In honor of my personal favorite time of the year having come and gone – end of year performance season – I thought I would explain a little bit about show dancing. Performing for the sole purpose of entertaining an audience is a concept quite different than dancing to catch a judge’s trained (and often critical) eye.

Competitive dancing and show dancing are definitely polar opposites. When dancing at a feis, the arms remain glued to the sides, and there is way more emphasis placed on a dancer’s technique (foot placement, posture, etc.) rather than attempting to entertain the judges. However, in show dancing, the sky is the limit when it comes to what can be created. Arm movements can be put into routines to make interesting choreographies, dancers are sometimes at liberty to create their own steps, and there is no limit to how many dancers can be on stage at one time.

The goal is to captivate the audience – each motion is completed with as much emphasis and style as it would be in a Broadway show. And, of course, a dancer is never fully prepared without a smile!

Although executing routines with style and grace requires as much focus and athleticism as does competitive dancing, there is something about dancing for an intrigued audience that fills the air with excitement and adrenaline, making it nearly impossible not to beam with happiness and pride.

There is something about listening to the hum of the audience making their way to their seats, and there is something magical about those few seconds of silence before the music starts as the blinding stage lights go up and the house lights go down. Just thinking about it is enough to make the hair on the back of any dancer’s neck stand on end.

Back in September, I was asked by one of my teachers to think about a place “sacred” to us – a place where we felt most comfortable, that instantly puts us at ease and that instantly takes our worries and stress away. For me, that place was a stage. Many people were surprised that I felt most comfortable being watched by large numbers of people, but there is nowhere else I would rather be.

Finding the right words to communicate how it feels to perform is a near impossible feat, but I will say this – performing only reaffirms the conviction that Irish dance is my passion. It is when I walk on stage to share my love of dance with the world (alongside my very best friends) that I know that this is what I was meant to be doing. It is when that first chord is struck, or when that first “bang” of a hard shoe is made, that my very soul seems to radiate with joy, and I am so full of peace, satisfaction, and happiness that I could burst. It is when I look into the eyes of those awestruck little girls sitting in the front row that I see a piece of myself – the piece of me that always gravitated toward wherever Irish music was playing, and that always desperately wanted to trade sitting in the audience for dancing on a stage.

It feels so right.