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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So glad this was caught on video!!!

WCRO 2017: Never Give Up

After getting a very short break from training, I’m back to my usual training routine and ready to look back on my Oireachtas experience. I’ve been trying to think about the best way to write this out… and I think it’ll be easier to cover it in sections.

Mental Prep

I’m going to be 100% honest with you all. I really struggled with the mental game of Irish dance after our nationals in NOLA. I found myself constantly doubting if I could WQ for the second year in a row and, as a result, was constantly trying to correct my doubt with positive thinking. I could feel myself falling back into old habits where I was over critical with myself rather than accepting that I was making progress.

I spent a LOT of time listening to motivational speeches on the definition of success (which is different for every person based on their goals - just wanted to clarify), training and committing to your goals. I spent a LOT of time visualizing what I wanted to achieve as a result. I spent a LOT of time verbally telling myself that I can do this.

There were nights where I was frustrated with myself. There were times where I believed I was regressing rather than progressing. But that’s part of the game when it comes to mental prep - recognizing that what you think isn’t necessarily what is the truth. When I doubted myself or thought my performance sucked, I would ask for my sister and mom’s honest opinion. Low and behold, I was just being extremely hard on myself most times and was actually doing quite well.

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like my 2016 Oireachtas prep. It was chalk full of tough moments that required me to verbally tell myself I was doing exactly what my prep schedule needed from me. I had to tell myself that every little piece would count on the big time - because it’s the little pieces in a puzzle that make up the bigger picture. Without all those tiny pieces, it wouldn’t be complete.

Physical Prep

I’ll admit that I started my Oireachtas prep a bit later than I would have liked due to our studio floor being redone in August. 🤷🏼‍♀️ That being said, I knew what I needed to do in and out of the studio to prepare.

I committed to a training schedule and plan for my wind sprints to increase my lung capacity, further develop my fast- and slow-twitch muscles, and increase my overall stamina. The first week I started with a minimum of 10 half laps of hard sprints. As I have mentioned in previous posts asking about this training, I start with a number and increase it over the weeks. I never drop below the number of laps I did the previous session. By the time I flew out to Victoria, I was sprinting once a week at 16 laps and pushing for 17.

As for the studio, I was going in one the weekend for an extra practice every Saturday or Sunday. During the week, I would have practice on Monday and Thursday (which allowed me to sprint either Tuesday or Wednesday).

I pushed myself each class. When we’d started warm ups, I would focus on execution. When my teacher asked for only the first 2 steps of my HP during warmups, I did the entire thing for her. When I was exhausted after my second run-through of my reel or HP, I would ask to do it once more. 😱

When I was tired on the track, I’d chant “Scotland” to myself as a reminder of what I was aiming to do. When my legs wanted to seize up in the studio, I rolled them out and came back to do it again.

In my mind, Irish dance is as much as physical sport as it is a mental sport. Any time I wanted to fizzle out, I found something to keep my head in the game and my body listened to my head.

I set realistic goals. I focused on execution and cleaning up segments I, personally, felt were a bit sloppy in NOLA. I committed to a healthier diet full of lean proteins, minimal refined sugars and good carbs. I pushed myself even harder on the days where I just wanted to crash on the couch from exhaustion or wanting down time. 😩

Oireachtas Day

I went into the Oireachtas with a clear head. Oireachtas prep was the time to hone, finesse and push myself. Oireachtas Day was when that all came into play.

Like most, I was a bit nervous because the age split for the senior ladies meant there were some questions about the number of spots available to WQ. Rather than fester over that, I focused on warming up and drinking lots of water.

Last year, I came 8th. This year, I was hoping to crack into the top five. At the end of the day, I just really wanted to hear the announcer say that I was one of the ladies who had qualified for Glasgow 2018. But first, we had to wait for the recalls to be announced.

Before anyone says “well obviously you would have recalled,” I just want to say one thing. A person can win or lose on any given Sunday. You don’t know what those judges are looking for or what style of dancing they prefer. So I choose to go into every feis with an open mind. At the end of the day, it’s in their hands.🙏🏼

I was very nervous about recalls. Why? Because I was #18 and my number was the first listed in the competition. So I’d either be elated or heartbroken immediately. Thankfully, my number was called and I was one of 10 22&O Ladies who were called back to the stage

When the time came, I stood side stage and prepared to go up for my set. As many of my friends know, my Blackthorn Stick is my favourite set to date - primarily because I choreographed it myself. This is my baby and I was going to have the chance to show it off at it’s second major.

It went extremely well. I was loud. I was clear with every beat. I was on time the entire way through and the rhythm was on point. I was happy. I was happy to deliver a solid set in front of the judges, my TCRG in the front row and everyone in that room. I left that stage knowing it was in the judge’s hands.

