By about 7 p.m. on Saturday evening, the crowd of a couple hundred waiting in the Kimmel Center to hear the results of the Senior Ladies Figure Dancing started to get a little impatient.
The results had been scheduled for 6.30 p.m.
At first the crowd got giddy with anticipation – a number of not terribly successful Mexican waves were attempted, as if to pass the time. And at around 7.10 p.m., when a well-dressed man who could have been a judge walked onto the stage, the crowd thought finally: The results are here!
They were wrong.
It was just a man who chose to use the stage as a shortcut, and walked off the other side in a matter of seconds. The crowd had been cruelly tricked – and they didn’t like it.
People started booing.
But at 7.30 p.m., the results came.
And when they did finally come, the team from the Academy School, in Birmingham, England, could have been waiting for ten hours, and they still wouldn’t have cared: They were the new Senior Ladies Figure Dancing World Champions.
The Academy had only been open for two years – and the ladies on the winning team told IrishCentral.com after giving another performance of their dance, “The Viking,” that they owed it all to their teachers, Byron Tuttle and Ed Searle.
Becky Purnell, 20, said she was “excited, so ecstatic,” and added that most of the credit should go to their teachers. When asked how she felt, 16-year-old Sinead Laverty replied in a strong English accent, “It’s good, 'innit!”
Fate had brought one member of the team to Worlds. Claire Kenney is from Cleveland, Ohio, but is studying a semester aboard this year at University College in London. A biology student at Johns Hopkins, Kenney didn’t want to let her trip abroad get in the way of her Irish dancing, so she got in touch with the Academy School, and made the journey from London – which can take up to two hours – three times a week. The team adopted her as one of their own, and soon she was just one of the girls.
Like Kenney, Tuttle is also an American living in England. His mother, Kelly Tuttle, from Columbus Ohio, told IrishCentral.com: “I couldn’t be more proud of him. He loves Irish dancing and he loves teaching with a passion.”
Tuttle said he had been working in Birmingham for two years, where he teaches Irish dancing with Searle seven days a week.
“We were placed second last year, which was good,” he said. “But this is great. Honestly, this is what we have all worked for.”