9 Confessions of a Former Irish Dancer

It is likely that your childhood memories do not involve accordion music, sequined dresses that cost more than your monthly college rent, and performing in pubs for cash every March. These are just a few brief glimpses into the rather misunderstood and unconventional world of Irish Dancing. While many consider Irish Dance to be a hobby and a fewer consider it to be a sport, it is a way of life for dancers and their families. It is much more than what may appear to an outsider’s eye. In the 9 years that it consumed my life, Irish Dance taught me the importance of sacrifice, hard work, and friendship.

 

Here are 9 confessions of a former Irish Dancer:

1. Nothing was more irritating than people’s reactions when I told them I did Irish Dance. Memorable reactions ranged from pure disbelief and confusion, to a poor imitation involving violently flailing limbs, even to the demand for me to perform in the middle of a supermarket.

2. “I can’t, I have dance,” was a heavily-used phrase in my vocabulary. The studio became a second home, and my fellow dancers became a second family. While it sometimes seemed like I was missing out on things, nothing beat the feeling of my hard work paying off at a competition.

3. *Correction To #2: The only feeling that beat winning was taking off my wig at the end of a long competition or performance day. The amount of bobby pins used to keep my wig on was directly proportionate to the size of headache I had. I once had a bald spot the size of a quarter on the top of my head, but at least my wig didn’t fall off on stage!

4. Forget my wedding dress, my new solo championship dress was what I dreamed about. I always hoped my teacher would let me wear a pink one even though that was not my color.

5. I didn’t need a fake ID to get into a bar. Traveling across the country and to Ireland for competitions was a costly feat, so naturally we performed for drunk people during the St. Paddy’s day season in hopes that they would accidentally give us twenty dollar bills instead of ones. Fun fact: I witnessed a bar fight at the tender age of 11 while eating a grilled cheese sandwich.

6. My favorite part of competitive Irish Dancing was traveling with my best friends. It was the one thing that kept me in when I wanted to quit. Thankfully, I stuck around long enough to go to Harry Potter World when it first opened in Orlando.

7. I was constantly injured, or recovering from an injury. The all-day practices in preparation for a competition were not kind on anyone’s body.  I now find the the smells of Icy Hot and NewSkin are oddly comforting.

8. My life was pretty much a real life version of Dance Moms. Screaming teachers, crying children, and intoxicated adults lurk around every corner of memory lane.

9. At the end of the day, I cherish the memories and friendships I made. The lessons that Irish Dance taught me will always be a part of who I am, even though I metaphorically hung up my shoes years ago.

P.S. - Quick shout-out to my parents: Thank you for driving me to every practice, cheering me on at every competition and performance, gluing crystals individually on all my costumes, and sacrificing so much in order for me to pursue my passion! 

Cover Photo c/o Irish Dancing Girl Direct