oireachtas

I hope you fall in love with dance.
I hope you fall in love so hard that it fills all of the dark places in your soul
With so much light.
That you find a sudden strength that gives you the power to fight
Through difficult times.

When we were young we were dazzled by these unreachable champions.
They wore beautiful dresses and they flew like birds across the stage.
We never could see the hours of practice and injuries at that age.
We only saw power and grace perfected.

There was so much love in that young, pigeoned toed dancer’s heart.
All she wanted to do was learn how to fly too.
How to learn to be a musician with her feet.
Creating rhythms that feel like a heart beat.
It was that little girl’s everything
Always keeping her awake at night with dreams.

And now she is older, she is you.
Standing before a mirror and not sure on what to do.
You’re tired and it feels like those dreams seemed to slip away
You can’t pin point when or what day
But somehow they did.
And you’re starting to feel undone.
As if failure has won.

But hope is not lost.
I hope the missing puzzle piece hits you one day,
When you finish that move you have been working months on.
When you finally get it and the pride comes rushing in.
When you finally win that 1st.
Let it all rush in and never let it go.

I hope you fall head over heels for dance once more.
Eager to walk through the studio’s doors
And make yourself into exactly who that little girl knew you could be.
Because you can.

I hope you fall so in love that it becomes the reason you breathe.
That it fills you with so much fulfillment and happiness,
That the blisters and bruises just don’t matter.
Because you proved that you could do it.

I hope that all of that love and passion pays off.
That one day, you will get that recall. That you might find yourself on that podium. Or whatever goal you dreamed of at night, while you ran through your steps in your head.
Right before bed,
Every night you saw yourself in that place.

I hope it becomes more than just a dream.
Because you have it in you.
I know you do.
The little girl knows you do.
Do you?

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The stunning talent of the NAFC Belt winners!

And, just like that. It’s the middle of November.

You know what that means.

Many of you are currently about to reach the peak of your dance season, if not your dance year. In just a week or two, you will hit the stage. You will not only show the judges what you can do, but you will perform. You will hopefully reach your goal, whether it will be to recall, place, world qualify, or simply just to make it through your rounds without dying.

But, remember this: it is so much more than that.

Why are you going? What made you want to dance in the first place?

In all of the blood, stress, tears, late-night practices, blisters, and sleepless nights, never forget why you started. Don’t ever doubt yourself, your abilities, and who you are as a dancer. You only get so many chances to give it your all, so don’t let this one slip by. But, keep in mind that you ARE prepared. You CAN do this. You’ve put in the work, so now go out there and have fun. Show the judges what you can do, and why you love this peculiar yet wonderful sport so much.

Breathe. Believe. You’ve got this.

Best of luck to everyone at their Oireachtas. Dance your hearts out and don’t forget to smile😊💚

What made the biggest difference when preparing for your Oireachtas?

**LONG POST COMING but this is a very honest recount of my Oireachtas prep and competition day**

Two words: FOCUS and VISUALIZATION.

It all started in Orlando when I didn’t land the recall I had hoped for - it stung. Despite all my efforts in the gym and studio, it wasn’t enough to make it to the final round. That being said, my sister had a much better outcome in Orlando by landing a recall at her first nationals and her second competition as an Open dancer - an achievement that deserves high praise. I was thrilled for her, despite feeling vexed about my own results. 

That’s when everything changed.

The minute I landed on home soil, I began training for the Oireachtas. I’ll be the first to admit that my track record at our Oireachtas has never been great. My placement over the last few years was always near the bottom and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t allow it to happen again this year.

My god, I was going to do whatever it took to get that recall.

I did everything I could think of to better my chances of achieving my goal. My stamina was always my biggest porblem and I decided to take my mom’s advice and start doing wind sprints. I sprinted 2-3 times a week between studio classes and skipped between my laps. I wanted to puke my guts out at the end of each training session, but I knew it would be worth it. I followed these sprints with a gym workout to build up my strength despite my exhaustion from cardio.

I worked my butt of in the studio - leaving drenched in sweat. I reworked the weaker parts of my TJ and set dance to make sure they were perfect.

I fought through the bruised toes, blisters and aching feet. I fought through the shinsplints that made a vicious comeback after years of no pain. I fought through the exhaustion my muscles felt and remembered that it would all be worth it.

I grimaced and gritted my teeth through the deep tissue leg massages at my sister’s physio clinic. I doused my legs in Lakota Extra Strength or Voltaren, and wrapped my shins in tensors each practice. 

“All of this will be worth it the minute you hear your number recalled. It’ll be worth it if you have a shot at Worlds,” I would tell myself.

What was once months before the Oireachtas became weeks, and soon we were only a week away from competing.

The wind sprints had increased my lung capacity, stamina and short-term muscle recovery. My gym training had strengthened and toned my body into peak physical condition. My final deep tissue leg massage worked out the knots and exhaustion in my muscles, as well as temporarily relieved the pain from my shinsplints. I knew my dances like the back of my hand after months of preparation. I had perfected my visuals - I knew when to make eye contact with the judges and when to smile. I knew which foods I had to eat to supply my body with the energy it needed - gluten free and all.

As we drove down to Calgary, I visualized myself onstage for each round and where I needed to move for each step. I thought of when I had to focus on a judge - smiling, eye contact and all. Then I visualized myself being recalled and qualifying for Worlds. 

