A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Thursday, January 12, 2012

IrishCentral: Adult Irish dancer Cecile Greard with Sarah Clark Academy in Paris, France

Adult Irish dancer, Cecile Greard with Sarah Clark Academy  

This article first appeared on IrishCentral.com.

When I talk to other adult Irish dancers, I often find that they feel isolated. While you may be the only adult dancer in your area, there are thousands more who lace up their hard shoes and pound the floor with seasoned feet. If you are an adult Irish dancer (any level or age) or know of an Irish dancer that would like to be spotlighted, please send an email to christy at dorrity dot net. 

Thank you, Cecile, for telling us a little about your Irish dance journey.

What drew you to Irish dancing? 

 I did a lot of dancing when I was younger, I started ballet when I was 4 and tap dance when I was 13. When I started working, I stopped it all but after a few years, I wanted to start dancing again and it was then that I found an ad for Irish dancing lessons in Paris. I first knew about Irish dancing a few years earlier when I saw a video (no DVDs then!) of Riverdance but I had no idea you could have lessons in France so I was very happy when I found that you could! I was first drawn to Irish dancing as it seemed to gather both dances I had previously practised and loved (ballet and tap dance) and I also liked the idea that it was new, in France at least, and unusual. I was also attracted to the skills you could try to reach that seemed so difficult and exciting at the same time! Finally, I think it's also the rhythm that drew me to Irish dancing, the fact that you can play music with your feet.
Adult Irish dancer, Cecile Greard with Sarah Clark Academy
in Paris France
Tell me about your dance school and the other adults that you dance with. 

My dance school is the Sarah Clark Academy, it was founded by Sarah Clark (lead dancer in Lord of the Dance) in 2004 in Paris, France. We now have about 150 students and I'd say at least half of them are adults. What I really like about my school is how supportive we are of each other. We help people who have trouble with steps during the lessons, we cheer for the people from our school during competitions and we have so much fun when we do shows! The other adults I dance with are in their 20's and 30's and a few of them are in their 40's. I've known some of them for quite a while now and we've really become friends, we go out together, we travel together and I'm about to become the godmother of my 2-hand partner's first child. I think that one big advantage of being in an adult class is that friendships are stronger and will probably last even after we stop dancing together. We're also able to discipline ourselves better and practice more independently. I also have two girls, one who's 12 and the other who's 15, in my class and I find they fit right in with us; and it's also fun to goof around with them and feel like a kid sometimes.

Which do you enjoy better, solo dancing or ceili dancing on a team? 

I enjoy both. Solo dancing is great as the steps are created by your teacher and my teacher makes great steps that really makes you move around the stage and she's always willing to alter them to fit each person's ability. It's also more convenient to be able to practise whenever you want since you don't need to have 7 other people to be available at the same time as you! But I also love ceili dancing as I really appreciate the team spirit. This year, the team is a mix of inexperienced and more experienced women and it's really humbling to see how the less experienced people are willing to work hard and take any advice they're given without feeling they're being picked on. I suppose that's also one advantage of being in a team of people who all started dancing as adults as I find they're ready to put their ego aside and not want everybody to look at them only as little kids do.
Adult Irish dancer, Cecile Greard
How are you preparing for your solo at the Worlds?

I have lessons twice a week in the evening and my teacher gives workshops every other week-end. During the school breaks when there are no lessons, I try to practise on my own twice a week. I wish I could do more but I work full-time and when I get home at 7.00pm, I'm tired and don't feel like going for a run or to one more lesson, especially when the fridge is empty or the dirty laundry basket is full! I've also decided to go to at least one feis in England (the Trainor feis in February): I know the level of competition is higher than in Mainland Europe and it'll push me and keep my motivation high till April as it still seems to be a long time away. Again, I wish I could go to more feisianna but I always have to travel far, spend at least one night in a hotel and it's too expensive. I've also decided to get a new solo dress and I've bought new hard shoes which are killing my feet at the moment! What keeps you coming back to dance year after year as a adult? I feel like it's really become kind of a drug. If I don't dance, after a week or two, my legs get itchy and I miss it so much. And I also miss my Irish dancing friends! I also find that every time I think I've hit kind of a ceiling and I won't improve any more (or even that my level is starting to decrease), I suddenly manage to do a step that I hadn't been able to do, or I unexpectedly place well at a feis and I find myself wondering how far I could go so the only way to actually find out is to keep dancing. When I did my first feis in beginner, I couldn't wait for the day I'd be able to do intermediate steps but couldn't imagine dancing in open. When I got to intermediate, I thought it'd be neat to be able to compete in open but I never thought it'd ever be possible for me to compete at the Oireachtas. And of course, when I did my first Oireachtas, I never thought I'd qualify for the Worlds and yet, here I am, 7 years after my very first feis, preparing for the Worlds and I still can't quite believe it! So I want to continue as long as my body can stand it and see what happens next!

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Adult Irish dancers, with Cecile Greard
Do you have any advice for beginner adult dancers? 

 Don't hesitate to ask more experienced dancers for advice on shoes, practise patterns, food, steps, feisianna... Other adults are always ready to help. Practise between lessons: as adults, we need more time to remember and assimilate steps and I find that if I don't practise new steps between classes, I very easily forget them (fortunately, the 21-year-old in my class remembers everything for us!) and when you get more difficult steps, bring your camera and ask your teacher if you can film them, it really helps. Take good care of your body, drink plenty of water, stretch thoroughly after and between lessons, buy the shoes that fit your foot shape. I think adults don't necessarily get injuries more often than younger dancers but we definitely take more time to get back into shape so trying to prevent injuries is important. Finally, try to forget about how old you are. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking or saying "I'm too old for this!" but it's a bad excuse for not pushing myself harder. So in my head, I just think I'm 20 and try to ignore my body is telling me otherwise!
Adult Irish dancer, Cecile Greard

Thanks Cecile.  Good luck at Worlds 2012!

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