Growing up, I was a performer. I put on plays for my family at Christmas (the home video of my cousin and I as Mary and Joseph, with Barney as our baby Jesus, still haunts me. No you’re not seeing it.). I performed songs for my parents at any opportune moment. I even fractured my arm at the tender age of six while giving my Mam her Mother’s Day present – an aprés dinner rendition of every Barney song I knew, with movement, all done from my stage (read: a chair at the kitchen table).
My parents’ decision to send me to Speech and Drama classes and Irish dancing was inevitable. And I loved them both.
I took exams in Speech and Drama, and got up to grade four, but dancing was my real baby. I went to countless feiseanna and fleadhs, and have boxes upon boxes at home filled with medals and trophies. I came first at a feis when I was seven and I CRIED MY EYES OUT. (I also got brought for takeaway after it, so, you know, it wasn’t ALL bad).
Then, for some insane reason, I gave both up when I was 13. Spanner.
I wanted to go back to Irish dancing desperately. Somehow, it took until this year, TEN YEARS AFTER MY SENSATIONAL DEPARTURE, to actually do it.
This is my story.
There were classes on offer in DCU, back when I did my undergrad. I signed up to the dance society, asked my Dad to source me a pair of soft shoes, got incredibly excited about my long overdue return – and didn’t go. For three whole years, I put it on the long finger.
I’ll go next year. I’ll have more time next year.
For three years, I kept saying that. Then, when I finished my undergrad, I still had itchy feet but nowhere to go- somehow, I was at a loss for Irish dancing classes for adults where I lived in Dublin. The closest was in Lucan, almost an hour and a half’s bus ride away. I wanted to go back badly, I really did, but not at that kind of cost.
I thought I was destined to be forever at a loss. Then, when I moved to Cardiff, a beacon of hope came through.
For one of my modules, I’ve been doing a digital project focusing on Irish communities in Wales. My research for this brought me to a newly established dancing school in a community centre just a ten minute walk from my house. I was sold.
The first Tuesday I went was wet, miserable, and I almost got lost on my way. True to form, though, I did arrive almost an hour early. I took that time to introduce myself to Nicola, the class teacher, and get my bearings. It also gave me a chance to let her know I was a set dancer, not figure. Most of my dancing throughout my “career” involved a lot of shuffling.
When 6.15 came, and I couldn’t hide any longer, I took my first steps into the class, and back into dancing. And I realised just how much I’d been missing it all these years. I was a bit shaky at the beginning, which is understandable- ten years makes you fairly rusty. But I’ve been reunited with my first love, and I can’t see myself letting go again any time soon. Wouldn’t be keeping an eye out on Riverdance for me to light up the stage, though. Baby steps.