By Maddie Orton
St. Patrick’s Day and the weeks leading up to it are the busiest time of year for the students of the Heritage Irish Dance Company.
“This is our ‘March Madness’ here,” explained Founder and Director Amy Loxley. “We dance all over the state at bars, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes to share Irish dancing with people.”
It also helps generate funds for another major event next week — the World Championships of Irish dance in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We have 18 dancers competing, so it’s a lot of airfare and hotel and expenses for them,” Loxley said.
It’s one of the final rehearsals before the trip, and anticipation is high — especially for dancers like high school senior Kieran Riley. It’s his first shot at Worlds.
“I am very excited,” said Riley. “This is the first time I’m going to Scotland and the first time I’m going to the World Championships overseas. I’ve only qualified for the locals. … Just getting there is a feat in and of itself.”
It takes a lot of work to get to this point. For top-level students, classes are multiple days a week, and there are often a few competitions a month. Costumes are pricey. Dresses can run a couple thousand dollars or more. But it’s all worth it to students who find their passion and sometimes even their career. Loxley performed on Broadway in “Riverdance” and Riley hopes to follow in her footsteps.
“I’m looking to go to college next year — this next coming school year,” he said. “But if I get a show that requires me to take off of school, I probably will take off of school, and I’ll go touring.”
Riley says his mom approves. It’s his dream. But first, World Championships.
“When you’re in competition, the judges are looking to see a lot of different things. They’re looking for a lot of basics,” Loxley explained. “One is the posture. You have to have that upper body really tall and strong, head up straight, arms in, hands closed. You have to have your feet turned out all the time, on your toes all the time…”
And even those basics aren’t so easy.
Heritage Irish Dance Company students will compete in solos, group numbers, soft shoe and hard shoe dances over the week ahead at World Championships.