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St Patrick’s Day from the eyes of a long-time Irish Dancer

St Patrick’s Day is a fun, annual tradition where the general populace puts on their green, reminds themselves that they are 12.5% Irish (Grandma’s dad was off the boat after all) and throws back a Guinness while flailing about to Flogging Molly. But for those of us who have spent a majority of our lives Irish Dancing, it is a chance to not just represent this unusual, misunderstood dance form that we embrace as a sport but rather go from the weirdo in the wig to the hottest commodity for one month of the year. The hours of practice, pinched toes, pulled hamstrings, bobby pin headaches and non-stop drone of fiddle music in our heads is culminated in cheering parade crowds, wowed audiences, tv engagements, professional sports appearances and the reaction of “oh cool!” instead of “is that like clogging?” when you share that you are an Irish Dancer. And it is indeed a month of activity – March Madness takes on a whole new meaning for us. Typically an Irish Dancer will perform in the range of DOZENS of times throughout the month, often in some of the most unique places, and the experiences and memories truly last a lifetime. “Remember that time we danced ON the bar?” “How about when we got to dance for that XYZ dignitary?” “That fashion show/hockey game/5k was pretty cool”. And the friendships and life lessons abound. Want to learn to stay cool under pressure? Try continuing a dance when someone goes THROUGH the stage (was the hole there or did we make it?), or dances their skirt right off (thank goodness for spanky pants), or partner goes the wrong way (take the invisible person’s hand). And want to get over any kind of stage fright? Dance in front of 500+ person crowds consisting of anything from excited (and tipsy) parade crowds, to restless elementary school children, to senior citizens. Adaptability? Yeah, we’ve got you because at any show there could be a completely different set list with different dancers and a “stage” varying from the size of a postage stamp to an auditorium stage made up of everything from polished concrete to carpet, and an hour ago you went left and now you go right. And friendships, because nothing bonds you like sharing these experiences, traveling with this crew and laughing your way (sometimes crying) through the most exhausting and amazing month of the year. So even though at the end of the month the dancers’ feet feel like they are about to fall off, teachers have used up every brain cell available, parents are really looking forward to a weekend of sleep, and you feel like you need another 11 months to recoup, we can’t wait to do it again. Because sharing our love of Irish Dance is what it’s all about. Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone!

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