The son of a black Baptist and a white Jewish woman form Iowa, Drew Lovejoy, is taking the world of Irish dance by storm. This year the 17-year-old from rural Ohio has just won the All-Ireland Dancing Championship in Dublin for the third year in a row.
The New York Times says “for those feeling down about the United States and its place in the world” Drew Lovejoy should be an inspiration.
According to the Times Lovejoy has been dancing since the age of six but neither he, nor his mother, can remember when he first became interested in Irish dance. Lovejoy thinks it might have something to do with the amount of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies his mother played for him as well as the musicals and theater performances.
When Lovejoy saw his first show “he was hooked.” But his mother, Andee Goldberg, didn’t think it was possible for him to become part of the Irish dance world.
She said “You’re biracial and you’re a Jew. We thought you had to be Irish and Catholic.”
But Lovejoy said “I want a medal.”
Lovejoy is still so driven that he once danced an entire competition on seven broken toes.
Now he trains for at least an hour a day and dances for several hours at a dance school in Cincinnati, two-hours for his home in Greenville, Ohio.
Lovejoy says the fact that he comes from an unusual background, for the world of Irish dance, is an advantage. People remember him. Lovejoy said people would say “It’s that black kid from America in the pink shirt”.
In 2008 fellow competitors and his friends started comparing him to Barack Obama.
However in his rural hometown things are different. Lovejoy, his mother and his father Donald Goldberg moved to Greenville when he was nine-years-old. His mother and Lovejoy’s birth father, Terrance Lovejoy, had parted ways when their son was a baby.
Being a dancer isn’t a usual hobby for a boy in Greenvile, and a black teen living in a predominantly white town.
In fact bullying became so bad at school his mother took him out and started him in an online education program.
Although most of the town residents accept him the teenage dancer still doesn’t feel entirely at ease. He says he won’t walk his dog after dark.
He said “I feel like I have to watch my back.”
When he was just 13 Lovejoy started campaigning for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, knocking on doors and making phone calls. However when one of his phonecalls ended in racist slurs and threats that Obama should die his mother put a stop to that.
His mother says “You have two lives — the Irish dance world and the real world where you live every day.” She continues saying in the dance world “you found a place where you’re comfortable and people don’t look at you in a certain way.”
In 2010 he became the first person of color to win the World Championships. A group of male dancers all in their 70s offered him congratulations.
Lovejoy’s mother explained “They said, ‘We never thought it would happen, but we’re thrilled that it did’…They don’t even know he’s Jewish. That hasn’t been broached. I think it would be too overwhelming.”