Living in the world of spray tans and poodle socks

November 24, 2010 — by Giulia Curcelli

I don’t know how many times my friends have flailed their legs around, swinging their arms, claiming, “Hey, look! I’m Irish dancing!”

Now, this looks a lot more like an intoxicated leprechaun or my parents’ friend Colman after he’s had a few pints of Guinness than Irish dancing. But after five and a half years of Irish dancing myself, I’ve learned to roll my eyes and ignore it.

I entered the world of spray tans and poodle socks two years after my younger sister Cristina did. I figured if I was being dragged along to competition after competition, I might as well start dancing myself. So after three months of dance classes, I was ready for my first competition.

After spending more hours of my life in jam-packed ballrooms having incessant reel music blast out my eardrums than I’ve spent tying my shoes, I’ve learned that Irish dance is an incredibly biased sport, which I guess should be expected from any sport in which a table of judges sits in front of kids and tells them they don’t dance as well as their competitors. Yes, it’s discouraging, especially when the judging these days is more about who your teacher is friends with than who’s a better dancer, but really it’s not about winning. It’s about enjoying yourself and being surrounded by wonderful, partially insane friends like Mikhaela, who’s practically my twin separated at birth, and Molly, who loves making a joke out of everything and eating sheets of seaweed.

Yet, there is no sane person in the world of Irish dance. Who would want to spend the night sleeping on foam curlers? Who would want to have millions of bobby pins stuck on their head just to hold up a wig that looks more like a wild animal than actual hair? Who would want to toe walk in hard shoes with absolutely no cushioning for your toes (although that is incredibly fun)?

The parents are the craziest of all. Only someone truly insane (or exceptionally generous) would be willing to spend thousands of dollars on a dance dress only to step back the next day and realize it’s already gone out of style. They must not think about how they are gluing socks to their kids legs or smothering their daughters’ faces with unbelievable amounts of make-up only to hear the teacher tell them it’s not enough. You’ve got to give them credit, though, for things like flying you halfway across the country to compete.

To a random stranger, my dance friends and I might appear crazy for discussing things like “biddly bumps” and “The Drunken Gauger,” and our hands may appear spastic while we hand-dance. In reality, though, it doesn’t matter. In the end, it’s all worth it. Every inch of insanity, every inch of duct tape, every rolled ankle, every new shoe that needs breaking in. Every time my teacher shoves me and tells me I’ll give him a heart attack if I don’t move faster, everything ultimately pays off because I’m spending time with some of my best friends.

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