How Irish dancing holds key to confidence for children
'When you stand on stage, it gives you confidence'
When you look at the dancers onstage, they whirl like ballerinas, their heels clack, their sequins flash, their curly hair flaps up and down in time with their steps. Most of all, though, they seem tiny. These are incredibly talented and well-trained young people performing solo, on stage before judges and hundreds of other adults, and they’re aged only 10 or even younger. It could be a daunting experience. Yet most of the performers are highly confident.
“It’s really exciting but you’re nervous as well,” says Jessica Parier, 11, from Lincoln in England. Jessica began dancing at the age of three, after her grandmother saw a display show at a local school. She’s in Philaldephia with her cousin Chloe Hugo, who is 10. Both girls trained at the Devaney School of Irish Dancing. “When you stand on stage, it gives you confidence,” Chloe says.
One of the best things about Irish dancing is the self-possession that it gives youngsters. At an early age, they get used to standing in front of large crowds, under bright lights. They’re entertainers. The exercise also gives them good posture, says Danny Doherty, who is originally from Donegal but has lived in Coventry in England since he was 17.
He’s taught dancing there for 30 years, and set up the highly successful Doherty Academy School of dancing in Coventry. “It gives them confidence performing in public and it helps their deportment,” he says. “They can carry themselves well.” It even helps them get jobs when they’re older, Danny thinks. “It’s a big advantage for children at interviews,” he says. “They have that extra edge."
Doherty himself left Ireland when he was 17. He had grown up dancing in a rural part of Donegal where his teacher travelled 25 miles every Saturday to give the class. When Doherty moved to England, the Troubles were at their height, and a local priest asked him to teach dancing as a way of strengthening the sense of community amongst local Irish immigrants in Birmingham.