Regardless of your sport, we all play from the heart

Irish dance isn’t so different from other “normal” sports. We all practice and leave all we’ve got, either on the field or on stage.


by Maureen Burns, Staff Writer

It took two hours, but I am finally ready. My wig and makeup are on, my big sparkly dress is in its bag and I get in the car. However, as soon as I get out of the car I get at least 10 raised eyebrows and 3 pictures taken of me when they think I’m not paying attention. I understand Irish dance isn’t the most normal or popular sport (understatement of the year, right?), but it also isn’t that strange; being an Irish dancer myself, I would know.

If I had to guess, you are comparing Irish dance to a bunch of other sports trying to find any connection. Yes, Irish dancers don’t put cleats on before we dance, and soccer players don’t put on a wig. Irish dancers wear makeup, and swimmers wear goggles. Irish dancers drill, leaps and kicks, while basketball players practice free throws.

In my life, I have played soccer, volleyball, danced tap and jazz and Irish danced. I have done my fair share of sports, and I have come to a few conclusions: One, I’m not very coordinated, and two, Irish dance isn’t so different from everything else.

Just like in soccer, I go to practice multiple times a week. I log around 10 hours a week at the dance studio. During a regular practice, I dance one of my four dances, and then drill whatever needs to be reworked (leaps, bikes, back quivers). Then, I repeat this four more times. In between running the dances, I do stations (wall sits, plank, calf raises, etc.). Eventually, we need new steps for our dances. On those nights, I spend the majority of the time learning the new movements, kind of like learning a new play in other sports.

In soccer, you play 90-minute games almost every weekend. In dance, we have competitions instead of games. Since we have a competition once a month, instead of them being an hour and a half, they are seven. During these competitions, each dancer competes around four solo dances. A judge chooses your place based on the difficulty of the steps, your crossing, turn out, point, jumps and stage presence. They then place the top 4 dancers out of around 20.

In both Irish dance and soccer, you can’t exactly be slow on your feet. In soccer, you have to run; in dance, you jump. They have their undeniable similarities conceptually.
My sport isn’t that different than yours, so if you want to ask me about it, go for it. There is a 90% chance I will ask you about whatever sport you play (mostly because I’m not very good at sports and I’m curious). However, I do not want to drop everything and dance a jig for you, just like you don’t want to show me your fantastic form when you score a goal.