The 2011 North American Irish Dance Nationals

Article featured in Diddlyi Magazine.

I had no idea what to expect when I got on a plane for Nashville, Tennessee two weeks ago as I headed for my very first time competing at The North American Irish Dance Nationals. I knew I was physically ready to compete, but mentally I had no idea what to expect.

When I arrived Saturday afternoon at The Gaylord Opryland Hotel I was shocked at the size of the Hotel and even more than that, the massive amount of Irish dancers everywhere! I’ve never seen so many curly wigs and teenagers walking around in only a tank-top and bloomers. There were many guests at the hotel who had never seen Irish dancing before, and when I was wearing my wig I was asked more than a few times what sort of strange event was going on and where. Irish dancing culture is shocking to newcomers and since we had pretty much taken over the Hotel, you could only wonder if those who weren’t there for Nationals were starting to feel like they were in the wrong place.

I spent some time getting a feel for the place and watching a few of the younger dancers compete and I soon felt right at home. I realized that even though the competition would be bigger, this was just like any Oireachtas or Feis! Wait for your chance on stage, do your best and then wait to see how you did. Simple as that.

Soon the nervousness about facing something unfamiliar went away, and I started to really enjoy myself! When it came time to compete I recognized a few girls from The Western Region and started chatting with them. When it was finally my time on stage, I danced my Hornpipe as best I could, and only made one mistake in my Reel. I felt really great about how I did.

Sadly, I didn’t recall, but overall I got 55th place. Not too bad for my first time! I’ve never competed with so many girls, so I was glad to know I could beat a good handful of them.

One of the funnest highlights of the trip was getting a chance to see a special screening of the movie JIG, an Irish dancing documentary. I was able to watch it with Amelia Walker (also representing The Shelley School at Nationals) and Tina Shelley the night before my competition. It was such an inspiring film and it really motivated me to do my best out there.

I enjoyed the trip a lot, it was an original experience. I had a lot of fun and am very excited to attend again next year!

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photo by Shelly Allen Photography

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