Once awards began, I was anxious. I had said to my TCRG that I hoped to achieve a WQ spot and potentially be in the top five. I wanted it badly, but I was tempering that hope with the fact that there 9 other women who hoped for the same thing in my group.

I lined up with my fellow competitors (of which we all get along amazingly and genuinely support each other) and filed onto the stage. No matter what happened, I was HAPPY with how the day went. I was proud of every competitor who stood up there in our group. I was happy to be part of such a close-knit group of young women who continually support, cheer and genuinely care about one another. I was also able to stomach my nerves thanks to my friends from the Tumblr crew - @oatamie​ and @claddaghstrong​ - and my friends in that group that I stay in touch with via Facebook and Instagram.

That’s when the announcer quieted the room and announced that she’d be calling out the top five dancers to step forward. We’d heard that the top five were likely the only ones who would WQ and, like the recalls, my number was the first in the lineup. Inside, I was losing my sh*t for lack of a better term. 😂

That was when my number was called. As you can see in the video, I was overwhelmed to hear I had made it. I also may have spazzed slightly and startled @claddaghstrong​ and Caylene a bit, but it was also so heart warming to hear everyone cheer for me when they realized it was my number.

Last year, I fulfilled my dream of recalling and WQ in one night. This year, I had surpassed every goal I set for myself - a recaller, world qualifier and a podium finish. At 25, I could say I finally finished on the podium! 🏅

So here’s a breakdown of everything I can say to sum up my story:

  • Build yourself up. Don’t tear yourself down with self doubt.
  • Age is just a number. With the right training and mindset, you can do anything.
  • Set realistic goals and make a plan on how to achieve them in a realistic timeframe.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF. We all love this crazy rollercoaster of a sport we call Irish dance.
  • Be humble and always be a good sport.

To my Western Canadian 22&O Ladies, I am SO proud and humbled to be a part of this amazing group. You can see in the awards photos that we are all genuinely happy and support each other in every capacity. To my fellow Western Canadian dancers, give yourself a round of applause because we all did a fabulous job and each of you should be proud.

To @just-duff-it, @oatamie and @little-red-lily, thank you so much for the kind words on my earlier post. ❤️ They didn’t go unnoticed.

On to 2018! 💚 PS - I’ll do a separate post of my new dress in honour of my grandpa later.

Now that I’ve had time to wade through my post Oireachtas emotions...

I guess I’m ready to talk about it. Bear with me, this might be long…

Several months ago when my TC and I found out that I couldn’t do solos, she and I discussed my options. I could go back and do Trad Set or I could sit out this year. I couldn’t picture not being in Hartford with my school so I told her I wanted to try again. I honestly don’t regret this choice, I learned a challenging dance that I could not have done last year.

The weeks leading up to the Oireachtas I became a hot mess. It seemed like it was one thing after another. I won a novice dance but didn’t have enough people for it to count, I slipped and fell during my hornpipe at Forbes, I dealt with some “subjective” judging, and totally screwed up trad set at Lenihan. Add feeling like driving over two hours to a feis and not doing well was going make my husband hate dance more and only being able to get to class once a week this year, and I was (and still kind of am) an anxiety tornado. It literally felt like my thoughts were attacking me “You’re too old.” “You Suck”. “Who are you kidding?” I felt bad because I knew my TC and my classmates (and even their moms) were watching this go down and knowing I was the only one that could fix it.

I had this feeling that I wasn’t going to recall. Call it a self fulfilling prophecy or whatever. I was hoping that I’d be pleasantly surprised, or maybe I’d be one out of the recall (There were only 8 of us again). Well, I ended up getting last.

Things started out good, but I missed one of my bangs. I completely zoned out, but I didn’t stop. I kept going and I finished strong. I hoped that the rest of it would be good enough, but I still felt pretty hopeless as I went off stage. Honestly, I probably would have started crying if I hadn’t noticed that one of our u9 littles was waiting for me. She looked so proud of herself for coming to watch me with her mom that I knew I had to keep it together. So I hugged her and thanked her, my voice shook while I thanked her mom too. 

I found out I didn’t recall at dinner. I was able to keep it together until we got to our hotel room. My mom and I talked for a while and she flat out asked me if I wanted to quit. She said she wouldn’t blame me; that she feels bad that I work so hard and hates to see me hurt. 

I can’t explain it, but I can’t. I just cant. Someone recently posted about how Irish dance breaks your heart but it also makes you feel alive and I SO get this. I love the way I feel when I’m all dressed up, I love when your dancing and everything hits. I love learning new steps, and I love when my dance school sisters accomplish something. 

Most of all, I cannot express what many of you mean to me. The whole weekend my mother and my TC were joking about all my “Feis Friends” that would come and say hi or give me a hug. I may not be the best dancer, but I’m so lucky to have met many of you. Congratulations on your accomplishments these past weeks and the weeks to come.

