In less than a year, the FIS Irish Dance Team has gone from an in-house company to the world stage. The team competed in the European Mainland Irish Dance Competition in Amsterdam in early December and qualified for the world championships. This week (17-21 April), the team will head to Greensboro, North Carolina where they will compete in the 2019 World Irish Dancing Championships. The story below, which was originally published in the October 2018 issue of FIS World, captures the team's rise to success.
A Step Away
The FIS Irish Dance Team prepares for competition
In advance of the European Mainland Irish Dance Competition in Amsterdam in early December, the FIS Irish Dance Team is making a final push to perfect their steps and polish their look for what could be the dance of their lives. Being a new competitive team at FIS, these dancers, led by FIS senior and competitive Irish dancer, Claire F., began their journey in May and have never looked back.
Claire has dreamed of competing in group Irish dance competitions since her start in Irish dancing at age six. But finding a lasting group to dance with hasn’t always been easy since her family moves often for international assignments. It was especially difficult last year for Claire to move away from her dance school in Abu Dhabi to come to the Frankfurt area where there are no Irish dance schools. But through today’s incredible modern technology, Claire has since kept up her dance lessons with her teachers in Abu Dhabi via Skype.
Shortly after arriving at FIS in 2017, Claire introduced herself to Upper School dance teacher, Jez Gregg, and everything seemed to fall into place. She had a lead role in last spring’s FIS dance production, Liminal, and realized there were many talented dancers at FIS who were eager to learn Irish dance as well. Shortly after the Liminal performance, Claire recruited eight classmates and formed the FIS Irish Dance Team. The group began formal weekly lessons via Skype with her teachers in Abu Dhabi, learning the traditional Irish group dance, Ceili. The group of dancers, eight of whom had never danced Irish dance before, will travel to Amsterdam in December to compete against teams from around the world. If they qualify, they will move on to the World Finals in Greensboro, North Carolina in the United States in the spring of 2019.
In September, the FIS Irish Dance Team had an opportunity to work directly with their instructors and former Riverdance performers, Kevin and Jenny Murray, when they visited FIS from Abu Dhabi. “The FIS team has made amazing progress since beginning in May.” Mr. Murray says. “If they keep working as hard as they have been, we’re really expecting them to finish in the top three, which will qualify them for the World Finals.” While working with their teachers during the four days of intense rehearsal, the team was able to refine their dance routines and strengthen their endurance. “It takes a lot of stamina to be able to dance the whole routine,” says Grade 10 student Vivan, who is new to dance and just started Irish dance last May. Grade 11 student Mia, a gymnast and dancer who also joined the team in May adds, “The most challenging part, now that we’ve learned all of the steps, is cleaning it up.”
Members of the Irish Dance Team weren’t the only ones to benefit from the visit, however. The Murrays gave three days of workshops to students in the Elementary and Upper Schools, many of whom had never danced before. “We’ve been very impressed with FIS students of all ages.” says Ms. Murray. “They all have such great energy, positive attitudes and a real willingness to try something new. We really had a lot of fun with these kids.” The FIS Irish Dance Team is now practicing twice a week before school and every Saturday and will increase as the competition grows nearer. “Our group will be competing against teams who have been Irish Dancing since a very young age, so we’re working hard on technique and precision,” says Claire, who is also competing in the solo soft and hard shoe portions of the competition.
Their hard work, discipline and keen focus on their goal are already well-honed. Now, as they tighten up their steps and tailor their costumes, let’s wish the FIS Irish Dance Team good luck! Or, as the Irish would say, ádh mór!Story contribution by Rita Merrick