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6 Lessons Learned Beyond The Irish Dance Studio

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Cara Sutherland is an Open Champion dancer from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. She is currently studying Exercise Science and is involved with the Performing Arts at John Carroll University.

As I’m heading back to school this fall, I thought about some of the life lessons that I learned from Irish dancing.

1. Hard Work Pays Off

This is one of the first lessons any beginning dancer will learn. There’s a rewarding sensation when a dancer spends a bit more time and concentration on a step or skill and eventually it just clicks. For me, I spent hours on rocks before one day it just happened naturally and all I wanted to do was rock on my ankles. It’s the same feeling that is so often seen on the face of a dancer who just won a big competition and realizes all their sacrifices and hard work have finally amounted to that moment.

2. The Importance of Discipline

Dancers learn to respect their teachers and obey the instructions. They have to follow very strict standards for their technique, and hold themselves accountable for practicing and improving. I know many dancers who are disciplined, high achieving individuals.

3. Learning to Understand the Body

Irish dancing frequently leads to injuries—ranging from blisters to broken bones and torn ligaments. I’ve learned how to prevent injuries by stretching and warming up more, and understanding how the body moves naturally. I learned the significance of balanced eating and living a more healthy life to become a better dancer. Dancing is what made me interested in physiology and exercise science; I want to study and prevent injuries in dancers and athletes.

4. Expression

Dancers move and express themselves on stage for a live audience, and grow to become more comfortable in their own skin. Many people who have ‘stage fright’ become extremely nervous and anxious in front of an audience, but dancers learn to be confident and poised. Mistakes may happen but an excellent performer will keep in character and hold a smile to suggest as if nothing went wrong.

5. Accept Defeat

My dance teacher once told me, “You win some, but you lose a lot more.” That’s certainly true for people who compete in any sport. If I do not place where I would have liked to, I use that placement or score as my motivation to get back in the studio and work twice as hard. More importantly, I’ve learned how to be a gracious no matter how I was ranked, and how to be happy for the dancers who beat me. I’ve come to understand how hard the top dancers work and I can appreciate their talent and skill.

6. Reduce Stress

One of the reasons I continue to dance despite all the hard work is for the pure fun and excitement of losing myself temporarily in the dance. The exercise helps me to feel more relaxed and it’s so hard to remember all the outside stresses when I’m in the studio. As Lady Gaga would say, “Just dance.”
Photo Credit: Diddlyi Media

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