Confessions of an older Irish step dancer
Finally a champion but it is the friendships that bind
However, and perhaps this is due to the intense cultural aspect of Irish dancing, the relationship between my family and Patsy’s family, and even Fidelmia's, extends beyond teacher and student.
That same and slightly bizarre relationship is carrying on today in my generation. The girls who were on my ceili teams for the past two years were the same girls I grew up dancing with. We all know each other, each other’s families. We’re not just friends at dance class - we’ve been to each others Communions, Sweet 16s, and even upcoming weddings, along with our families.
My eight-hand team that competed in Anaheim on July 7 was made up of girls who I’ve known my whole life through the Early-McLoughlin School. Growing up, we even competed against each other at times, though it hardly mattered as we all emerged friends first from the sometimes choppy waters of competition.
Reconvening for the Oireachtas (regional competition) this past November, we found ourselves reflecting not upon who won what place at whichever competition, or who beat who when, but rather the shared memories that come as part of the package of Irish dancing.
We recalled, laughing, about the 7-11 we would walk to to get sodas and snacks before Friday night dance class. The seemingly countless birthday parties we all had and attended. The somewhat painful evolution of wigs and costumes from awkward to elegant.
Class oddly doesn’t change, however. We couldn’t help but chuckle when our dance teacher was barking (lovingly, of course) the same corrections she had when we were young teenagers. Or for us to stop talking; apparently that doesn’t go away with age.
We remembered the traveling, not only to dance classes together, but to bigger places like Ireland, Toronto, Nashville, and Orlando for competitions. The shared car rides and plane rides, I’m not sure we realized how lucky we were to be traveling, especially together, so much then, but we do now.
I was laying poolside at the Anaheim Sheraton on 4th of July this year when all the perks of Irish dancing made themselves apparent. Without Irish dancing, I would have most likely not found myself in California for a long time, never mind with some of my lifelong friends.
On Sunday evening, it was announced that our team had won first place at Nationals. Of course, we were thrilled. But it was the celebrations that went on to the early hours of the morning amongst the team, other McLoughlin students, friends and families that was perhaps the most fun.
Competition can sometimes bring out the ugly parts of people, but I’m happy to say Irish dancing on the whole has brought about some of the nearest and dearest friendships I’ll ever know.