Irish dancing takes senior all over the world

November 11, 2015 — by Frederick Kim

Senior Caroline Jens describes her experience as an Irish dancer.

Then a wide-eyed first-grader, senior Caroline Jens sat as she watched Irish dancers move to the quick and rhythmic beat of the reel during the annual Argonaut Elementary School variety show. Entranced by the dancers’ energy, Jens told her mother she wanted to be a dancer. A week later, she entered Greene Academy in 2005 for her first class.

“[Irish dancing] began as an after-school activity, but over the years it had turned into my life,” Jens said.

For the past 11 years, Jens has attended Irish dance classes three times a week for two to three hours and practiced at home. Additionally, she dances competitively, which results in even more practices and lessons.

She has taken part in regional, national and international competitions, including the annual North American Irish Dancing Competition. Competitions have taken her to distant places including Ireland, Canada, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida and Rhode Island.

Irish dance competitions consist of three rounds: soft shoe, hard shoe and independent dancing. Soft shoe has elements of ballet, while hard shoe has elements of tap dancing. The independent or third round accepts only contestants with high scores in the first two rounds.

“[During] the first two rounds, you dance with a group of people that you don’t know and don’t do the same steps,” Jens said. “So in addition to wanting to do your best, you also have to focus on not running into other dancers.”

After seven years of dancing and working her way up multiple levels, Jens reached the highest rank of Irish dancing, the Open Championships, in 2010 at San Jose.

“There are a lot of milestones in Irish dancing, and you move up between different levels,” Jens said.

Over the years, the effort she puts into dancing has increased. But it’s a rigor Jens says she enjoys.

“I would say Irish dancing is a really long high endurance sport; it’s like a long sprint,” Jens said.

Aside from the physical exercise and competitions, she also enjoys meeting people through the activity.

“You get to bond in a really special way with your dance friends,” Jens said. “We interact differently than our school friends.”

Jens hopes to continue dancing throughout college by joining recreational clubs.

"I really love dancing and I don't see myself ever stopping completely," Jens said. 

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