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International friendships at the World Irish Dancing Championships -- John Whitehurst

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Jack Sieve with John Whitehurst
 World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfas
Irish dancers have lives outside of class, competition and conditioning. Yes, it is true! However, Irish dance becomes such a big part of an Irish dancer’s life, that many form their closest friendships right in the close-knit world of Irish dance. Friendships are formed in Irish dance school as the students see the same dancers in class week-in and week-out over years. You’re in the same space and doing the same things, and it’s natural to like, hang-out and spend additional time with those same people.

Once Irish dancers start traveling for competitions, most make friends from other Irish dance schools and other areas. When champion Irish dancers start logging miles across the country or internationally for competitions, even longer-distance friendships are formed.  Many of these relationships are close and lasting and become a huge part of an Irish dancer’s life. Even though they don’t see these friends on a daily or even monthly basis, when they do see each other, they pick right up where they left off when they last saw or spoke to each other. I love seeing this happen at every competition whether it is local or far away.

When it’s boy Irish dancers who are long-distance friends, you can see them find each other and run off, sometimes in groups, to find other Irish dancers that they know, kick a ball in the halls of the venue, play video game, or even just chat. Facebook and email serve as great ways for these Irish dance friends to keep up communication between competitions.

Jacob Sieve with best Irish dance friend, John WhitehurstBelfast, Northern Ireland 2012 
One such long-distance, Irish dance friendship that has formed and thrived is the friendship between Jacob Sieve of The Clark Academy of Irish Dance in St. Louis, Missouri and two-time World Champion Irish dancer John Whitehurst of the Carey School in England.  Jacob and John met up again this past week at the World Irish Dance Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They competed against each other in the 12-13 year old boys’ solo competition.

I asked Jacob’s mom, Dawn Sieve, about the friendship. She said that Jake and John met in 2008. Jake’s previous Irish dance school did workshops at John Whitehurst’s Irish dance school. Both boys competed at the Great Britain Irish Dance Championships that year and a friendship was formed that is still going strong. They are the best of friends, and they love the international competitions when they can see each other. The boys keep up with each other on Facebook. Jake and John see each other whenever Jake travels “across the pond” for the overseas Irish dance competitions or when John comes to the United States for the North American Irish Dance Championships.
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2012 World Irish Dancing Championships
Competitors and friends from Boys 12-13 competition
Dawn has become great friends with John’s mom, Amanda, and Facebook makes it much easier for them to also stay in contact. Dawn says that the boys like to get each other jerseys from their countries. This year, Jake brought John a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball World Champion shirt! With John back on the top of the podium this year, it was fitting that World Champion John Whitehurst got a World Champion shirt from his friend. Both families have already begun planning their next trip. It will either be the Sieves traveling to England for the Great Britain Irish Dance Championships in October, or the Whitehursts traveling to the United States for the 2013 World Irish Dance Championships in April.

John Whitehurst, 2nd place and Jake Sieve, 3rd place
2008 Great Britain Irish Dancing Championships
Jake has also formed many other long-distance friendships. Among them is Sean Crosby of the Hagen School of Irish Dance in New York. Sean and Jake get to see each other and hang out at the North American Irish Dance Championships. They always have a good time and can be found playing ball or hanging out with friends in between the rounds of dancing. Even though they compete against each other, they find a way to set aside competition and just be boys when off the stage.

One of the best results of making friends in Irish dance is that when you need a break from neighborhood pals or school buddies, your Irish dance friends are right there for you.  No questions asked.  Just ask the  young men competing this week in the older 19-21 or Senior Men's competitions!

As an Irish dancer, do you have friendships you’ve made through Irish dance? What is your longest-distance Irish dance friendship? What is your longest lasting friendship you’ve made as an Irish dancer? Please feel free to comment in the box below.

All photos courtesy Dawn Sieve.

Stay tuned for the next installment... more articles and results every day here on Go Feis! The Irish Dance Blog! Follow daily commentary on Feis America's Facebook page for up to the moment World Irish Dancing Championships results and progress through April 8th.

Check back here for news, results, photos, interviews and more! Help us celebrate Irish dancing by sharing this story with your friends, like Feis America Magazine on FaceBook, Tweet the link or start a conversation with a comment in the message box below. THANK YOU!

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