Competition continued today in Orlando, Florida, as the second day of the North American Irish dancing competition got underway. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the competition ballrooms, I caught up with some of the girls and guys just off stage and asked them for a few words about the competition.
Katie Kelly was competing in the U17 B category. I caught up with her in the hotel lobby, still swarming with dancers and families rehearsing for their big moments. She was recalled after the first round and is hopeful she did well in the second. Katie is from Tampa, FL, and says that she’s been dancing for just over ten years. She’s been to Ireland and is half Irish, having taken trips to Belfast, Killarney (who hasn’t?), Dublin. She learns in the McGinley Academy and her teacher, Eileen McKinley stands next to her pupil, proudly watching over her as she awaits the results at 6pm this evening.
Madine Martin and Frances Dunne are both from England and won their respective categories yesterday - just as they did last year. They won the U19 girls and U20 competition yesterday and are still on a high. They learn in The Academy, Birmingham and are taught by Edward Sulle and Byron Tuttel, who are obviously doing a very good job. Madine is from Doncaster. They’ve been dancing for about ten years and spend a lot of their time travelling the world going to competitions. They spend “their life” travelling and have no other hobbies besides Irish dancing.
Ebonie Cotton is also from England. She’s competing in the Girls Under 16B. She was also here last year and travelled over with her teacher. She’s learning the Carey Academy under John Carey. Exhausted, she takes off to grab some water.
Elizabeth Withers is from Colorado and laughs when I ask if this is her first competition! Another seasoned veteran, she’s been competing and dancing for eleven years and takes part in the ladies 21 and over. She’s 21. She says that her round is over, so she’s chilling out, the stress over. She waits around for the results at 6pm.
Melanie Deegan and Christina Scibelli are also both taking part in the senior ladies category. They’ve also just finished; there were over 70 taking part. Relative newbies, this is their fifteenth competition. Melanie’s first nations were in Orlando, aged 9, Christina started out in Vancouver. They’ve done All Irelands, regionals, nationals, and everything in between. They learn in the Golden School in New York (Long Island), Doney Golden is their teacher.
Megan Debiosi is half Irish, half Italian. Her mother is completely Irish and her father is completely Italian, an unusual mixture. She was also competing in today’s senior ladies, 21 and over, competition. She’s confident that she did well and excited for the awards tonight. There were 80 girls, a few missing, so probably around seventy, she says. She’s from Jersey and like many made the trek down to Orlando especially for the competition - though will naturally spend some time in Disney if she gets a chance!
Jessica Stars, another English girl, is from Cambridgeshire, England. She’s in the Under 17s, thinks she did well, and has done the Great Britains before, though this is her first big tournament “outside of Europe”. Steven Masterson is her teacher, and she says that she loves the competition and excitement that it gives.
Megan Murphy’s grandparents are Irish, having come over from Cork. She’s now living in Tampa Florida. She was competing in the Under 17s today and confidently thinks that she “did well”. She’s learning with Steven Scarriff in his Tampa school.
John Fergus is taking part in the Boys Under 16. I ask him if this is his first competition, which now sounds like a stupid question. “I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he says, wearily. Sipping on a Vitamin Water to hydrate before his competition, he leaves me talking to Elizabeth Schiller, who’s competing in the Girls Under 16s. Also from Jersey, she says that she’s loving Florida and excited about her competition later in the day.
Jennifer McCabe and Marisa Swiney have come over from Glasgow (Scotland). They’re in the Under 17A and Under 16s, on tomorrow. They’re preparing a dance called the Drunken Jig (which sounds great) and the Slip Jig. Young globetrotters, they often do two tournaments a month, leading up to “a major”, presumably such as this one. They travel “around the world”, having gone all over Ireland and Scotland and even stopping on the Isle of Man once.
Elizabeth Mellow and Mary Kate Sheehan competed in senior ladies and are readying for the Under 19s respectively. As Elizabeth catches her breath (she’s just off the stage) Mary explains the life of a modern Irish American Irish dancer to me. Although they’re not quite at the two-three a month level, they’ve already done about 7 this year. I ask them what’s up with the wigs because it’s a question that’s been gnawing at me since I got here. They’re answer doesn’t convince me so I’m left wondering (also: what’s up with the fake tan!?).
Tonight’s results were just beginning to be announced at 6PM. Further coverage will be on IrishCentral.com later in the evening.