Competition builds character and friends and fans for life!
Photo: Madisyn Finn

By Courtney Kaderbek, Feis America LLC intern 

One thing that makes Irish dancing unique is its competition-based opportunity. I do not know of any other dance form that requires its dancers to compete regularly against each other to advance to the next level. The Irish dance competition system has strengths and weaknesses, but it is the Irish dancers themselves who decide whether the constant competition is a good or bad thing for both their dancing and characters. Competition can build character or break it, and examples of both may be seen at any Irish dancing feis.

Competition can bring out the best or worst in a person. It is difficult to be a good winner and a good loser. It is hard at times to find the will to wish your competitors well, shake off a bad placement, or smile at the girl or boy who has just won first place. For Irish dancers who want to compete, it is very important to consciously choose to use these difficult lessons as opportunities to grow into a stronger, tougher-skinned, kinder person.

Read more:

Auditions for new Irish dance show at Nationals

An Irish dancer's confession: I struggle with timing

Songs to motivate Irish dancers for competition

Several months ago, I was not in a very good place with Irish dance. It took countless weeks of grudging dance practices and tiring competitions to make me realize that my goal of moving up to Preliminary Champion had caused me to lose my enjoyment of the fun atmosphere of Irish dancing competitions, as well as my love for Irish dance itself.

Irish dance trophies end up in a box.  Friends last forever!

Not only was the time spent dancing unpleasant, but I placed lower at competitions than I ever had before. My negative attitude was ruining my entire dancing life! That was when I made a decision. I decided that I would never allow anything – my competitors, the judges, my daily practice schedule, the fear of stamina drills – to steal away my love for Irish dancing. I determined to keep Irish dance, first and foremost, fun, which is something that can become difficult for the dedicated, passionate Irish dancer.

Now, at Irish dance competitions, I try to remind myself that the world will not come to an end if I do not win! Certainly I might not advance levels for awhile, but I will still be continually improving my dancing during practices and classes. I might not become an Open Champion anytime soon, but my turn-out will improve, my legs will snap sharper, my posture will stay more erect, and my love for Irish dancing will continue to grow and grow.

The result of this decision has been amazing. I found myself winning the battle against my petty nature, which used to avoid my competitors instead of wishing them well. I actually placed higher in my dances, and I dance at practices with a renewed purpose and vigor. I find myself more motivated to fulfill my biggest Irish dancing dreams than ever before…and now, more than ever, I truly believe it is possible.

Like us on Facebook, comment in the box below, Tweet this post to your friends or follow us here on Irish Central's Irish dance page!  Feis America LLC is the world's most respected media feed for Irish dance and has been selected by the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America to provide live commentary and results at the 2012 North American National Irish Dancing Championships!