Irish dancing requires a lot of practice from the girls and boys who prance across the stage, but it’s hard work for moms too.
There’s much more to it than bringing your kid to dance classes. Who’s going to apply their make-up and choose their dresses?
Luckily, Irish dance moms help each other out.
“I learn as I go,” says Kerry Vann, whose daughter, Colleen, 9, competed at the Mulvihill-Lynch Feis this past weekend. “She goes to dance class twice a week for an hour. You have to be very organized.”
As she speaks, Vann combs Colleen’s hair and ties it into small buns, before pinning it and then covering it with a wig of blond curls. It’s an intricate process.
“You secure the wig with combs and then pin it on so it doesn’t wiggle,” she told IrishCentral as she does the finishing touches. Colleen will then test the wig out to make sure it’s secure.
It’s almost like being a stylist and make-up artist all in one. Another mom, Anne-Marie Perciavalle, says her background in theater stands her in good stead, as she powders the nose of her daughter, Gabriella.
“Wigs have to be put on and make-up has to be applied, and then there’s the costumes,” she says.
There’s a psychological dimension too. “You’re their surrogate coach because their coach can’t always be with them,” Perciavalle adds. “You have to pump them up and get them in the mood. It’s about getting the girls to perform at their absolute best.”
More established mothers help out those who are new to the game, and all Irish dance moms rely on each other to learn how it goes.
For Perciavalle, that means getting advice from a friend, whose own daughter has already won a world championship.
Irish dance moms have one last, but important, task to perform: providing support.
“The young ones just love it for the dancing, but the older ones have a lot of other things going on too – often, they’re strong students at school,” Perciavalle explains. “It can be stressful for teenage girls. You help them keep it in perspective.”