The dance flies by and all of a sudden you’re bowing, holding hands with your team. Your parents, friends and dancers from your school are roaring from the back of the audience. That’s it; it’s up to the judges now who are scribbling away their scores before hitting the bell, signifying you’re free to exit the stage.
We’re met by a barrage of hugs, kisses and tears of those who were excited to see us back up on stage, ultimately successful with no glaring flaws during the performance. Still, anything could happen at results, so we try not to get too excited one way or another.
Results finally roll around and we’re jittery with excitement and nerves. (Being adults, however, permits us to indulge in the beer or glass of wine to help calm the nerves, a welcome difference from our younger years.)
Our school places well in the other ceili competitions they’re entered in, but no one captures the first place title. We’re the last team from the McLoughlin school to hear our results.
We scurry sidestage, holding hands in a chain, as they begin to call out the numbers for the six places in the competition that saw 12 teams compete. The numbers keep coming down. I myself prepare to be called for each and every place - first would be perfect, but any place would be knowing that many of us have dusted off our reel shoes for the first time in years.
And then they call second place...not us. We’ve won it! We won the Oireachtas, as a team, much to our teachers, fellow dancers and families’ delight. We’re roaring before we run on stage to hoist the trophy on the podium.
We’re just as possessed as when we were dancing just a few hours earlier in competition. Excitement takes over us all as we’re cheering and waving to the audience. This … this is great.
We take time for a group hug before we get off stage to be met by our teachers. Still jittery with excitement, we make our way to the back of the hall for pictures with our new prize.
Talks quickly turn to whether we’ll make our way to the North American Irish Dance Championships - also known as Nationals - in Anaheim in July. As of right now we will, another chance to reunite as dancers and friends, another chance to pay homage to our long history with the Early-McLoughlin School of Irish Dance.