Back at it - returning to Oireachtas 2012 to compete as adults in ceilis
Last year’s return wasn’t enough, just had to come back for more
We were all excited to be back in each other’s company though again, reminiscing about the past. Our shared experiences of competitions and dance classes cultivated the friendships we would end up carrying with us outside the dance halls and into the present.
Soon enough, Oireachtas was upon us. Thankfully, our adult competition was held in the afternoon on Sunday of the three-day weekend event, meaning we could get in more practice time once in Philadelphia - as well as some socializing in the lobby bar.
Sunday rolled around quickly though. We piled on the makeup, whipped our hair up under faux hair pieces and bedazzled crowns to take the stage once again, together.
To say we were nervous sidestage is an understatement. We were a perfect storm of nerves, excitement and anxiety. We tried to stretch out our old muscles a few more times, and made sure our shoes were all double-knotted. It had been so long for some of us since we were in this situation - about to dance at the Oireachtas! The stress! The pressure! The fun!
Thankfully, we were surrounded by other competing teams who had a better grip on their nerves. One team kindly pointed out that one of our team members’ cape was unpinned before wishing us good luck on stage. I’m happy to report that the sometimes catty competitiveness of teenage competitions evidently subsides with age.
Getting back on stage is surreal. The stage feels bigger than you remember. But to look around and see your team smiling, perhaps nervously, perhaps dumbly, back at you waiting for the music to start is a thrill like no other for a competitive dancer. When the music does start, you find your legs and feet taking care of all the work.
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.