There was a possibility I could make it happen, but I needed to be 100% focused. I had to believe I could do it.

By Saturday afternoon, I had walked off the stage with two strong rounds. When they began announcing my group’s recalls, my sister held my hand anxiously after hearing her own number. Another dancer from our school, who is like a psuedo-sister, anxiously waited with us. When they called out my number, we joyfully cried out and hugged. After years of never recalling and placing in the bottom, my sister and I had recalled together in the Senior Ladies category.

That being said, I also knew that some of my own friends and fellow competitors didn’t get the recall they were hoping for. After strapping on my hardhoes, I went to each of them to congratulate them on a job well done. After seeing each of them, I quickly warmed up and ran through my set for its debut on stage. I said a quick “this is for you” to my grandfather, who was an avid supporter of our competitive career, and stepped onstage to do the Piper - a set chosen to honour his time in highland dancing.

My third round is a bit of a blur. I remember looking at my sister, mom and teacher for visual cues of what to do. They would tell me if I needed to lift higher, move more or smile. After that, it was like a curtain had fallen around me. I can only recall the blur of my surroundings as I danced and the sound of the music.

I finished my third round, thanked the musicians and made my way offstage. Once I passed out of the judges’ view, I relaxed and felt the full brunt of my bruised toes. It hurt to walk back to where my family and friends stood, but it was worth every bit of pain to have a strong final performance. No matter what happened, I was happy with what I put on that stage.

Fast forward to that evening, and we eagerly waited for our group’s results. While my teacher watched the awards from the side stage, I waited with my sister and my good friend Shannon. We filed on stage with our group, hand in hand, and waited as they began our group’s awards - the final group of the evening. 

As my sister and I held our breath, we listened as they called 12th and then 11th place. My sister and I, after always being in the bottom three, had placed in the top 10! Shortly after, my sister was announced as 10th place and she accepted her medal and NANs qualification certificate. Then 9th place was called.

That was when the announcer paused and waited for what we hoped was the big announcement. Seconds later, the remaining dancers and I were announced as the world qualifiers. Shannon was already bent over in tears and I remember sobbing into my hands when I realized I had done what I never thought I’d do - I was going to the Worlds. My sister had rushed back to hug me before they called my number out as 8th place. With tears streaming down my face, I accepted my medal, certificate and rose before taking my place.

If you can dream it and believe it, you can achieve it! 

I achieved not one, but two childhood dreams that night. I qualified for the Worlds and I will get to compete in Ireland before I retire in 2019. So if I can do it, so can you!

Set out your goals. Make a plan on how you will achieve those goals and set your plan into motion. I can promise you one thing, it’ll be worth it.

When you look at the raw results you don’t know the true story. You don’t know that the girl who got 32nd just had surgery and hadn’t danced in three months. You don’t know that the girl who got 3rd practiced for 4 hours a day and sacrificed her high school sport for dance and her goal was to win. You don’t know that the girl who got 76th is overjoyed because this was her first Oireachtas and she made the recall.

You don’t know the whole story. You can’t judge.

Everyone has individual goals and challenges

Oireachtas is one dance day and doesn’t sum up someone’s whole dance career.

Focus on the fact that these dancers competed at a regional level and spent time working for something they love.

Placement is just a number, not the sole determining factor of a dancer.

When we were young, we dreamed of high kicks, but never imagined the pain.

When we were young, we dreamed of perfect rhythms, but never imagined the late night drills.

When we were young, we dreamed of straight backs, but never imagined sweaty pre-dawn sit ups.

When we were young, we dreamed of flying, but never imagined the price of landing.

When we were young, we dreamed of smiling atop a podium, but never imagined the tears that led the way.

We still dream of being champions, but can’t imagine, don’t realise, that we already are.

—  I sat on the train and made myself tear up writing this. It’s not oireachtas season for me, but this one goes out to all of you. X
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2 days til dance day 😬 #irishdance #oireachtas (at Soul Studios)

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Final Countdown

You are not the number by your name. I’ve heard many people say that you get out what you put in, and to some extent, that’s true. You will only get what you work for. But sometimes, even when you work as hard as you can under the circumstances, you won’t win. You might not even place. You’re allowed to be upset about that and angry, but never let a bad result be an excuse to hate yourself. Irish dance isn’t a formula where if you plug in the exact amount of practice, the number of blisters, and the hours at class, you get the result you want. Losing doesn’t negate your hard work and it doesn’t always mean you didn’t try hard enough. It just means you have to keep working, keep dancing, and keep fighting. The quotation that has inspired me the most this Oireachtas season is “You are not what happened to you. You are what you choose to become.” (Carl Jung). That’s what defines you: not the fact of your failures, but your response to them. We have one day until Oireachtas starts. Let’s prove all the people who doubted us wrong.

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Yearly tradition.

For those of us who didn’t get the result we wanted this past season.

I started dancing long before this stupid workshop and I’m gonna keep on dancing long after. So tomorrow is just one more day I get to dance… I’m not dancing for them anymore. I’m dancing for me.
— 

Eva, Center Stage

For everyone worried about Oireachtas or anything else, remember that you still get to dance. You still get to do that thing you love. Cherish it. (especially @theglasgowreel)