Foothills Irish dancers feeling lucky
Dance: Bhriomhar School students heading to North America, world competitions
Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014 08:28 am
A young Irish dancer from Millarville has good reason to kick up his heels this holiday season.
After placing second for three consecutive years in the Western Canadian Oireachtas championship, 15-year-old Bhriomhar School of Irish Dance student Kaiden Powell took the gold in his age category at the annual competition in Calgary last month.
“I’ve just always wanted to get first for the three years that I’ve got second,” he said. “I was so excited when I got first. It means a lot.”
Twenty-six dancers from the Bhriomhar School of Irish Dance in Okotoks competed against 500 dancers from more than two-dozen dance schools across western Canada, with hopes of advancing to the North American Irish Dance Championships in Rhode Island in July 2015 and the Irish Dance World Championships in Montreal this coming spring.
Powell, who has been in the dance group for eight years, qualified for both.
“It took lots of practice and lots of private practices with my teachers,” he said. “You really have to work on your rhythm and timing.”
Powell qualified for the North American and World competitions in past years, but didn’t feel ready to compete at the world level and only competed at the North American competition last year when he placed 16th.
Powell plans to return to the North American championships next year.
“I would really like to get top five,” he said. “That’s a crazy goal, but I would really like to do it.”
Powell still isn’t sure if he’s ready to compete at the world level, despite placing first in western Canada.
“I’m still deciding if I will do worlds,” he said. “It’s hard to spend that much time away from school and it’s intimidating all of those people from all over the world. I would really like to go to worlds. That’s one thing that I want to do before I stop dancing.”
Also, qualifying for the world championships was Emma Berarducci, 13, of Okotoks, and the under 10 girls’ ceili team of eight.
Three teams and nine soloists qualified for the North American competition. Those from the foothills include Okotoks dancers Grace Karasz, 9, Bree Mullaghan, 13, and Cael Langan, 14.
“We’ve been competing at the western Canadians for five years now and the last couple of years have really been a huge leap forward for us in terms of how competitive the dancers have come,” said Ali Hampshire, the dance school’s co-owner and head instructor. “Many of these dancers have been with us since they were quite little. They’ve gotten to the point where they are really serious competitors internationally as well.”
Hampshire said the school is really making a name for itself as more students succeed in the larger competitions.
“It’s very exciting for us,” she said. “It shows that the kids are working hard.”
Hampshire said it also reassures the instructors that they are on the right track. And, with the head instructors being former world-level champions, the dance group has a bit of an edge.
“We’ve been there and we know what that is like,” she said.
“It’s useful for the kids to have instruction from people that have danced at that level as well.”
Familiar with international competitions is nine-year-old Grace Karasz.
The Okotoks dancer placed third in her age group during last month’s competition and is heading to the North American competition for a second year. She placed 18th last season in her second year of Irish dancing.
“I was really nervous at first because I remembered all of the people from western Canada at (the North American competition) that I danced against,” she said. “I wanted to try and get to that kind of level.”
Karasz said she had been preparing for the competition for three to fourth months. When it came time for the competition, she danced up a storm.
“I thought I did extremely well in my dancing,” she said. “I thought it was one of my best competitions. I just try my hardest and see what happens. I always make goals for myself and my western Canadians goal was top three, which I did.”
Now Karasz has her work cut out for her at the North American level in July, but she feels ready.
“I’m really excited about going there,” she said. “I’ve improved a lot since last time and last time I got 18th.”
Karasz said she enjoys Irish dancing because of the fun footwork. She said being a successful dancer requires good muscular strength, flexibility and balance.
Hampshire describes Irish dance as a traditional river dance based in Ireland that is very technical and judged on foot placement, posture and timing.
The attire is flashy, complete with crystals, rhinestones, sequins, big hair and tight curls.
Dances can perform either in teams or solo, she said.
“Solo is very concrete, but for the team dances the footwork is similar but you’re navigating eight dancers on the stage,” she said.
“While the footwork is simpler for teams it can be far more difficult getting eight people looking the same rather than coach one dancer doing his own dances.”