you know youre an irish dancer when

Qualms of Irish dance

On behalf of dance teachers everywhere:

You know, as a teacher, I think the worst part is when your families find a reason not to trust you. Like the way you do things doesn’t have a purpose or a specific message and it’s only meant to negatively affect some of your dancers while putting others on a pedestal. They forget that I know what it feels like to be a dancer. They forget that I too at one point allowed myself to feel jealous over others accomplishments. But they also forget that I know what it feels like to earn those accomplishments - and this is one of the biggest reasons I work so hard for their kids. I know how badly my dancers want their skills to be validated. But they misconstrue the meaning of what it means to be validated. They think qualifying for a major means your better than becoming a prizewinner in the less than two whole years you’ve been dancing and only one year of competing! I remember being one of those dancers. I remember feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything, but in reality, I made strides bigger than I ever knew I could. As their teacher, I always want the best for my students. Their goals are my goals. Don’t ever think your teacher is against you. They are always rooting for you, especially if they are as invested as I am. Don’t create some kind of unrealistic reality in your head because you didn’t get what you wanted when you wanted it. If your teacher could give it to you, they would, but our hands are tied by commission rules. It hurts us just as much to see you beat up yourself and in turn hurt us. We love you and want to see you succeed. Give your teacher a break and just know that we will do all that we can to help you reach your goals.

You Know You're An Irish Dancer When

-your boyfriend says “it’s over” and you think “2-3”

-you automatically point your toe for every photo

-you’ve gotten into heated debates about who the best Countess Cathleen is

-buying pants? better see if I can dance in them!

-you have a dress you treat like glass but dance shoes held together with duct tape

You Know You're An Irish Dancer When...
  • you can say oireachtas without swallowing your tongue
  • you have a pair of bloomers. that you wear. in the 21st century.
  • your life revolves around the countdown to the next major
  • you get annoyed when people interrupt you in the middle of hand-dancing your set
  • the difference between the orange rogue and drunken gauger music keeps you up at night
Just a Little Pep Talk

I know everyone is getting nervous and worried about NANS, and don’t get me wrong, I totally am too, but I just thought maybe some of you guys could use some inspiration in these last weeks of practicing. Some of these words are my own and some are words I’ve borrowed from my dance and school teachers:

Hi there. You might be a little nervous right now. Take a deep breath in. And hold it. And then let it out. Why are you so worried? Feeling under prepared? You know the material, you know the corrections, you know what you need to work on on stage. You know how to cross your feet, how to turn out, how to be loud. You know how to nail a jump, hit a slice, end with a smile. So why are you worried? Anything can happen on the day. “I’m not as good as the top dancers,” you say. Well, ask yourself why not? What is standing in the way? Probably your attitude. Those top dancers know they’re top dancers. If you wanna be a top dancer you better act like one. Walk on the stage like you know you’re getting that cup, that sash, that crystal bowl. “Well I can’t do that because I’m shy,” you say. Then pretend. Pretend you’re the baddest bitch in that whole hall. Keep your shoulders back and your chin up high. Don’t think about it when you’re dancing. Just do it. Breathe in and out and don’t psych yourself out. Because you can do it. It IS possible. You can achieve your goal, no matter how outrageous it may seem, whether it’s a recall, top 5, or not getting last. It’s in you. There’s no one else that can dance for you up on that stage. It’s gotta be you. You ARE prepared. You CAN be a top dancer, and you WILL NOT let anything get in your way. Go out and slay it. I know you can do it.

It's that time of year again

THIS ST. PATRICK’S DAY…. PLEASE DON"T:

