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Irish dance and college: finding space to practice on campus

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Irish dance practice in my dorm room?  Are you serious?
A college student in search of space and a place to practice her Irish dancing steps


By Caitlin Buck, Feis America LLC contributor 

Looking at the growing number of competitors in both the young and senior (21 and over) competitions at the World Irish Dancing Championships last week means that Irish dance students are still practicing and competing as they finish high school. Off to college? Possibly several hours away from one's Irish dance school? You now face two main questions: Should I continue Irish dancing?  If I do, where will I practice?

Living in a dorm doesn’t offer the greatest practicing possibilities; especially when compared -- and melancholy makes it worse - to your old dance studio, your living room or the dance floor your dad built in the garage or basement! Instead you’re faced with the dodgy prospect of practicing in public spaces such as: university gyms, rec centers, dormitory hallways and the communal laundry room.

Dorm hallway!  Long, carpeted... until a door opens out!
My freshmen year at college, I shared a dorm room that was smaller than some walk-in closets. I didn’t mind practicing in front of my roommate, but like I said, there wasn’t a whole lotta - you know -- space! Outside my room in the flickering light of the windowless hall, I practiced over-1-2s down the carpet like a runway and danced my reel. It goes without saying that I was on edge the whole time never knowing when a door might randomly burst open, popping out a girl like a jack-in-the-box. Seeking the solace of privacy, I retreated to the almost always-deserted laundry room in the basement. Tile and leaps aren’t the best combo, however, and I got shin splints.

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Frustrated, I brainstormed. I could practice in one of the gigantic university gyms, but I had no way of knowing when it was taken for a class or team practice. The image of the towering basketball team or the buff wrestling class meandering in on my jig was a wee bit too embarrassing and ridiculous to consider. Still determined, a few weeks later I found my way to the student recreation center.

Exploring, I found the center offered yoga and aerobic classes in a dance studio on the second floor. A real dance studio with a good floor, mirrors and a posted class schedule! Victory! I began practicing in the studio when it was not in use, and it even turned out room reservations were free for students.

A dance studio at the recreation center!  Dream come true!
A friend that is also a college Irish dancer had the idea a few weeks ago to practice on the landing of her apartment thinking it wouldn’t disturb her downstairs' neighbors too much. As she rocketed around the floor, an unhappy and incredulous young man ascended the stairs wanting to know what she was doing. Apparently she was causing the entire floor to vibrate with her awesome over-1-2s. Oops!

It’s difficult to practice Irish dance when living in the close quarters of a dorm or an apartment, but it’s even more difficult to quit something you love. Trust me, you'll surely have more regret from quitting than from trying to make it work. Your “expiration dance date” occurs only when your joy of dance expires. Until then, keep dancing!

Does your college offer space to students that would work for practicing dance? How did you make it work? Post a comment and share in the box below.

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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