Monday, April 22, 2013

Wrapping Boston & Jane in Our Love

{Photo from the Clifden Academy Facebook page}
One week ago, the world watched in horror as bombs went off at the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. Almost immediately upon learning of the loss of 8-year-old Martin Richard, and critical injuries sustained by his mother and 6-year-old sister Jane, Irish dancers worldwide banded together in support of one of our own. One week later, what can we do to help the Richard family and other victims of this senseless crime?

Wrapping Jane in Our Love 

Irish dancer Bree Johnson and her mother Trish {of the Glencastle Irish Dancers} began this facebook group to support Jane. The pair were inspired to donate a quilt to Jane, a beginning Irish dancer at the Clifden Academy, to comfort her and show how much the Irish dancing community loves and supports her. They have gathered over 400 T-shirts from Irish dance schools across the country and world. These shirts will be sewn into quilts and donated to Jane. Even Michael Flately {the Lord of the Dance himself} has offered his support to this project, saying "T-shirts will be on the way early next week from Michael and the Lord of the Dance Troupe currently touring Russia. Jane and her family are in our thoughts and prayers." 

If you would like to donate a T-shirt, visit Wrapping Jane in Our Love on facebook for more information. Monetary donations are also appreciated. As a quilter myself, I can only imagine the amount of threads, fabrics, and supplies Trish and Bree will require for this massive project.

Red Sox for Jane

Another Irish dance family was inspired to support Jane and the victims of the bombings by collecting poodle socks. Irish dancers can mail their new or used {and clean} poodle socks, to be dyed red by dancers and sold as a fundraiser. Profits will be donated to the victims fund. More information can be found on the Red Sox for Jane facebook page.

Donations to the Richard Family

According to the Richard family's pastor, the family is asking for prayers and privacy during this difficult time.  Fr. Sean M. Connor of Saint Ann Parish Neponset in Dorchester, Massachusetts made several suggestions to support the Richard family in a letter on the parish's website. If you are in the Boston area, consider donating blood to Children's Hospital Boston through their "Pints for Half-Pints" program. If you're unable to donate blood, consider donating toys, books, stuffed animals, or other items to Children's Hospital Boston. More information for donation of items can be found {here}.

Many Irish dancers and schools have organized dance-outs to raise funds and support for Jane, the Richard family, and Boston. Are you one of those dancers? What have you done to show your love and support for these victims? Let's hear what else Irish dancers are doing to show their compassion in the aftermath of this tragedy. 

Keep Dancing,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Back to Boston

Congratulations to everyone who danced at Worlds this past week! Hope everyone had an amazing time in Boston... know I did! From the dancing to the sightseeing, it was a week to remember :)

Caitlin, myself, Laura, & Danielle at Faneuil Hall 

Sadly, I couldn't make it to Boston for Worlds this year... but I was in Boston for the North American Irish Dancing Championships back in 2002, my very first NANs! Boston holds so many amazing Irish dance memories for me, from NANS 2002 to several fabulous summers at Boston College's Gaelic Roots summer program.

Still one of my favorite hoodies!

Can you tell these pictures are from nearly 13 years ago? I haven't rocked jorts and a cami in public in quite some time. Or puka shells for that matter. [Boy, do I feel old.] However, my super-tan legs have 2013 World Championships of Irish Dance written all over them!

Our poodle socks were taller and our crowns had less crystals, but it seems like just yesterday we were side-stage for a major in Boston. Times & styles have certainly changed, but I hope everyone in Boston this past week had just as much fun as I did with my friends from the Drake & Butler Schools of Irish dance.

Were you in Boston?! This year? Happy April Fools!

Keep Dancing,

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Keep Calm & Irish Dance - Free Printables!

Top Dance Blog update: Don't forget to VOTE for On My Toes in the favorite dance blog and recreational dancer categories. Click here to vote! {please}

Voting takes just a few clicks & ends January 31st at 10pm. Thank you for getting On My Toes into the final round of the Top Dance Blog competition! 

