“I bought you tickets to a dance show,” my husband said as he handed me Riverdance tickets. We had never heard of Irish dancing before, but he knew I would love any dancing event.
The night of the show I fidgeted with anticipation, unaware of the vibrant world I was about to enter and the effect it would have on my future. Haunting flute music filled the theatre, and I held my breath as dancers drifted onto the stage like ethereal creatures. My heart pounded with their feet in a rhythm of longing that would not be quieted. When the curtain dropped, I yearned to maintain a connection with the song and dance.
For weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about Riverdance. I listened to the music and researched the show’s roots, wishing I had known earlier about it. My husband mentioned that it would be fun to learn to dance like the Riverdancers. That got me thinking: could I learn to Irish dance?
As I considered taking dance lessons, obstacles surfaced. I was quite pregnant with my second child, so dance instruction would have to wait. I would need money for lessons. I hadn’t danced since college; my muscles and technique were rusty. And in my mind lurked the thought that I couldn’t dance and be a mom too.
After a year of debate, I took informal lessons from a local teenager. I enjoyed the basic movements taught, and the class fueled the ambition that ignited when I had first watched the Riverdancers.
I found an adult class whose doors were open to anyone. Lacing up my ghillies, I soaked up every dance my teacher introduced to our fledgling class. Attending a weekly night class while my children slept required less of my family than I had feared.
After learning several dances, I realized that it wasn’t enough to practice them; I wanted to perform. My school offered a performance group, but only for children and teenagers. When I learned that adults can compete in Irish dancing, it didn’t take long to find a certified teacher in my area. Armed with a bag full of shoes and a mind full of questions, I began my journey to competition.
The satisfaction obtained from hours of training and focus was expected; the myriad of benefits that resulted were a bonus. I found that even thirty-somethings can pursue dance and be taken seriously on the Irish dance stage. I have gained strong friendships, my technique is improving, and my baby weight is disappearing forever. My quest has even inspired my children to find dreams of their own.
I know there will be sacrifices as I balance a family of seven with my renewed pursuit of dancing. Finding time to be a soccer mom and practice my light jig will be tricky. But with a supportive family and a commitment to rearrange my schedule, I am confident that I can be a loving mother and still succeed in my ambition.
Who says you have to hang up your ghillies when you turn eighteen? No matter your age, you can dance your dreams. My two-year-old daughter may be tiny, but she is not too young to inform me that she is going to dance when she “gets bigger,” just like her mommy. The ladies in my adult class may have decades of life experience, but they are not too old to get in their clicks.
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This article first appeared in the June/July 2009 issue of Feis America Magazine.