What does it mean to be an Irish Dancer?

                To be an Irish dancer you need to not only be strong, agile and indefatigable, but also ambitious, humble and confident. When your best friend takes the 1st place trophy home after a competition, and you’re stuck with a medal that says “Participant,” you have to learn how to dry your tears, say congratulations, and work a little harder next time. Physically, you have to be able to stand blisters, sprains, broken bones, torn muscles, calluses, and much more pain. Being an Irish dancer means that you have to miss friends'  birthday parties, concerts, movies, bonfires, and other social events.

What did it mean to be an Irish Dancer in the old days?

                Being an Irish Dancer in the early  years in Ireland was commonplace. Dancing began when Dance Masters began creating dance competitions in small areas in Ireland. The competitions were so small that the dancers would have to dance on things like tabletops and barrels. Due to the lack of surface area where they were dancing, the dancers would keep their arms tightly by their sides to avoid balance issues. When the clergy banned dancing in all of Ireland as early as the 1660, both men and women still continued to do it. "Throughout history, many if not most of the Irish clergy were implacably opposed to dancing. The people, however were quietly but firmly determined to follow their own will in the matter. As early as 1660 , the Synod of Tuam decreed: dancing, flute-playing, bands of music, riotous revels and other abuses in visiting holy wells and other holy places are forbidden" (Brennan 121). Instead of having public competitions and dancing on tables, the people moved their dancing inside their homes. To keep from getting in trouble with the clergy, the Irish would close the bottom half of their doors, keep their arms by their sides, and only dance with their feet.

                In addition to keeping their arms at their sides, Irish dancers wear ornate costumes. Most people wonder why big curly wigs and sashes were worn when they danced.  In old Ireland, girls would curl their hair for church on Sundays and would come home and dance after Mass. Due to the cold climate, girls would wear cloaks to keep themselves warm; these cloaks grew smaller and smaller until they became the small accessories worn today. Although our form of dance has evolved since these old times, we still keep some of the traditional aspects of the sport alive.

What does it mean to be an Irish dancer in high school?

                Being an Irish dancer in high school is like walking a tight rope, you have to be careful because the balance between dance and academics is paramount, and if you fall off, it’s difficult to get back up. “I believe that the body is an essential element of the human condition, a means of expression that can improve the quality of life. Through dance we can teach kids to inhabit their own bodies as a territory of peace and dignity" (Moloney). This quote shows what dance means to Anastasia Moloney and I can almost guarantee that a lot of other dancers feel the same way. Dance is something that transports one into a world of ones own; dance takes the stress of the day away, if only for a little while. It takes the dancer to a happier place.

                Being an Irish dancer in high school means that you have to deal with a lot of people saying that your passion “isn’t a sport” and that it “doesn’t make sense.” A lot of people don’t understand how much work and physical ability goes into Irish dance. The definition of a sport is: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Irish dance fits under this category even though most people don’t believe it. When people begin to explain the world of Irish dance, others often get bored and confused so it’s very difficult for friends to become interested in the activity. For this reason, it can be alienating. This is what it’s like to be an Irish dancer in high school.

What does it mean to be an Irish dancer in the highest level?

                To be an Irish dancer at the highest level, it means you have to have a strong dedication to your sport. When you reach the highest level, it gets very hard to stay interested in competing. Even if you’re winning every competition and you are really happy, the only place you can go is down. Being at the top is hard because it’s like being at the peak of a mountain; you’ve conquered so much to get here, but the only thing to do now is go back down. Some of the girls you’re competing against might not take school as seriously as you do, so they have more time to practice and take more classes. Something like this can be a hard thing to grasp because everyone wants to do well but some people just don’t have the time to put forth to be able to excel. Although Irish dancers at the highest level have already achieved so much, this success is bitter sweet, but something with which all Open Champion dancers have to grapple.

                Do you feel good when you're doing your sport? Do you feel empowered and overjoyed when you get to the top? Do you feel a sense of failure because the only  place to go now is down? All sports have similar aspects in the way that all of them require dedication, extreme physical ability, and a heart that won't give up until you've conquered your wildest dream. What does your sport mean to you?


                Restrepo, Alvaro, and Alexis Marimom. "For Me, Dancing Means Freedom." The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. This article is about a school that teaches young children how to dance and express themselves through their movements. This article and website are a really great source for my project because my project is about what it means to be a dancer and what better source to look at than one about what it means to the developing mind? In this article, I learned about how healthy dancing can be for kids and what it means to them. Being able to compare my feelings towards dance to others really helped me expand upon my knowledge of what dance means.

                Libao, Aldraine. "What Does Dance Mean to You? - Aldraine Libao." The Dance Feed -. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. This source is about one man's point of view towards his form of dance. This source was very helpful in the way that I was able to dive into another person's life as a dancer and the feelings they have towards it. I learned about Aldraine's life as a dancer and why he started, how long he has been dancing, and what he loves about it. This was a great source for my research paper.

                Brennan, Helen. The Story of Irish Dance. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland: Brandon, 1999. Print. This book talks about not only how Irish Dance began, but also learning to dance, step dance traditions, and more. I love this book because it is very well organized in the way that I can find what is essential to my article very easily. I learned a plethora of information that I didn't know about a sport I've been doing for 9 years. The history of irish dance explains the reasons that we do and wear all the things we do today. I really enjoyed reading this, not only for my paper, but as a fun little trivia book about my passion.

                Oxford Dictionaries - Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar." Oxford Dictionaries - Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. This source carries the definitions of any word you could possibly imagine. It's a great source because it has whatever you're looking for. I used this to find the definition of the word "sport" to prove that Irish Dance is a sport.

                McNulty, Jimmy. Julia O'Rourke (center) wins the 2014 World Irish Dancing Championships. Here, she poses with the top five performers in her age group. Digital image. Npr. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. This image shows Julia O'Rourke, a World Champion Irish dancer, with the top five girls in her competition. I love this picture because it is connected to a very interesting article about Julia. Also, I've met Julia so it's cool to see her on google! I used this picture to represent the top of Irish Dancing and how far you can go with it.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

I really liked when you talked about keeping some of the traditions that were used in the old days alive, like wearing the accessories, wigs and dresses. I also liked the last paragraph because it asks questions that everyone can answer and relate to.

2 years ago