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Many Irish dancers feel personally attacked by IrishCentral article on evolutions of Irish dance. Photo by: Photocall

Irish dancers enraged by column saying we are elitist

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Many Irish dancers feel personally attacked by IrishCentral article on evolutions of Irish dance. Photo by: Photocall

OP/ED:The Irish dance world has been on fire. Not the usual fire – the burning passion for dance, the sparks set in motion when a young girl attends her first feis, or the fireworks set off when a girl wins her first major.

No, this time it was a fire of rage. Because of an editorial posted by this publication, many Irish dancers felt that their sport – their art – had undergone personal attack by people with no connection to Irish dance life. The articles had been written by someone who, admittedly, had no experience – either as an Irish dancer, or as a dancer parent. As a bystander, he felt that it was his place to offer very offensive commentary and  general vitriol.

And while two articles were published on that side of the story, there was nothing but silence from IrishCentral on the other side of the fence. On social media sites, however, we saw an out-pouring of rage as dancers from all over the world read these articles and shared their personal experiences that were much to the contrary.

So, without further ado, here is our story.

You wake up at 5:30am. This is it – the reason that you've been busting your butt at practices 6 days a week, 2 hours a day. The reason you haven't had fast food or potato chips in 2 months. The reason you missed 4 ninth grade dances (you had dance class and couldn't make it). You roll out of bed, looking a little like Anna from "Frozen," munch on a cliff bar and have a drink of water while you head to the bathroom.

Your wig goes on perfectly and your hair is no longer a problem. Your makeup comes out just right – eyeliner wings, shimmery lips, and just enough blush to show from the stage.

7:15am. You wake your parents up and head down to the ballroom where your competition is being held. It's still early, but there's an excited buzz as people warm up. Your friends greet you excitedly and you help each other with group stretches and warm-ups. They're from other schools, so you fill each other in on life since the last feis you saw each other at.

The competition rolls on, and it's your turn to dance. You stand side stage and feel ready. You're warmed up, you're fierce, and you're ready to take on the world. As you step on stage, your dress sparkles under the lights, and you smile confidently knowing everyone is looking at you. You see your friends sitting in front of the stage with your teacher. You are ready for this moment. And you know whether you win or lose, your friends and your school will be there to hug you.

We are so much more than a bunch of petty, cut-throat girls in silly dresses and hair. We are a community that supports each other. In the second article, the competitive nature of dance was addressed. Yes, this dance style fosters competition. But this has never been a bad thing. It gives us drive. It gives us passion. It brings us together in our victories and defeats. And best of all, it takes us all over the place. We meet people from the world over, and form bonds that are irreplaceable. Because we are competitive, we are passionate, we go places, we do amazing things, and we meet wonderful people.

We wear crazy costumes and wild hair. At this point it is something that we are known for. However, this is not forced. If you don't like it, you can make your own decision. Solos dress costs too much? Wear a leotard and a skirt! Don't like a wig? Just tie your hair back out of your face and you're good to go. Don't like makeup? You may look a little washed out at a bigger competition, but it is your decision entirely.

Heck, don't like wearing a skirt? Girls can wear pants in competition, similar to the boys' outfits.

The thing is, we choose what we wear. Some girls just love blinged out dresses, tiaras, over the top makeup and hair like an 80's bridesmaid. And do you know what? It's their prerogative. It is not anyone's place to tell a little girl that the dress that she designed is ugly, or that her hairstyle is not traditional enough.

Yes, many of us have commented that the parents sometimes lay on the makeup a little heavy for the younger girls, but that is not the business of an internet forum. That is the parent's responsibility to dress their child appropriately, and maybe the dance teacher's place to step in and let them know when it is a little too much.

As a side note to those writing about bringing curlers back – do you actually remember trying to sleep in those silly things? No thanks. Good riddance. Wigs were the best thing that ever happened, especially for those of us with no talent with hair.

But those of us who choose to wear the wild hair and the crazy dresses love the confidence that they give us. They make us feel like we can conquer the world when we step on that stage. Yes, it is about the dancing. It is completely about the feet. In fact when I spoke to an adjudicator about this exact subject, she told me that as long as you look put together and your hair isn't falling in your face, she really didn't care what you wore. But when you step up on that stage feeling like a million bucks sometimes it gives you that little extra push that you need that day in order to perform your best. For example, if you have a big interview or a meeting with a client, would you not wear your best suit and want to look your most presentable? It is much the same for us. We just do it with a few more sparkles.

Irish dance, on the whole, is an extremely positive community. We support each other through everything – injuries,  existential crises, eating disorders, depression, anxiety... we are there for each other. And when people jump in from the outside to tear down dancers and say nasty, uncalled for things, we will be there for each other. But we will also speak out, and ask you to treat our small community with respect. We may look silly to you, but we love what we do.

So we will wear our tacky dresses with pride. We will hold our heads high with our "critters" placed atop them. And we will wear our war paint. Because we are Irish warrior princesses and you can't keep us down.

* Molly Egloff is  25 years old from upstate NY (US). She is a championship level dancer, and has  been dancing for 21 years. She is an avid blogger, who works in the IT industry.

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