I have a confession to make. I am a Dance Mom. Hopefully I’m nothing like what we see on TV from the likes of Abbey Miller and her crew, but I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t a few bits of CRAZY. Ah…Irish Dance, what other sport combines extremely rigorous athletic ability with mountains of makeup, Swarovski crystal tiaras, body glue, spray tans, hair donuts and wigs so high they would make Dolly Parton drool?
We entered into this sport with no agenda, just an Irish heritage and a mild curiosity about something we really knew nothing about. One day my husband picked up the girls from ballet and brought them across the street to peer into the window of what would become our lives for next nine years (and counting).
Within an instant, they were glued to the steamed-up windows intensely studying the dancers in their black leotards and perfect hair buns. Their eyes widened as the dancers banged their perfectly turned-out feet on the floor with full power one minute, kicked their legs up to their noses the next, and seamlessly glided from one end of the floor to the other in the next second, with all the grace and beauty of a trained ballerina.
I could never fully explain (or justify) some of the crazy things Irish Dancers go through to excel at this sport. It requires so much to succeed at a competitive level: confidence, patience, tenacity, musicality, endurance, strength, passion, focus, stamina, mental toughness, teamwork, grace, drive, power. And these only scratch the surface! All I know is once our girls removed the window of glass from their view and stepped on to the dance floor, our lives changed forever.
Learning the steps was the easy part. Learning to perform them well was much tougher. Delivering them flawlessly as a solo dancer in front of hundreds in an audience is when our dance students transformed into amazing, artistic performers.
Our friends outside the Irish Dance world look at us sideways when we describe how many miles we’ve put on the car, how much money we’ve spent on dresses, wigs and crowns and how many events we’ve missed to devote our time to the sport the girls love. What they will never fully understand is how Irish dance gives back to our family.
The Value of Irish Dance
We cannot put a price on the life-long friends we’ve made, the memories we’ve shared with loved ones who are no longer with us, the teammates who have turned into family members or the teachers who have become trusted mentors, advocates and role models for our children.
The time spent learning to support and be strong for our friends in triumph and tears far outweighs the countless hours compiled driving to practice and competitions around the country.
Graciously accepting victory when placing and winning, while processing and growing from the setbacks, frustration and defeat are lessons we will draw upon throughout life.
Choosing to be highly active attending practice three or more days a week rather than sitting and staring at a four-inch, 10-inch, or 50-inch screen or getting into trouble drinking with friends in the woods is a choice we stand behind!
Knowing that our Irish grandparents who traveled to the U.S. to start a new life are looking down beaming with pride overfills our hearts with joy.
Thank you to all who have been, and continue to be, part of our Irish Dance life.
To those who are peeking in from the outside window, we are here to tell you it’s safe to go inside. Just understand that what you see isn’t what you get. It’s so much more!
We wish all of our friends and family the best at the North American Championships in New Orleans this week. May you fly across the stage with angels’ wings on your feet. Leap through the air with the energy of your friends and family cheering you from near and far and amaze and astonish your teachers and family with a personal-best performance on stage.
Most importantly, embrace your achievement, appreciate your experience and create unforgettable memories!