When Lisa Murphy was eight years old, her mother noticed young kids arriving at the community hall across the street from their Brooklyn home every week. When she discovered the children were attending Irish dance classes she wasted no time in signing her energetic daughter up for the challenge.
Well over 10 years later, through the tutelage of the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy, the Brooklyn resident will compete in the World Irish Dance Championships in Dublin next week alongside thousands of competitors from around the world, a challenge the 22-year-old describes as “an honor”.
“There are so many excellent dancers out there working just as hard as you are,” Murphy told the Irish Voice. “It’s such an achievement just to qualify. Being able to compete with the best of the best makes you feel like all of your hard work has paid off.”
The World Irish Dance Championships begin this Sunday, April 17 and run through to April 23. Over 4,500 Irish dancers will descend on City West Hotel in Dublin, and 1,000 dancers alone are expected to travel from this U.S. to compete.
When the St. Joseph’s College student takes to the stage next week in Dublin in the in the senior ladies solo championship, she will be decked out in a brand new dancing costume made by Shamrock Stitchery on Long Island, which cost almost $3,000.
“They have made my previous two dresses and I just love their work and love working with them,” says Murphy.
“I am bringing only one costume and this will be my first time wearing this one,” revealed Murphy.
Right now the full time student is balancing her college work with a strict practice regime in preparation for the championships.
“I’ve been increasing my practicing both at class and at home. I’ve been drilling certain sequences of my dances to make sure they are performed with perfect technique,” she says.
“I have also been working on my stamina to ensure that I don’t look tired out by the end of my dances.”
Murphy, who is currently completing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, says one of her favorite elements of Irish dancing is the excitement of the competition.
“I enjoy working hard and practicing to compete,” she revealed.
Murphy’s mentor, Maureen O’Malley Byrnes, the founder of the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy, says that she has always been an excellent student.
“Lisa is very hard working and very dedicated,” she told the Irish Voice. “When she sets her mind to something she always achieves it.”
O’Malley, who established her dance academy in 1994, says that demands on dancers increases every year. She predicts the standard at next week’s championship will be very high.
“It’s going to be one of the finest competitions we have ever seen. Every year it gets better. It is fantastic from beginning to end,” she said.
While Murphy remains focused on next week’s competition, she is already thinking of what the future may hold.
“My goal right now is to continue competing and improving my placements,” she said. “When I am done competing, I would like to take my T.C.R.G. exam and teach alongside my teacher, Maureen.
“Getting to dance in one of the major shows like Lord of the Dance or Riverdance would also be a dream come true.”