  • Dance a “jig.” The jig is a traditional music tempo and dance. It is not the only type of Irish dance. It is only a type of step that is preformed to a specific music speed. 
  • I don’t care if you are Irish, it doesn’t mean you can Irish dance. If you are not an Irish dancer, you do not know how to dance a jig. You are just flailing your arms and legs around like an idiot. In most styles of Irish dance today (excepting Sea-Nós), the arms are kept rigidly by the sides. We’re not having a hoedown. It is extremely insulting to someone who has been dancing for 11 years when you make light of an art form that we take so seriously. 
  • Say something along the lines of, “St. Patrick’s day is just an excuse to get drunk.” St. Patrick’s day is a religious and cultural holiday that apart from its religious significance, also allows those of Irish heritage to celebrate their culture. I love a pint of Guinness as much as the next person, but I can enjoy that any day, not just St. Patrick’s day.
  • Abbreviate it as St. Patty’s day. Patty is the feminine shortened version of a name. The name Patrick shortens to Paddy because it is a guy’s name. Just search the St. Patrick’s day tag and you’ll find a gazillion posts about this infraction.  
  • Ask us to do something. Irish dancers are never free on St. Patrick’s day, come on. I’m dancing from 7am-8:00pm with a break for lunch. If I’m gonna perform for and respond to questions from the ignorant public, I damn well better get money, food, or publicity for the academy.
  • Ask me if we are wearing our real hair. None of your business.
  • Touch my wig. Don’t you dare. It is expensive and took a great deal of time to put on. 
  • Call us cloggers or Irish tap dancers or Riverdancers etc. No. It is Irish dance or Irish step dancing. Nothing else. It isn’t that we hate tap dancers, or anything, it just is annoying to be called something you aren’t. And Riverdance isn’t a type of dance. It is a show that popularized Irish dance that uses some nontraditional choreography or “show dancing” Because it is a show. 
  • Make Irish dance jokes about Irish people not being able to move their hands etc. 
  • Say that it looks easy or that a child could do it. Get back to me after dancing eight or more hours a day in one week with hour long classes and breaks for ab work outs, and endurance training. Dance despite a dislocated knee or sprained ankle and numerous blisters. If you’re not sore, you are a liar.
  • Complain about how tired you are from partying all weekend. I danced all weekend, I’m pretty sure I’m more tired than you. 

Happy St. Patrick’s day. Stay safe and avoid committing any of these atrocities.

From an email my dance teacher sent out... CHILLS

For everyone we want you to leave it all on the dance floor with no regrets. We want you to do your best and feel satisfied with your results based on what you have sacrificed for these 16 weeks of Oireachats training. It is in these final days that champions will rise from the pool of good dancers. Don’t give up now when the finish line is in sight. You sprint through that finish with your head up high knowing it was everything you could have done, because when it’s over, it’s over. No looking back. Train to win. Game ON!

Biggest pet peave in show dancing is the idea that timing/crossing/turnout etc. no longer matter or you don’t need to think about them so long as you’re getting into the dancing. Like your audience may be too ignorant to know what good dancing is but you never know when a dancers in the crowd. And to me the best show dancers have BOTH technique and showmanship.

2

Durham, part 2 and Jacksonville.
We had a proposal onstage during the audience participation.
A minor hiccup happened when the wrong girl was brought up onstage and her boyfriend who was hiding backstage with the ring had a teensy heart attack when he realized that his true love wasn’t brought up to surprise. All was fixed by Val who thought quickly and ended up getting the right girl up there.
They played their song and the poor nervous guy snuck out behind her and got on one knee and, well, you know the rest.
They have a great proposal story now, even though it seemed momentarily destroyed in the beginning.
Made it to Jacksonville this morning which meant NO SNOW and a nice long walk. Even went to the gym which basically was just the dancers and I. Thanks again, Newjax Gym, for letting us take over your place!
4am bus call meant drinks at an Irish pub with the whole group and then a dance party in the bus to 90’s r&b- and Val asking me almost every song: “how old were you when this came out?”
Something about that question makes you feel ancient. That, and the fact that half of the dancers had NEVER HEARD OF JA RULE OR MASE.
Wha?!???? I suppose they’ve never seen “Clueless” or “Can’t Hardly Wait”, either.

Tragic.

I just think its so sad how emotionless competitive Irish dancing has become. It always seems like people say “wow look at how amazing she is because of her technique” and its never “she told a story with her dancing and it was beautiful”. And maybe thats because of the lack of opportunity to do so. But beyond that Irish dance isn’t really even about having fun for so many dancers anymore. Its all about going out and getting a job done. Its not about enjoying the performance its “you’d better not miss any beats in that rhythm section of your jig if you know whats good for you!” And you get criticized for being too happy when you do well, and criticized for being sad when you don’t.

It seems to me that Irish dancing has become more about changing to fit some mold than it is about being who you are as a dancer. I mean, look at all those fan page Instagram accounts for “famous” dancers. People are all over the place determined to be EXACTLY like that dancer. People who become role models feel like they have to change to fit that idealized version of them self because if they don’t they’ll be letting someone down. And people who look up to these role models feel like they have to change to be exactly like whoever it is they look up to. Nobody is allowed to just be them self anymore, and it makes me sad.

Sorry for the rant. Some of the things that abcoy said just made me think. And that thinking made me realize how disenchanted i’ve become. Thats not to say i don’t still love it, I just don’t want to be blind anymore.