I started Irish dancing when I was 23 – which is quite an old age for a dancer as you all know. Apart from some ballroom dancing in my early teens, I never did anything that would require any form of practice or physical training, either because I was too lazy or because I couldn’t afford it. Now, eight years later, I spend about 11 hours a week practicing – and that’s only when the feis season isn’t upon us.
Adult Irish dancers face several big challenges, especially those who started as adult dancers, in their mid-twenties, thirties, forties and beyond.
Here are four of the biggest challenges adult dancers face and how to cope with them:
“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Vince Lombardi
Your body isn’t always willing to cooperate – in fact, you spend most of your time trying to persuade it to do seemingly impossible things – turnouts, body posture, stamina, core strength, it all becomes ten times harder to achieve simply because you spent the last couple of decades walking and standing differently. It takes time for your body to learn how to move in a new way, but with proper exercise and discipline you can do amazing things! Every dancer needs to practice hard but adult dancers have to push even harder to stay fit and prevent injuries. If you are an adult Irish dancer and you are struggling with a body that can’t easily follow your dancing goals, there are some great warm-up, Pilates and core strength exercises videos broken down for you by Paula Goulding and Ciara Sexton in the Goals section here on Diddlyi.
Finding time for dance practice is another great challenge. You are most probably a professional and quite aware that, no matter how much you love it, Irish dance doesn’t pay your bills. So it’s very important to find the balance between work and dance but also not to let one suffer because of the other. When at work, that’s all I focus on. Trying to be good at what I do, always meet deadlines and perform my best not only keeps my source of income stabile – after all, Irish dance is an expensive hobby! – but also gives me some credit and helps get those days off I need to travel to a feis. On the other hand, I don’t let anything interrupt my dancing time. There are certain hours during the week where I don’t pick up my mobile, I don’t work, I am unavailable to anyone but my closest family, and that’s my dance time. If I don’t respect this time, I can’t expect others to do so.
“Follow your dreams, because you wouldn’t want it so bad if you couldn’t have it.” Michael Flatley
Having big dreams and great expectations is a good way to keep you pushing forward – but if you don’t stay realistic about them then you will may suffer an irreversible burnout and end up hating the thing you used to be passionate about. The key is to focus on a goal that’s within your reach – improve that jump, make that turn out a bit prettier, stand a bit higher on your toes, always do that extra step in your slip jig, or place higher at that next feis. And once you reach a goal, then reach just a bit higher. Take it one step at the time, and enjoy every minute of it. You might never win any major competitions but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push further just to see how far you can get.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche
If you are feeling down and going to the dance studio is starting to feel unpleasant, then maybe you should pause a bit and reconsider why you’re doing it. Dancing should make you feel happy. Always remember why you started dancing in the first place. Take some time off dancing if you must in order to sort things out. If after a while you don’t feel the desire to put your dance shoes on and dance till you drop – than perhaps it’s time to move on and try something different. But if you realize that you really miss dancing, then you better find a way to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Follow Irish dance blogs. Read Irish dance tweets. Watch Irish dance videos. Make your own inspirational scrapbook. Put post-its with inspirational quotes all over your house. Whatever rocks your poodle socks!
Photo credit: Image belongs to author.
Whether you are training for an Oireachtas, taking your first steps in Irish dancing or you just want to get fit in a fun way, Diddlyi has what you need. Access all of our online Irish dance workshops FREE for 24 hours - it takes less than a minute to register!