I started Irish dance when I was nine years old. I have been in love with it from the start. Before Irish dance I had tried many different activities, but none of them really felt right to me. I tried soccer, piano, swimming, ballet, chess, ice skating, and bowling. While, I stuck with some of these activities for a while, I didn’t have the same drive or love for my other activities than I did for this sport.
My beginner 1 and beginner 2 years were pretty smooth sailing. I moved into novice with all seconds and thirds. However, novice is when it started to get rough. My first year in novice my family and I were getting ready to move. Dance wasn’t in the main part of the picture. I still went to class and I still went to a few competitions. When I competed I wasn’t doing that well, but I knew that most of the girls in my competition had more experience than I did. I did place a few times and when I did I felt good about it.
In 2013 we moved to another state, which meant switching schools. That was not easy for me. I felt awkward and out of place in class. Most of the girls had started out as beginners together and already had formed their own “groups.” I still had people to talk to, but I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Also, learning new steps was rough. I have processing issues so it takes me a bit longer to learn steps, even now. So about two months in to this new school, it was suggested that I take private lessons from the older girls at my school. I did not want to because of two reasons, (1) I did not want to admit I needed help, and (2) I was a little intimidated by the girl I’d be taking lessons from.
I started competing again and the first feis I went to with this school I got a third in one of my dances. However the next few I went to, I didn’t place. I was practicing very little or not at all. I was just going through the motions and my heart wasn’t completely in it. I could tell this was frustrating my parents and my teachers, but it was also frustrating me. So I decided to do something about it.
2014 is when it started to pick up. I was practicing a bit more and I wanted to work harder. I started placing consistent seconds and thirds and I was happy to be placing and it showed I was working a bit harder than I did the previous year. Then finally in the fall of that year I was practicing a lot more and I decided I really wanted this. I started getting more seconds and I was hoping to work my way up to a first. Well, November I sprained my ankle and I ended up in the ER. This was after I had previously sprained my other ankle a few weeks before. This second sprain caused me to be out of dance for 3 months. Not being able to dance was pretty hard on me. I don’t think I realized how much dance meant to me until those three months I couldn’t do it.
Finally, I was able to go back to dance again. Jumping back into it was pretty tough. I was having trouble with my steps and my stamina was awful. My teacher, Emily, really helped me out. She gave me private lessons and she helped prepare me for my first feis after my injury. I seriously don’t know what I would’ve done without her help. I went to the feis not expecting much and I did really well. But the placing didn’t make me feel as good as dancing again did. I was placing consistent seconds and thirds, but eventually this began to get frustrating. Being an older novice dancer can be hard because competitions become quite small. So I was winning when I had 3-4 people, but that isn’t enough to qualify for the next level.
I was ready to give up competing and just dance for fun, but in the fall of 2015 everything turned around. In mid-September I got a first in my hornpipe. This was the first dance that had enough people and I could move it up to prizewinner. I was so happy I cried. It was only out of five people, but it meant so much to me that I got it, it showed that I actually could do it. The next feis I got another first and placed out of my jig. I was extremely excited about this because I despise jigs with a burning passion. The next few feis I did not place out of anything, but I was still pleased with the dances I had moved up.
Going into 2016, I was excited, I had been practicing and working really hard. My first few were more like practice competitions than anything else. I was at a feis in Chicago before I took a month off to go to camp and travel. I had just performed my first three dances and I was walking back to our campsite when my mom came up to me and told me to go check my results. I am usually not allowed to check my results until the end so this threw me off a bit. I went over and checked my results and I got a second in my reel, so I didn’t know what the big deal was. But then I looked at my slip jig and I was floored. I had gotten a first, in what is usually my worst dance. Then a few minutes later my mom came and told me I had gotten another first in my treble jig. Then in October I got a first in one of my prizewinner dancers. That was huge for me because there were 13 girls in my competition and I had never gotten a first with more than five people before.
So up until now, nothing big in competition has happened, but this year has been amazing so far. For about 3 and half months I helped teach the beginners. I love working with children and I hope to make a career out of it so this was a good opportunity for me. Then when St. Patrick’s Day rolled around I led a performance group. This was also one of the best opportunities I have had through dance so far. In the near future I’m getting a new dress, which I am very excited about. So this year is rounding out to be really good so far. I’m excited to see where the future leads me and to continue my dance adventures.