America or at the Worlds?
MC: I would say they both gave me equal amounts of butterflies.  However, I had worked hard for both, so when I finally was at both huge events, I knew that I was as ready as I would ever be, and for that reason, was not really all that nervous.

OMTB: What is your favorite Irish dancing memory?
MC: I have so many fond memories, like those of dancing at the World Championships.  However, one favorite memory that I will never forget goes back to my Prelim days.  I was coming back off a horrible foot injury, had one first in prelims and had to compete at the Delaware Feis against over 30 other girls and boys.  I hadn't danced, or even put on my shoes for that matter, in months!  Somehow (I don't think I will ever know how...), I managed to win the entire thing, securing my place in Open Championships!  I think my mouth dropped to the floor after I was announced as the winner!
Maria rocking the Miss America stage in her evening gown!
Think your solo dress weighs a ton? Her MacDuggal Couture gown weighs 25 pounds!
OMTB: Your evening gown for Miss America was stunning! What would be more exciting to you, getting a new designer  gown or a custom solo dress?
MC: Both were very exciting, but nothing will ever top the feeling of getting a brand new solo dress.  A lot of evening gowns can tend to look similar, but a new, custom solo dress is 100% your own!

OMTB: How has your experience in pageants effected your dancing?
MC: It has definitely improved my posture!  I am 5'8" and after going through a serious growth spurt in highschool, my posture for dancing never was as good as it once was.  Having to walk with great posture definitely carried over to my dancing...thank goodness!

OMTB: Would you recommend that Irish dancers compete in pageants?
MC: Absolutely!!! Talent is tied for the top scoring phase of competition so it is so important.  If you have a great talent, you have already won half of the battle!  Because Irish Dancing it so different, it catches the judges' attention.  If you love to Irish Dance, can hold an intelligent conversation, and love helping people, getting in to the Miss America Organization is 100% for you.

Meeting a future-Irish dancer at a St. Patrick's Day performance
...Love this sweet picture, and that gorgeous open-back costume!
OMTB: Where do you see your future in dance? Do you plan to teach, open your own school, or just enjoy dancing?
MC: Right now, I help teach one of the branches of the Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dance and absolutely love it!!! Those kids have become like family to me and can never picture myself leaving.  After I have finished college, I would definitely consider getting my TCRG!

Maria with one of her students at the 2011 Delaware Feis 
OMTB: You took a break from competing due to an injury. Was getting back into competition shape difficult? 

MC: I am still debating on actually competing at Nationals or waiting for the Oireachtas.  Regardless, I cannot wait to compete again.  Getting back intp shape was one of the hardest things I have had to do.  Irish Dancing takes more stamina than anything I have ever done...that says a lot coming from an athlete!  Not only does it take a lot of work, but it was a little frustrating.  Knowing I was once in excellant shape and having to work countless hours to get back to the shape I was once in took a lot of patience and hard work.  Winning the Non-Finalist talent award became my favorite part of my Miss America experience!

After winning Non-Finalist Talent at Miss America... nice trophy!
OMTB: What advice would you give to other 20something dancers?
MC: It's not over!!!! If you love it, stick with it. Over the past year, I have rediscovered why I first fell in love with Irish Dance and you can too!

This weekend, Maria will crown a new Miss Delaware! I know she'll have much success her future endeavors, Irish dancing and otherwise. Thank you, Maria, for being a beautiful, kind, intelligent, and talented representative for Irish dancers worldwide! 

More from Maria and the Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization:
@MissDelaware11 [Maria on twitter]

Keep Dancing,
Don't forget to enter to win a pair of Iconic by John Carey Hard shoes! 


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