With St. Patrick's Day and Worlds coming up in the next few months, Irish dancers everywhere {including myself} are in practice overdrive! I don't know about you, but I love am obsessed with motivational posters and trinkets. My sister makes fun of me, because I adore corny, inspirational everything. thing led to another and I found myself making these inspirational Irish dance printables. You can download them for free! 

I picked a few colors I like, but feel free to leave a comment on this post, send a tweet to @MoiraOnMyToes, or post on On My Toes' facebook page if you have a specific color request... maybe to match your solo dress, or in your dance school's colors :) 

Keep Calm & Irish Dance

Keep Calm & Train for Boston

What are you practicing for? St. Patrick's day performances? Worlds? A feis? Just for fun? Do you like this printable? What other printables would you like?

Keep Dancing,

Monday, January 28, 2013


PLEASE VOTE for On My Toes in the favorite dance blog recreational dancer categories: {click here to VOTE}
Voting just takes a few clicks {of your mouse, not your hardshoes! haha} Thank you! Polls close on January 31st at 10pm.  Thank you for getting On My Toes into the finals for the Top Dance Blog competition!

While preparing for the TCRG exam, I'm learning & re-learning the traditional set dances required for the exam: St. Patrick's Day, The Blackbird, Jockey to the Fair, Job of Journeywork, King of the Fairies,  Garden of Daisies, & Three Sea Captains. As Irish dancing has evolved greatly since these sets were created, these hardshoe dance may seem a bit... well, traditional. {duh!} They're made up of trebles, tips, drums, rocks, toes, heels, kick-your-heels, and the occasional click. No axles, double clicks,

Despite the lack of exciting new moves, practicing these sets has really made me feel like a part of something bigger. Being an Irish dancer is kind of like being a historian. Each of us has a duty to help our artform evolve  through new, competitive, creative steps & tricks, but we also have to remain true to what makes Irish dance special, unique, and different from other forms of dance. Maybe I'm just a history nerd...I was historian of my high school class, a two time county History Fair winner, & the Vice President of Fraternity Development of my sorority in college {aka the VP that makes sure the chapter retains the values of Pi Beta Phi's 146 year history}... but I really love learning more about the history of Irish dance.

This compilation of video footage from a 1929 Irish dance competition in Dublin has been circulating through the online Irish dance community for the last few weeks. After watching it, I definitely feel more connected to those dancers, the traditional set dances I'm working on, and the Irish dance community at large. Though the costumes, shoes, and steps have evolved, I love seeing historical footage like this just as much as watching the top dancers of recent years.

What do you think of the 1929 Irish dancers? Do you like dancing traditional sets?

Keep Dancing,

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ceili of the Week: The Three Tunes

Before we get to into all the ceili fun, please don't forget to comment on the previous post {click here} to vote for On My Toes in the Top Dance Blog 2013 Contest! Thanks! Now, onto the fun stuff... 

As the new year begins, the dance classes at the studio where I teach are beginning to learn their dances for the spring recital. Recital dances, as they're called, are really looked forward to by all the dancers. My beloved "Ceili Club" will be performing The Three Tunes this year, and the dancers are SO excited!

The 1996 Minor Ceili World Champions
Dancing The Three Tunes {1st dance of this video}

Weren't those dancers phenomenal?! Their energy, precision, and lines are definately qualities all ceili dancers should strive for... which is probably while I'll have the Ceili Club watch this video too! 

The Three Tunes is ...
-- An eight-hand Figure dance, from County Armagh
-- Danced to three tunes: Haste to the Wedding (jig), Leslie's Hornpipe, The German Beau (reel)

Movements of the Dance
Formation: Eight dancers in ring, holding hands
          {a} Sides (jig)
          {b} Rings (jig)
          {c} Lead Around (reel)
          {d} Stamp and Clap (reel)
          {e} See-Saw (hornpipe)
          {f} Roly-Poly (hornpipe)
          {g} Hook and Chain (jig)
          {h} Rings (jig)
          {i} Sides under Arms (reel)
          {j} Stamp and Clap (reel)
          {k} Thread the Needle (hornpipe)
          {i} Roly-Poly (hornpipe)

Why do I {love} this Ceili? 

