Sophomore takes ground to new Irish roots

September 29, 2009 — by Vivian LeTran, Maggie Lin

Irish dancers at Disneyland

“Oh, so it’s like riverdance!” is often the reaction sophomore Stephanie Shimizu receives when she says she Irish dances. From a range of comments, many ask if she is part Irish. In truth, Shimizu, of Chinese-Japanese descent, has no Irish blood in her—uncommon among her dance peers.

“I started [Irish] dancing when I was in third grade because my best friend [who is also Asian] had been Irish dancing for a couple of years and told me I should try it,” said Shimizu.

Since then, Shimizu has been dancing for seven years with the same group of people, so any assumed awkwardness among the other dancers has long been overcome. She started out taking beginner classes in a school cafeteria, and after learning the basics, she switched to her current dance studio in San Jose.

“I love being able to hang out with my friends and learning the new steps is a lot of fun. I love working on teams with my friends, and being able to compete and travel with them,” she said.

Not only has she fit in seamlessly, she competes in two to three local competitions and two national or regional competitions annually.

“They have competitions all over the place, but I usually just stay in local areas for small competitions. One of the major competitions is held in Ireland every year, and then two other major competitions change locations,” said Shimizu.

Irish dancing also has different categories and rules for competitions.

“I dance both in solos and in teams. There are many combinations of teams, but I usually only compete in the eight and 16 person teams,” said Shimizu. “Since we compete, we have different rules that we have to follow, compared to Lord of the Dance or riverdancing. For example, we’re not supposed to move our upper body at all and our arms have to stay by our sides while we’re competing in solos.”

Along with competition, Shimizu and her dance school participate in a fundraiser show each year.

Shimizu said, “Each year we have a theme and create dances and skits that incorporate other types of dancing along with Irish dancing. The last fundraiser we had was based on the theme ‘Jigging Through Disney’ and we had skits from the major Disney movies, acted out different rides and got to dress up like Disney characters!”

From her love of dance, Shimizu has gained many great memories, one of which occurred in Colorado.

“In November of 2004, a couple of teams from my school traveled to Denver for the Western Regional Oireachtes. One day it started snowing, so we organized a huge snowball fight with around 15 people and we had dancers from other schools join us,” said Shimizu. “It was a blast since we were able to relax from the stress of competing and hang out with our friends from other dancing schools.”

Shimizu is living proof that though she isn’t Irish, she can jig with the best of them.

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