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“Concentrate on the performance, not the Competition”.

As an Irish dance teacher for over 30 years with experience of both open and closed platforms of Irish dance competitions, I have seen many champions over the years excel on the competitive stage but what is a champion?

Well for someone who has been involved in dance all my life you might wonder why I ask that question? A champion, without any in depth thought is someone who has excelled or achieved on the podium, but is this the full picture? Is each dancer who takes to the stage not a champion, yes, we all love to see competitive champions on top of the podium, their sheer hard work – combined with natural talent, so graceful, so well executed been rewarded on the board. No one involved in the Irish dance bubble would disagree the hours of practice, class attendance, work ethic, dedication, commitment – the list goes on does not deserve true recognition, but we all have other champions in our class, who may never be on box number 1 but who are true champions.

What is she on about, I hear you say? The beginner with dyslexia or ADHD who completes their dance in class mistake free, the dancer who has a medical condition who may never have the perfect feet but who gets up every class and gives it their all, the dancer who is bullied at school or has issues at home we never see, who turns up every week just for the love of it all, the dancer who suffers with anxiety or panic attacks who finds the courage to perform , are these dancers not also true champions – Champions of the performance and not of the box! The courage of all dancers is amazing. The courage to get up and give their all, the courage they show when things don’t go right for them but they get back up and do it all again, the courage of performing on a stage and opening themselves up to be critiqued week in week out , but the dancers who carry extra baggage that can never be shared on a stage show huge strength and courage that can only be found deep within. 

As teachers, we should be passing on a love of a tradition and a culture we are proud off but nowadays it could be said teachers, some not all, are passing on an attitude to win at all costs and not what our dance masters of the past were trying to achieve. We are the caretakers of a tradition, a culture to pass on to the next generation, yes, it is an art form that continues to develop and evolve with each generation – which it should be allowed to do, this is part of what makes it such a vibrant and addictive art form. While doing this, we should be mindful of what we are passing on, what our legacy will be as we become the dance masters of old. 

For me, I would hope to pass on a legacy where dancers have fond memories of their class, the friendships formed through their class, a pride in their tradition and fond memories of their dance days so as we start the new year of dance classes, let's work together to see what we can achieve in our performances, mindful that competition is only a part of the jig saw of Irish dance. Every dancer has different abilities and will achieve within their own way their 1st places whether that is on a competitive podium or another podium held deep inside, we wish you all well and remember you are all champions in your own way and we are proud of all of you! 

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