Originally, the Ceili Club & I debated between performing the Sweets of May vs. The Three Tunes in the recital this year. After watching both dances on video, we decided that The Three Tunes was more appealing to an audience, because of the music changes and lack of repetition throughout the dance! We love that this figure dance doesn't have a body that repeats between figures, so the dance remains exciting to watch.  Plus, this dance has lots of stamping, clapping, roly-polies {is that the plural of roly-poly?!}, and even threatening fist shaking! Yes, Ar Rince Foirne actually says to shake fist "in a threatening manner." Only in Irish dance...

Have you danced The Three Tunes, or even competed in a feis with this dance? What do you like about The Three Tunes? 

Keep Dancing,

Monday, January 14, 2013

Top Dance Blog Contest 2013 {VOTE for On My Toes}

The Dance Advantage is running their annual Top Dance Blogs Contest for 2013...and I've decided to enter! Last year, I remember reading the "Top Blog" winners and feeling so inspired to write & dance... & write about dance!
Vote for On My Toes by commenting on this post!
I'm entering the "Recreational Dancer" category {teen or adult dancers discussing classes, making time for dance, & more}. Like I said in my last post, I couldn't have dreamed how many readers and dancers have viewed On My Toes and I can't thank you all enough! Connecting with dancers and bloggers from across the globe has really become my favorite aspect of writing this blog.

Will you help me become a Top Dance Blog? 

All you need to do is vote for On My Toes, by commenting on this post by Tuesday January 22nd!

So easy, right?! Comment with your favorite post, something you've learned from this blog, what you like best about this blog, a topic you'd like to hear more about, or just say hi. Just comment... please?! :) Oh, and maybe tell your friends, family, dance class, or anyone with a computer to comment on this post too?! Thank you again for all the support you've given me! The blogs with the most comments will enter the "finals" voting round of the Top Dance Blog Contest.

Keep dancing,

PS: One of my favorite Irish dance blogs, Rince Go Bragh, is also entering the contest {head over to her blog to help her too!}.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Year Later {On My Toes' Top 10}

Just over a year ago, I began writing this blog as I ended my lengthy hiatus from Irish dancing and began really thinking about becoming a TCRG. On My Toes was a way for me to connect with other Irish dancers and share my love for Irish dance with whoever happened upon my blog. I could never have imagined that one short year later I would have reached over 27,000 readers and dancers from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Not only have I gained the support of thousands of people worldwide, but I'm also teaching Irish dance at a local non-profit dance school as I prepare to take the TCRG exam this fall. What a difference a year can make! 

Thank you all for reading my blog, following me @MoiraOnMyToes on Twitter, liking On My Toes on Facebook, and supporting me as a dancer, teacher, and blogger. Here are your top 10, most viewed posts from the past year! 

Keep Dancing,

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Irish Dancers' Miss America: Catching up with Betty Thompson

This time last year, Irish dancers worldwide were cheering for Betty Thompson, Miss Oklahoma, as she competed on the Miss America stage. With style, grace, and a fabulous Irish dance for her talent, Betty finished first runner up to Miss America 2012. Although Betty didn't end up taking home the Miss America crown, she certainly won the hearts of Irish dancers in the states and across the globe. After her success at Miss America, Betty returned to the feis circuit and qualified for the 2013 World Championships in Boston. Lucky for us, she took some time out of her very busy schedule to answer some questions for her adoring fans.
Betty and Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler,
waiting for the winning results to be announced.   
On My Toes Blog: In less than a calendar year, you've not only placed first runner up to Miss America 2012, but also qualified for the 2013 World Championships of Irish Dance. Did you ever imaging reaching those two milestones so close to one another?

