Over my long weekend, I had the chance to must about my Irish Dance adventure over the past 15 years and I have an urge to wax poetic about a topic near to my heart.
As a Senior Lady, I look forward to competitions (whether a local feis, the Oireachtas, or the Worlds) to visit and enjoy the company of my friends all over the world. What I find remarkable, is how amazing the Senior Ladies competition actually is.
Senior Ladies are so much more than just dancers and competitors. Some of my closest friends are studying to be physicians, volunteer in third world countries, have their own photography business while working full time, are interns at major corporations, school teachers, etc etc, etc ;)
It can be extremely hard to balance a "full time" career or interest and then try to find time to practice and attend class, sometimes hours away from where we live. We dance because we truly love it and can't imagine our lives without it.
I find that in my "advanced Irish Dance age" that it's hard to keep up with the "youngins" with loads of energy at class. I'm the dancer sticking my head out the nearest window or door in the dance hall in trying to suck in some cold air while clutching my inhaler until I hear "Colleen! Let's go, you're up next".
I should own stock in Icy Hot, Biofreeze, ankle wraps, and epsom salts (one of my TC's favorite remedies)
I have to mention that nothing is more satisfying than when I leave dance class, covered in sweat, and feel like I really mastered a step or a move that was giving me issues. It's another reason why I love dancing; it is so satisfying to watch hard work pay off.
I know my time left in Irish Dancing is short. The time and dedication required that are necessary to dance at a competitive level is huge. At the end of a long work day, the last thing I want to do is practice by myself for another two hours a few nights a week, but once I put on my shoes and turn on the music, nothing else matters. For a brief moment in time, my focus is on making my hardshoe rhythm follow the beat of the music and making my softshoe lively and effortless.
Some day, my competing days will be over, but one of the many wonderful things I'll be able to take away from this "wild ride" are my friends.
I've met some remarkable dancers and friends over my adventure. My dance friends have held me up in my darkest times. No matter what the hour, I know I can log onto Twitter, Facebook, Dance.net, or pick up the phone and I can talk to a dance pal when I'm feeling down. I have been lucky enough to meet some of my best dance friends online before seeing each other in person at a feis or major.
We've laughed, we've CRIED, and we've gotten into some fun "shenanagans" (practicing in the London Victoria station at 11PM on a Thursday in October, getting lost on a tram in Amsterdam, shopping on Black Friday in full wigs and makeup in a mall while at the Oireachtas).
When a person is dancing stage, we only get a quick glimpse of their personality and style. The real treat is talking to the same dancer side stage or after a long day of dancing and getting to know the person behind the wig, dress or vest, and shoes. I've met so many people from around the world, both in person and online, who share a love for Irish Dancing but also have so many diverse interests.
We may be in our "twilight years", but we are still dreaming, just like the u8's, of reaching our end goal: whether it is to finally master The Blackbird set piece, dancing on a school performance team, winning a Prelim competition, dancing solos at the Oireachtas, or recalling at the Worlds.
This post is for the Senior Ladies who keep dancing, even when looked down upon by others for continuing in a art form that is generally geared for younger competitors.
For those who sometimes have to eat toast for a week to afford the next major while paying student loans and car insurance (*sheepishly raises hand*)
For those who work hard to come back from injury and long to dance a step in class
For those who never give up, who always give 100%, and have a smile on their face while doing so.
There has been an e-mail thread being sent around the this holiday season and one of the lines in the e-mail definitely rings true for me:
"The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money...or the most awards.They simply are the ones who care the most".
Irish Dancing, no doubt, has been one of the best things in my life. I may not remember a feis result from a few years ago, but I do remember the adventures and fun of each car, train, and plane adventure with some of my best friends.
To all the Senior Ladies: Thank you for being my friends, for enriching my life, for supporting me in my quest to be the best dancer I can be, and inspiring me with your character in the Irish Dance world and beyond.