I came to Irish Dance reluctantly. I’ve been a sports mom for 18 of the past 22 years. Put me by a baseball diamond or a soccer field with my fold-up chair, lap blanket, and travel mug of coffee, and I’m right at home.
I’ve been a Team Mom, organized half-time snacks, traveled to away games, sat in the ER with various and sundry sports injuries, and been the keeper of the team roster. I know the rigmarole. Irish dancing? The only thing I knew about Irish Dancing was Michael Flatley flitting around stage, shirtless. Yes, his dancing was impressive, but I’d never seen it in person nor knew anyone who actually did it. It seemed, well…strange.
Then, while stationed in Germany, our youngest daughter met some friends who were into Irish Step Dancing. Her friends loved it. She asked to attend (the teacher was actually from Ireland–how could I say no?). I relented, and the rest is history.
When we moved to Hawaii the first time, I encouraged her to take up something else, like say, hula.
“Surely you realize there will be no outlet for Irish Dance in Hawaii, right??” I said.
Dedicated teachers from a school in Oregon (the Muellers from An Daire Academy, and they are incredible, by the way) travel regularly to O’ahu to give workshops, teach classes, and keep the girls legit for competing. When we moved to DC for a year, we ‘feised’ all up and down the Eastern seaboard.
A feis..now that is an experience. A feis (“fesh”) is an Irish Dance competition, and it takes a certain number of feis wins to advance to the next level. If the dance world is a subculture, then Irish Dance is a subculture of a subculture. For instance, the wigs.
What. Is. The. Deal. Not to mention the spray tans, the expensive solo dresses, the bling everywhere, and all the other accoutrements. I still don’t completely understand it all. But here I am, 4 years into this gig, cheering my daughter on as she has managed to advance into the Preliminary Championship level in spite of moves and living on an island a couple thousand miles away from the nearest competition opportunities. But she works her hiney off. And has gotten much in return: discipline, fitness, learning a new culture, unexpected friends. And I am even ok with some of those notorious dance moms!
And this smile makes it all worth it!
Thank you, Anna Johnson, for the photos!