Betty Thompson: Certainly not! When I decided to get serious about capturing the Miss Oklahoma title, I decided it was time to hang up my competition shoes. However, after I crowned the new Miss Oklahoma in June it hit me that I didn’t currently have something I was striving to achieve (aside from my degree at OSU {Oklahoma State University}) and I didn’t like that realization. Ever since I began competing in Irish dance at the age of 12 I have been working towards a goal, and then my goal became Miss America. I decided in mid-August to start dancing again for exercise and a week after that made the decision to compete in the Oklahoma Feis. I borrowed a dress and had so much fun competing again that I decided to go on to the Oireachtas. Two and a half short months later I found myself on the SRO {Southern Region Oireachtas} stage and loved every moment of it. Of course I wanted to qualify for the Worlds, but I wasn’t sure if I had been back long enough for it to happen! I’m beyond excited and feeling so blessed.

A vision in white on the Miss America stage:
Betty in her Johnathan Kayne evening gown
OMTB: You dazzled us in a custom Johnathan Kayne gown at Miss America this year, and have recently been spotted at the Southern Region Oireachtas in a new Gavin Doherty solo costume. How involved are you in the design process of these fabulous dresses?

BT: I was very involved in the design of my talent costume for Miss Oklahoma and Miss America. Jonathan Kayne is so much fun to work with and he really captures your personality and is able to portray that in his designs. I gave him a basic idea of what I wanted (high neck, emerald green and a form fitting bodice), he envisioned and created something far more beautiful than my expectations! I was THRILLED that Gavin Doherty agreed to make my solo dress for SRO, especially on such short notice. I think what makes a Gavin dress so wonderful is that his ideas and creativity are endless. I didn't want to restrict that in any way. I just told him I wanted something modern, appropriate for a senior lady and the colors I had worn in the past. As with Kayne, the end result was amazing and I can’t wait to wear it in Boston!

Looking stunning in her new Gavin after securing her spot at Worlds!
Southern Region Oireachtas 2012
OMTB: Fake tan, loads of makeup, and massive wigs can give people the wrong impression about Irish dancers. What does your feis-look say about you?

BT: My feis look says you get what you see, which was the same impression I wanted to give on the Miss America stage. I’m blessed to have olive skin so I stay naturally tan year round-for that reason I don’t have to wear fake tan. I do wear more makeup on stage than I would on an average day, but I certainly don’t take it to an extreme. I also wear a bun wig versus a full wig. I just feel that as a senior lady it’s a little softer and since I’m so petite I don’t feel like my face gets lost in the curls! Not to mention that I could use all the help in the height department that I can get. :-)

Betty with Rebekah Roberts, McTeggart TCRG, after her
success at the Southern Region Oireachtas
OMTB: Do you have any tips for looking put-together on stage at a feis or major competition?

BT: One of the biggest similarities between competing in Irish dance and competing in a pageant is the stage presence. My dance teacher, Maureen McTeggart Hall, instilled in me at a young age that confidence on stage was key. The way I held my body and head said a lot about my belief in my own ability. Having that confident look on stage no matter what you’re competing in draws attention!

OMTB: You've already competed at Worlds numerous times, and brought home an All-Ireland's medal. Do you have any goals for this year's competition?

BT: I would love to medal at Worlds this year. I have a lot of work to do in the next few months and I feel like I’m behind my competition already in preparation time but I no longer believe that anything is impossible with hard work. It’s one of the main reasons I came back, that goal you just can’t let go of!

Betty's talent, set to "Warriors" from Lord of the Dance,
earned a Preliminary Talent Award at Miss America 2012
OMTB: How did your talent choreography in Miss America influence your performance style when you began competing in feiseanna again?

BT: It was actually a really hard adjustment! I became accustomed to the dramatic affect of my talent at Miss OK and Miss America (thanks to my incredible choreographer, Jason Hays, McTeggart North TX), being able to “play” with the audience and ultimately getting a standing ovation at the end of almost all of my performances in a pageant ....and I had to remember that’s NOT reality for a competitive Irish dancer! The judges at Oireachtas and Worlds are not “wowed” by my performance like the Miss America judges and audience were and they are literally picking apart my every move. It’s back to strictly Irish dancing technique!

