After 10 years of dancing my body hurt. My feet had been broken, my hips and knees were starting to become worn down and I had accomplished my goals. It was an easy decision for me to hang up the shoes and hand down the costumes to the next generation of dancers. I’ll never stop being an Irish dancer, but when I graduated high school, I stopped being a competitive one.
This wasn’t the case for many of my peers, though. Some found teachers with schools near their universities and continued training. Others kept their dancing shoes tapping by gathering the dance community together at their respective universities and starting a club.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, there is a large presence of students hailing from the Chicagoland area. Not surprisingly, many former Irish dancers. Upon realizing this, a group of girls gathered a few friends and began IDentity, a registered student organization allowing U of I dancers to continue their love for the sport.
The group brings their diverse backgrounds of training together and hold practices, creating show numbers perfect for performances around campus. IDentity has become a recognizable group in the area, impressing other students with their fast feet while dancing at the halftime performance of the Fightin’ Illini games and during a concert of Irish rock group Dropkick Murphy’s among various other events around campus.
IDentity is more than just a few shows around St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a basis for new friendships between old competitors, as well as a support group for the girls who’ve continued to compete at major competitions through their college careers.
Illinois is not the only university to start such a group. Notre Dame has one, as does Harvard. For those dancers about to embark on their college journey, know it will be hard not to lace up a pair of soft shoes come next March. So why not Facebook an old classmate and spark some interest on your own campus this September. If nothing else, a weekly practice may help keep off that dreaded “Freshman 15.”
Photo Credit: Mairin Gilmartin