The Best Irish Dancers Are Confident, Not Cocky

12.08.11

I've watched it happen a lot, and it always bothers me. Some Irish dancers can get a little arrogant once they reach Championship level. Being one of only five Open Championship dancers at my school, I know exactly how it happens. When you start out as a beginner you look up to the advanced dancers at your school. Everything they do is amazing because you don't know how they do it. You can't help but idolize the champ dancers a little, and it's not really a bad thing since watching someone who is more advanced than you can give you something to shoot for.

It can however, be a bad thing for the dancer who is on the receiving end of all that excessive attention and admiration. When I finally got to Championships I was a little intimidated at first, but soon realized I could do most of what the others could do. After a few years the dancers who were far more advanced than me either quit dancing or transferred to other schools and it was about that time that I won into Open championships. For six months I was the only one at the Shelley School in Open champs and I have to tell you it was a very strange feeling. I was never popular growing up so I was not used to walking into a room and quickly being surrounded by dancers wanting to talk to me. Other dancers would notice what I said and laugh at my jokes, compliment me after dancing almost every time. I was quite invisible with only a two or three friends only a year before, so I definitely noticed the difference.

It made me feel very self conscience when I realized that I was now on the receiving end of all the admiration I had once given to other dancers. More importantly, I realized that I was now responsible for treating all the dancers who looked up to me with kindness and respect. I remembered what it was like to be a beginner. Advanced dancers were very intimidating. When they smiled at me or paid me a compliment, what they said stuck with me for years. When they treated me like I wasn't worth their time, I remembered that as well.

There are Championship dancers out there (mind you, they're usually teenagers) who abuse their power of influence. They do not to accept that their words and actions have great meaning to those who look up to them. They choose only the most talented and attractive friends and either ignore or roll their eyes when a less advanced dancer tries to say hi or pay them a compliment. I've seen and felt the damage this type of cocky behavior does to someone and I refuse to ever be the one who shatters the confidence of an aspiring dancer.

It's amazing the effect it can have on the entire school when the Championship dancers are kind and respectful to all the other dancers. The environment is relaxed, fun and exciting! Everyone feels welcome instead of intimidated or invisible. Why should there be an elite group of dancers huddled in the corner telling secrets, making everyone else feel left out? I wish I could say all the advanced dancers at my school are respectful and kind to beginners. Most of them are, but there are a few who still have a lot to learn. Once in a while I see Championship dancers treating beginners with disrespect and it always bothers me.

If you are a Championship level Irish dancer, you should take a moment right now and ask yourself, how do you treat the other dancers at your school? Odds are there are a lot who look up to you and notice everything you do and say. Don't be the dancer who treats beginners like they aren't worth your time. Believe me, if you think you're better then they are, you're going to feel pretty silly in three years when one of them beats you at a Feis. Remember, you set an example for those who look up to you. Chances are if you treat beginners with disrespect and unkindness, they'll do the same thing one day when someone else looks up to them.

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photos by Shelly Allen Photography

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