Something tells me Betty knows core
strength is great for Irish dancing! 
OMTB: Prepping for Miss America vs. Worlds: will you practice more for Worlds? How will your preparations change?

BT: That’s a tough comparison simply because when you take on the job of Miss Oklahoma, you drop EVERYTHING else. No school, no job. Your job IS Miss Oklahoma, multiple appearances (3-5) on a daily basis and preparing for Miss America in off-time. There were multiple phases to prepare for and that made it difficult at times. However, in preparing for Worlds, I feel more pressure than I did in preparing for Miss A. I’m back in school taking 17 hrs, working in the marketing department of the Oklahoma State University Foundation, continuing to travel the country for appearances and speaking engagements and finally making time to train for Worlds! It’s certainly a struggle, but where there’s a will there’s a way! :-)

OMTB: Why should Irish dancers compete in the Miss America Organization? How can they get involved?

BT: The Miss America Organization is the world’s leading scholarship provider for women making available over $4 mil in scholarship every year. The need for scholarship is what drew me to the pageant scene my sophomore year of college and in my short time competing in Miss Oklahoma and Miss America, I've been awarded over $90,000 in scholarships! But the other major perk to competing is that you get to share your talent and love of Irish dancing while promoting it! I've been thrilled by the dozens of messages I received post Miss America about little girls beginning in Irish dance because they watched me on TV!

Thank you, Betty, for giving us a little insight into your journey as Miss Oklahoma and in Irish dance. Irish dancers are lucky to have such a beautiful, intelligent, and talented young woman representing us all. We'll be rooting for you at Worlds this year! 

Don't forget to tune into Miss America, airing this Saturday, January 12th at 9:00pm est. on ABC! 

Keep Dancing,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013 {Snack Attack}

Happy New Year, Irish dancers! I hope 2013 is off to a fabulous start! For many of us, new year = new {dance} resolutions. My fellow Irish dance blogger, Sara of Rince Go Bragh, can attest to that! {check out her 2013 goals here} Whether your goal is to stand on the World's podium this year, pass the TCRG exam, or get your slip jig into prizewinner, healthy eating is likely an integral component of achieving those dreams. 

 A few go-to snacks keep me fueled for dancing, or re-energize me after a few hours in the studio. What makes up an ideal snack for Irish dancers, like me? I look for high protein, high fiber, low fat, filling foods. 

Snack Attack

{1} Sparking ICE Pink Grapefruit flavored water: Ok, so this isn't really a snack...but dancers must stay hydrated! Sparkling ICE is zero calories of light, refreshing deliciousness. Sports drinks can sometimes be too heavy for my taste & water is a bit blase, so this is a great balance between too strong and too boring.  Pink grapefruit is by far my favorite flavor, but then again, I haven't found a flavor I don't like so far.

{2} Trader Joe's Golden Roasted Flax Seed: High in fiber, omegas, and protein, I love these nutty little guys! Flax seeds are great mixed into yogurt or on top of a salad, but I like them as a crunchy, stand alone snack. Like most seeds and nuts, flax seeds are high in fat for their small size, so portion control is a must!

{3} Larabar Cherry Pie & Lemon Bar: Larabar keeps ingredients to 9 or less natural foods, and then smushes them together into a tasty, snack-sized bar. Made up of nuts, fruits, seeds, and spices, these bars prove that simple can be delicious. I usually keep Larabars in my purse and dance bag, just in case I'm starving between meals. The cherry pie & lemon varieties are my personal favorites, but my roommate loves the more indulgent flavors... chocolate chip cookie dough Larabar anyone? Maybe she's onto something...

{4} Chobani Nonfat Blueberry Greek Yogurt: I could probably eat this yogurt for every meal of every day and never get sick of it {no joke}. Greek yogurt is more tart and creamier it's non-Greek counterparts, but it also boasts more protein in comparison. Did I mention it's also nonfat?! Winning!

Looking for more insight into eating healthy for Irish dancers? Read Christy Dorrity's recent post about motivation & dieting, from an adult Irish dancer's point of view {here}.

What are your favorite healthy snacks? 

Keep Dancing,
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