Like all twins, Kathleen and Erin Hayes share a strong bond. They share many of the same friends and interests and are both keen Irish dancers. But the 17-year-olds from Denver, Colorado take their connection to a different level by achieving almost identical results in their dance competitions.
The two girls are in Dublin this week to compete in the Ladies 17 – 18 category of the World Irish Dancing Championships. Proving that they’re closely matched, the girls qualified for the championships at the Regionals in November, with Erin winning first place and Kathleen coming second.
And as Erin explained: “The year before, Kathleen came first at the Regionals”.
They may be closely matched in ability, but the two talented teenagers have very differing dance styles.
Kathleen revealed: “We don’t dance the same at all”, while her twin added; “usually the judges like her style more than mine!”
Preparing two girls for competition is no mean feat for their mother Mary, who has to buy new solo costumes for the girls almost every year. Yet the sacrifice is worth it for the family who now have the opportunity to return to their Irish roots.
Mary told the Irish Voice: “Our family is from Cork originally. My dad still has a home there so we’ll be going there for Easter”.
She also recalled how her two daughters began their life-long fascination with Irish dance after coming upon a competition at an Irish festival in Denver.
“We were at a festival when the girls were just five years old and they sat down to watch a dance competition and they just wouldn’t leave! They kept asking me to sign them up for dance classes so eventually I did”, she explained.
More than 12 years later, the Hayes family are regular attendees at the World Irish Championships. Kathleen has competed no less than sixth times, achieving 13th and 14th place on two occasions.
While the sisters are extremely close, they revealed they have certain boundaries when it comes to their favourite hobby.
“We practice together at class, but not at home because it gets a little tense!” laughed Kathleen.
Her twin added: “We ask each other’s opinions on dance steps and we help each other out”.
Also competing in the Ladies 17 – 18 competition today is Lily Wood from Portland, Oregan. The 17-year-old from the Comerford School admitted that she owes her love of Irish dancing to the hit show Riverdance.
She explained: “When I was seven I saw Riverdance on video. My brother and I pretended we were Jean Butler and Michael Flatley which is a bit embarrassing now!”
Dancing at the World Championships in Dublin has special meaning for Lily, whose great-great grandparents were Irish. On her mother’s side of the family, Jenny Foley travelled from Ireland and settled in New York before opening a delicatessen in Brooklyn.
The young Irish dancer is proud to be carrying on the tradition of her ancestors, even if it is a big expense for her parents.
Lily told the Irish Voice: “I heard one of the dads saying once “I don’t dance, I finance”, and I think that’s how it is!”
“My mom is great”, she added, “she sewed 850 crystals onto my dress so that was a lot of work!”