He might be just 16-years-old, but Drew Lovejoy already has a very definite career plan. The teenager from Greenville, Ohio is working towards the job of his dreams, as a member of a professional Irish dance troupe. He’s definitely on the right track, as he is the reigning Boys Under 15 World Dance Champion. Today, he’s back on the trail of another title, this time in the Under 16 category at the 41st World Irish Dance Championships in Dublin.
Drew is a member of the McGing School of Irish dance, and has ben a fan of dancing ever since he was introduced to it by a friend at the age of five.
He told the Irish Voice: “I remember my mom telling me a story about when I was little and Riverdance was on TV and I was just moving to the music. Then I had a friend who was dancing and she invited me to her competition. I was only five and a half at the time but I just loved it so I went home and told my mom I wanted to start dancing. She made me wait a year but then I started going to classes”.
He added: “I’d really love to dance professionally when I get older, and get a job in a dance troupe”.
Drew’s dad is African-American with connections to Ghana, but the talented dancer has a drop of Irish in him courtesy of his mother’s ancestors who hailed from Dublin.
Irish connections were very much evident at the World Championships this week, as proud descendants came back to the country of their heritage for a great festival of dancing. Among them was dance teacher Bridget Smith-Jaskulski, founder of the Greencastle School of Dance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
She revealed that her dance school was named after the home of her great-grandparents who came from the Greencastle area outside Belmullet in County Mayo.
However, tracing her roots was not the first thing on the agenda today as Bridget was busy supporting her student Mitch Hollman in the Boys Under 15 category. Talented Mitch (14) secured a recall in his competition and danced the set Downfall of Paris.
Watching him on stage were his mum Lisa, dad Joe and sisters Meredith, Madeleine and Mackenzie.
Lisa explained: “Irish dancing is a very family-friendly activity and all four of our children are dancers. I remember years ago our daughter kept asking and asking and asking to be allowed learn Irish dance so we eventually said yes.
“It can be hectic because even though they are all in the same dance school there are different classes for different ages so on Monday nights we might have to do three separate trips to drop them off and collect them”.
She added: “It’s really fun, and what I love about it is what they get out of dance. They perform at nursing homes and schools, and on St Patrick’s Day they did five shows. They also perform at the Milwaukee Folk Fest every year”.
Irish dancing is also responsible for the friendship between Pennsylvania girls Brigid Rosendale (17) and Katherine Bortz (17). Both are pupils of O’Grady Quinlan School of Dance and will take to the stage in Dublin tomorrow.
Brigid, from Sussex County, North Jersey, has been dancing for 13 years.
She explained: “My brother started dancing when he was eight or nine and I wanted to be like him so I started too. We’re like a tag team! He’s dancing on Saturday in the Men Over-21 competition”.
And she added; “our parents are great, they will spend anything to let us do Irish dance!”
Dancing of any form is a passion for her friend Katherine, who attends a performing arts school in Lehigh Valley and is also an accomplished ballet dancer.
Katherine, whose family have connections to the O’Sheas in Kerry, admitted that her hobby means she’s constantly purchasing new pairs of heavy shoes. Each pair of jig shoes lasts just six months and they cost about $150 dollars.
“I think I have very strong feet!” she joked.