“Okay, so an Irish dancer walks into a bar…”

But really – this isn’t the opening of some corny joke. Performing in pubs, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd on St. Patrick’s Day is an example of one of the countless moments Irish dancers live for. While the wild world of Irish dance may look positively preposterous on the outside, it is worth so much more than brightly colored dresses and bouncy wigs.

Sometime during an Irish dancer’s career, whether it be after their first recital, while putting on their wig, or upon the start of their twenty-first year of competing, they look back and ask – “How did I get here?”

Coming up with the answer to this question usually takes a bit of thought, but memories of those first dance classes, with socks a little too tall and shoes a little too tight, are always fond ones. The sound of the hard shoes on the wood floor, the sound of the beautiful music saturating the room, and what must be the closest feeling to being able to fly are firmly rooted themselves in our hearts, and will remain there for the rest of our lives.

This enjoyment of dance suddenly turned into a burning passion. Wherever we walked we discovered we could dance there instead. We begged and pleaded with our parents to sign us up for more classes – the days where we had dance became the best days of the week.

These days with dance class became the highlights of the week not only because we got to leap and bound and stretch across those welcoming, shining floors, but because of the new people we met. Little did we know on that fateful first day of dance class that these unfamiliar faces would soon become family.

Of course, there is also the competitive side of Irish dancing. The training never stops – there is always room for growth and for improvement. We are athletes – pouring our heart and soul into working, eating, and focusing like Olympians. We may push our bodies to their breaking points, but the sky is the limit when it comes to the dreams we have discovered are not so far away.

So, why do we dance? The bottom line is: we dance for that little girl inside of all of us, who simply fell in love with the music and the dance – that little girl who wanted nothing more than to be one of those amazing Irish dancers. We chase our dreams for her.

* Danielle Veith is an Irish dancer from Connecticut who received great acclaim for her recent piece on IrishCentral "16-year-old defends Irish dance against shallow accusations."

** Originally published in April 2014.