A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Irish Dance Gear Giveaway!

This is a shout out to anyone who loves Irish dance!

When I started this site, I made a lot of friends around the world who share in my love of all things Irish dancing.  Unfortunately, because I had my blog on wordpress, I had no way of allowing those friends to follow me.  Now that I am on blogspot, you can follow my posts with Google Friend Connect.  Just click the follow button on the right and enter my giveaway through this form

I Heart That Dance and Keilys.com have teamed up to offer a great prize package- $40 worth of Irish dance gear!  The contest will run until Monday, November 8, 2010. 

Special thanks to Diddlyi.com for helping promote the contest.

Two lucky followers will win.  One will receive a $20 gift certificate to I Heart That Dance where they can purchase great accessories and custom gifts like:

Another lucky winner will receive a $20 gift certificate to Keilys.com and choose from great supplies and gifts like:

Enter the contest here.  Good luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MAID Service: A Mother Joins the Ranks

*This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Feis America Magazine

The night before my son’s first feis I readied our costumes, gathered safety pins and first-aid supplies, and printed off the feis syllabus. I sat and taught him what to expect from the few feisanna I had attended.

“Make sure to smile while you are dancing,” I counseled, “And don’t forget to bow to the judge.”

He showed a good mix of confidence and nerves. “I’m pretty good at Irish dance, so maybe I will get a trophy,” he said, then backtracked with, “Probably I won’t get anything.”

I put my arm around him. “I really don’t know if you will place or not, but if you do what we’ve practiced and show everyone how much you love to dance, it will be a fun trip.”

Early the next morning we arrived at the feis. None of my careful planning could have prepared me for what I felt when we walked into the arena. My stomach performed a leap-over as I watched Ethon take in the vast room.

“Now concentrate on just the first dance,” I told him as I pinned on his number and straightened his tie.

Trying not to hover, I wished him luck and walked to the bleachers. Remembering additional motherly advice, I doubled back to the edge of the stage, but Ethon had already struck up a conversation with the boy next to him, unruffled by the impending contest. It appeared that I had enough nerves for the both of us.

Accordion music filled the air. He pointed his toe on count five and took off with a smile. It felt unreal, watching my child compete. My heart slowed to a trot and I rubbed my arms where they had gone numb and tingly.

Leaping and cutting across the floor, he danced with a fluid grace that spoke of his love for Irish dance. He performed every step just as we had practiced it, and then topped his bow off with a smile to the judge.

The silly grin of a proud mother spread across my face. Who would have thought that a person could get so much satisfaction out of someone else’s success?

My son continued through his dances, nailing some and struggling on others. To my relief, he had no trouble keeping track of where to be and what dance to perform.

“I am so proud of you!” I yelled as Ethon came to find me in the bleachers. He grinned and shoved a fist full of medals towards me.

Together we waited for the treble reel placements to be announced. Fourth place, then third took their spots on the podium. Ethon gripped the back of the seat in front of him, repeating the word “please” in a whisper.

Here it comes, I thought. What would I say to him if he didn’t place?

Second place came and went, and my heart sank. Well, there are lessons to be learned in defeat as well as victory, I told myself.

“First place goes to...”

It’s hard to say who was more stunned when my son’s name was read, he or I. He got over the shock first and walked up to the podium, a smile bursting across his face.

In a moment that any “mother addicted to Irish dance” (MAID) can relate to, I realized that the only thing more gratifying than personal victory is watching someone whom you care about succeed.

When it came time to compete in my own dances, my nerves felt like butterflies compared to the gut-wrenching tension of watching my son dance. Although dancing in the adult competition was a delight, the real joy came as I watched my boy clutch his first trophy to his chest, confidence shining in his eyes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Old Guy Clicks up Heels at (almost) half a century young

*This article first appeared in the Sep/Oct issue of Feis America Magazine

Before signing up for Irish dance lessons at age 44, Mark Pottinger (a.k.a. “Old_Guy” on dance.net), had never taken any kind of dance. After watching Irish dancers on St. Patrick’s Day, Mark signed his then seven-year old daughter up for lessons at the Bennett School of Irish Dance in Denver, Colorado.

When Mark couldn’t answer his daughter’s dance questions, another father suggested that he take a class or two. He signed himself up for an adult session and he was hooked. Mark and his daughter began feising and it wasn’t long before they were both placing in competition.

Although Mark acknowledges the struggles that come with dancing as an adult, he knows firsthand how fulfilling it can be. In November 2009, at 48 years of age, Mark attended the Western Regional Oireachtas in Denver, Colorado. He placed fourth in his competition, qualifying for the 2010 World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

“This sport has been a fantastic opportunity for me to share an activity with my daughter,” Mark says. “We get to spend time together.”

Having a family member who competes has its challenges. Mark often finds himself running between stages, balancing his own dances with his daughter’s. As a result, dance steps are not the only new skills Mark has acquired while dancing with his daughter; he’s learning what it takes to get a teenager ready at a feis. “[Fastening] a wig is an engineering problem, all about transferring loads to anchor points,” Mark says. “And the makeup I pretty much do as a paint by numbers.”

Mark realizes that it takes him a bit longer than younger dancers to master steps. He counts himself lucky to have supportive teachers at the Bennett School of Irish Dance. “A lot of TCs simply would not or could not invest the time it takes to teach an older dancer like me,” he says. Mark has an agreement with his teachers: if it’s time for him to stop dancing, and he’s not realizing it on his own, they will let him know.

Like many people in their 40’s, Mark lives with pain. Recently, his type of pain has been diagnosed as Sj√∂gren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis. Still, he doesn’t let the pain get in the way of his dancing.

“I think we just can’t expect to be pain-free past a certain age, so I do my best to work through it,” Mark says.

When Mark placed all of his dances in the adult Prizewinner category, he ran out of room to advance. Dropping from adult levels to the “&Overs” was a natural progression. Mark mentions that his adult status in &Overs has been well received in the Western Region, especially by his competitors.

Mark believes that “with proper training and conditioning, there is no physical reason adults can’t continue to advance.” He has a few ideas of what the future might hold for adults in Irish dance. Perhaps a champion or “masters” level will be instated, similar to the masters competitions that are held in other sports, like golf and swimming. Or maybe the adult division will be dissolved and integrated simply as “over20,” “over30” and so on, as some sanctioning organizations have already adopted. No matter how the dance evolves, Mark is confident that the future participation of adults is bright.

Mark plans on attending the World Irish Dancing Championships in March. He practices six days a week, in addition to three or four weekly lessons. Mark plans on enjoying at least three feisanna with his daughter between now and March. If his body is still is holding up, Mark will take the only chance he may get to compete at Worlds.

Even with the obstacles that face Mark, he is optimistic. To the beginner dancer who starts at an advanced age, Mark counsels, “You will have physical discomfort, but you probably will [even] if you don’t dance.”
And how long will Mark continue to dance? “Until my body gives out or I feel like I’m no longer doing justice to the sport.” Let’s hope that’s a long time coming.