Live accordion music blares through the tightly packed ballroom. Towering, curly wigs and spray-tanned legs crowd the stage. Lines of vendors throughout the hall offer discount sock glue and the newest wig styles. These are the sights and sounds of a typical Irish dance competition.
This experience feels like home to junior Madeleine Iassogna and freshman Tori Iassogna, sisters who have been Irish dancing since the ages of five and six, respectively. “I actually started dancing in kindergarten because my teacher had emailed my elementary school about having lessons in a small trailer that I had PE classes in at school. My mom signed me up, and one day after school she took me there and I found myself at the very beginning of my long Irish dance journey,” said Maddy. She had no idea that by taking her first steps down the road of Irish dance in that trailer, she was putting herself on track to become a future Open Championship Irish dancer and a World Championship qualifier in 2013 and 2014.
Tori was inspired by Maddy to begin her own journey. “My sister Madeleine had been dancing for two years before I started dancing. We are really close and usually like the same things, so when she started dancing, I decided to try it out. When I was three, I danced in competition for the first time, not as part of a school, but Maddy taught me the steps and I wanted to compete. I didn’t officially start dancing until I was six, and it was a decision I am very proud of.”
Irish dancing, a discipline of dance sometimes overlooked in the artistic community, has a culture and dynamic all its own. “Irish dancing competitions are really neat because there are other things to do there besides dancing,” said Tori. ” There are music competitions, art competitions, and even soda bread baking competitions. The competitions are very traditional in this aspect, but the dancing is very modern and so interesting to watch.” The girls have become more connected to their roots through the experience of Irish dance, as well as developing their fitness and technique.
Irish dance competitions involve a high level of preparation, and not only by practicing the routine. “The vendors are where you buy all of your essentials: wigs, shoes, socks, sock glue, hair clips, tiaras, costumes, etc. The night before a competition is when you prepare-tan your legs, eat carbs for energy, and try to contain your excitement and get some sleep,” said Tori.
Although the practice schedule is not particularly rigorous compared to many other athletic activities these days, the girls give their full efforts at every practice, which is especially remarkable due to the fact both girls also participate in the BT track program and Maddy participates in BT cross country. Balancing their time between sports, dance, and homework has proven to be a challenge for the girls, but nothing that they can’t handle. “My practice schedule isn’t too rigorous, usually 8-10 hours a week and maybe more if there is a big competition coming up. I try to give 100% at any practice, and then I have more fun at competitions because I give the same amount of effort every single time I dance,” said Maddy.