To wrap this very lengthy post (that I will probably just copy and paste into my blogger), I’m not quitting. I’m no where near ready to stop competing. I said this last year and I will keep on saying it. My goal was never to be Trad Set champion. I want to be an open champ. Hell, I’d be happy coming in last in senior ladies for the rest of my life so I could dance with my friends and make that girl who my old TC had no faith in proud. I’ll be back at it next week and I will be at the Holly Feis (or whatever their calling it) next weekend. I will persevere until there is no choice but to win.

That being said, I also think it’s time to talk to a professional about my anxiety. Not just for dance, but across the board. I’d like to not hold myself back anymore. 

If you got to the end, thank for listening. I appreciate it. <3

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St. Patricks Day performed as you have never seen it before… What causes the variations in these supposedly “traditional” sets?

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So I know oireachtas was a month ago but I still find myself thinking about it almost everyday. This was the first time I have EVER recalled at Oireachtas. Going to worlds was never a dream of mine because I was never even close enough to allow myself to hope for it. This oireachtas made a dream I didn’t even think was possible come true. And I attribute it all to my amazing school, friends, teachers, and family. And also s/o to ladies U19 for being such a great group of girls to dance with. (Enjoy some pictures of me ugly crying) (also I kept my hardshoes on from the end of set all the way to the end of awards because I taped them so beautifully and didn’t want to do it again…. I could barely walk at the end of the night)

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The Western Region Oireachtas 2017 Parade of Champions from Sunday, November 19th! Congrats to everyone who competed!

We tend to get really down on ourselves due to the competitve-ness of our sport. Just remember that your dancing is your own, and no one can really tell you that you’re doing it wrong. As long as you like what you’re doing, your dancing is going to be beautiful. It’s your own expression, and no judge can really place that. So, keep your chin up, my friend, you’re doing lovely.

Oireachtas is over for another year! I went into this competition having put more work in over the past year than I ever had before. I finally had a studio to practice in again while I’m at home–it’s been under construction for a year–and that helped so much! No more waiting two weeks between practices because I can’t drive the four hours to my dance school! It paid off! We had an automatic recall (that definitely surprised everyone) and I didn’t quite reach my goal of top half, but I was sooo close! 14th out of 25 and NANs qualifier, and I had marks in the top half for each of my harshoe rounds (a HP mark for 7th?!) even though I slipped in hornpipe and felt like I could have done my set better. I did achieve my goal of keeping good posture all the way through, and I was happy with my reel, even if the judges didn’t like it as much as my heavy rounds.

I learned, though, that the more I practice, the more pressure I put on myself. I wanted the effort to pay off so badly that I was killing any chance of actually letting it. I’m always anxious leading up to majors, but this Oireachtas was especially bad. I started having anxiety attacks that brought me to tears a full month before–not the best way to go into a competition. For the last week, I finally started making a real effort to think positively about my dancing and the work I’ve put in. It’s still a struggle for me, but I don’t want to be crippled by my anxiety every time I dance in competition. I think learning to think more positively about myself and my dancing could really help me improve my results.

I’m also going to try really hard to stop feeling like there’s a time limit on my dance career. Some of the wonderful ladies I danced with yesterday were almost ten years older than I am, so I know I’ve got time! Well done to everyone, it was a great day!

With the month of Oireachtas upon us, Oireachtasurus has begun to make her arrival visiting towns and cities around North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe.
Oireachtasurus has been keeping her eye on little Irish dancers all around the world seeing who has been practicing and listening to their teachers. As she travels around the globe she brings the gift of turnout, cross, rhythm, and ferocious stage presence to all the hard working dancers. And to those who have worked especially hard, she may even bring you an extra special gift – a recall!
Make a wish before you go to sleep and Oireachtasurus will come and make all your dreams come true!
Be sure to leave your soft and hard shoes at the end of the bed the night before you dance because Oireachtasurus may leave you with some AB Swarovski crystals.

…Oireachtasurus does have one flaw though…she needs to keep her arms in.

Oireachtas Rince Uldah (Ulster): November 3,4,5

Mainland European Oireachtas: November 4,5

Eastern Canada Oireachtas: November 10,11,12

Western Canada Oireachtas: November 10,11,12

Southern UK Oireachtas: November 16,17,18,19

New England Oireachtas: November 17,18,19

Western USA Oireachtas: November 17,18,19

Oireachtas na Mumhan (Munster): November 23,24,25,26

Midlands UK Oireachtas: November 24,25,26

Mid-America Oireachtas: November 24,25,26

Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas: November 24,25,26

Oireachtas Rince Laighean (Leinster): November 24,25,26

Northwest UK Oireachtas: December 1,2,3

Southern USA Oireachtas: December 1,2,3


(Couldn’t find a few regions, and Australia already had theirs)

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Julia O’Rourke and Paige Turilli at the Mid-Atlantic Oireachtas!