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On Being A Late Beginner

I love Irish Dancing.

Yes, that's easy enough for me to say, but how have I actually bothered to prove it? I danced for 3 years, competed in two Feiseanna total, skipped loads of practices, never practiced enough at home, quit dance in the middle of the year, joined another school for two months, and quit again! Not exactly your ideal picture of a dedicated dancer, is it? Well I never claimed to be a dedicated dancer, did I?

Whatever I did not prove in my actions as a dancer, I made up for in the love of the dance. I get headaches even thinking about Irish Dance nowadays. Why you may ask? I miss it like I would miss food if I didn't eat for a week. I began dancing classes when I was 14 and by the time I was 17 I was already discouraged, disheartened, burned out, and officially out. I've missed out on the brightest years of an Irish Dancers career, and all because I kept finding excuses to get out of it.

It's the curse of the Late Beginner. You're young enough not to be an Adult Beginner, but you're old enough to see eight year-olds placing in National competition and going to battle for World Titles in the homeland of the Dance, Ireland.

It was enough to make me want to cry. For a while I overcame it. I rallied my spirits and told myself to not let it get me down. Then I saw that, no matter how hard I tried, all the girls in the class who had never tried as hard as I did (and who were one or two years younger than me and had started later than I had!) moved up in the levels without trouble at all. Why couldn't my teachers notice my passion and give me a little bit of credit for enthusiasm?

I'm sure something in the back of my mind was always holding me back. I kept silently telling myself something like, "Look at those girls over there. They're in high school too but they're LEAGUES ahead of YOU. You'll never be that good." Finally, it got to me and I made my decision.

That decision has affected me deeply ever since. I haven't watched Riverdance once since I quit my last class; I just can't do it. I'm pleased to see my old dancing friends - and new - doing so well in the dance, but I can't help but wonder if that could have been me. I can't face my old dance teachers and I shun my old studios because I feel too weird. What must they think of me? Do they even care?

I regret that decision I made so much but, pain me as it does, I still love Irish dancing. My life would not be complete without some large fraction of my life being dedicated to it. My last big phase of actual Irish Dancing came in March 2001 when I hosted an Irish education program for my high school. Though I may not be enrolled and competing with a school, that single, independent undertaking of Dance into which I poured so much of myself made up for most of what I lost in quitting my formal Dance schooling.

That, my friends, is how I have "bothered to prove" that I love Irish Dancing.

Fad saol

2 August 2001