Irish dance took center stage at this year’s Miss America scholarship competition that aired on ABC over the weekend. Not one, not two, but three ladies chose to showcase their skills in Irish dance for the talent portion of the competitions.
One Irish dancer, Betty Thompson of Oklahoma, went on to win the preliminary talent section chosen by the judges for her Irish dance performance, as well as the much coveted America’s Choice award chosen by the public online. Surely, the support of the nationwide Irish dance community helped! Ultimately, Thompson was the runner-up in the overall competition, making Irish dancers across the country proud.
While Irish dancing has been used in past Miss America competitions for the talent portion, this was the first year to see three different ladies Irish dance. Facebook statuses and tweets all lit up in support of Thompson and her talent as she performed on live television.
Miss Alaska Katy Lovegreen and Miss Delaware Maria Cahill, the other two Irish dancers in the competition this year, unfortunately did not make it to the semi-finals and therefore did not get to perform on live television like Thompson. Still, Irish dancers across the country were rooting for the ladies. Check out Maria Cahill’s blog about her Irish dance experience here.
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As a competitive Irish dancer, Betty Thompson travelled to several World Championships and All-Ireland championships with the McTeggart School, which is based in her home state of Oklahoma. Now older, Thompson is teaching private lessons and classes in Oklahoma.
In an interview with NewsOK in Oklahoma, Thompson attributes her start in Irish dance to having attended a live performance of Riverdance in Chicago when she was 9 years old. That, combined with her Scotch-Irish heritage, quickly made Irish dance a passion of hers.
Thompson holds the honor of being the first Oklahoma native to reach the open level of Irish dance, the highest level of competition. In 2009 she came in second at the Southern Regional Oireachtas. She’s performed alongside such Irish greats as The Chieftains, Eileen Ivers, and Natalie McMasters.
In her blog recap about her time at the Miss America pageant, Thompson describes the whole experience as a “whirlwind” and recalls praying before the competition that everything would go smoothly. Having secured $27,000 in scholarship money through the pageant, surely things went smoothly enough for this Irish dancer!
Congrats to Betty on a job very well done, and for making Irish dancers across the country proud!
Betty Thompson’s interview with NewsOK before she was named Miss Oklahoma:
Betty Thompson dancing to Lord of the Dance’s ‘Warrior’ for the talent portion: