|photo Ruth Reid (c) Wellpark Scotland|
Meet John Whitehurst a star of "Jig" The Film opening today across North America.
One of the most poignant moments in "Jig" is with Amanda Whitehurst and her ten-year-old son John with his teacher John Carey during a dance class. She is just outside the gym doors, watching silently with that end-of-the day tiredness and looking like every mom in the world who has ever waited to collect a child from a lesson or game.
The difference is that Amanda and her husband have six children and John, the fourth youngest and only Irish dancer among them, has qualified for the World Championships.
This is the story in the film which I think most Irish dance parents can relate to best. Filmmaker Sue Bourne, through the Whitehursts, conveys the whole family's commitment in time and money, as well as the surprising rapture of watching one's child work hard, perform passionately and absolutely love the athletic cultural pursuit of Irish dancing.
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Feis America asked John how he felt about being selected for "Jig" and whether the filming was a distraction during his training for Worlds. John said he had mixed emotions, and felt both nervous and excited. "The film crew were really friendly so I felt relaxed around them and carried on as normal," he adds.
Feis America: How many days a week do you go to dance class? How much more when you are training for a major competition?
John: I go to class Wednesday for two hours and Saturday for three hours. If there is a Major I sometimes have a private [lesson] for an hour every other week, but not always.
Feis America: Tell us about the other boys in your dance class - younger than you - that look up to you as a mentor.
John: The younger boys are at all different levels and I will help them with their steps if they need it. Some of the boys I have known for years and we have fun in class!
Feis America: Do you participate on teams at all? Do you like teams?
John: I have been on a mixed ceili team and I liked it. I really would like to do a mixed figure because the choreography is amazing!
Feis America: Tell me about the other boys in your competitions. Are you friends or friendly rivals?
John: They are my friends! I think my age group is one of the hardest because there are so many great dancers. We all know that we are there to dance our best. We shake hands and wish each other luck. Anyone who gets a recall is a winner. After the set dance, it's time to hang out and have fun!
Feis America: Does being a competitive Irish dancer help you be a better student at school or does the commitment make it harder for you?
John: Being a dancer helps with school. I find it easier to remember things and work things out in my mind. I'm also in the athletics team and run long distances. I'm not fast, but I have the stamina to run at a steady pace.
Feis America: John, what would you tell the parents of other boy dancers that might help them?
John: Be supportive, not pushy. Your son may not be the best in his age group, but if he is happy, his dancing will improve.
"Jig" the Film opens today in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto. See the theaters, show times and make a request for a showing in your area at http://www.jig-the-film.com/!