On Sunday, 11-year-old Teagan Harrison will pack up her dancing shoes and her hand-embroidered competition dress, and head to Greensboro, N.C.
She will be competing in the World Irish Dancing Championships in the under-12 category, against dancers from around the world.
It’s the culmination of six years of study and practice at the Miller School of Irish Dance, which holds classes in Innisfil and Barrie.
Teagan, who lives in Barrie, began taking Irish dance because “my mom is originally from Ireland.” To get to the worlds, though, takes more than just taking dance classes.
“It’s the commitment,” she said. “You can’t go to class once a week and expect to win. You have to practice every single day.”
Dance teacher Maureen Miller appreciates her dedication and focus. Miller was a dancer herself, years before she started her school of Irish dance.
“I started (dancing) when I was seven,” Miller said. She also qualified for the world championships.
“It was tough,” Miller said. “You have people from everywhere – England, Ireland, Scotland, the U.S. and Canada.”
But she readily admits that the level of competition is higher now. “It’s not just dance, it’s a sport,” Miller said. “It’s far more intense” thanks to the level of athleticism required, the kicks and the moves.
There were only eight spots open for the world championships in Teagan’s category. She placed sixth to secure a berth.
“It’s quite an achievement,” said Miller.
Later in the year, in July, Teagan will be competing in the North American Irish Dance Championships in Vancouver – along with three other young dancers from the Miller School – 11-year-old twins Madalynn and Avery McGregor, also in the under-12 class; and 10 year old Teagan Mugford, in the novice category.
Having one student advance to North American competition is a matter of pride.
“This is the first time I’ve had four,” said Miller.
Teagan Mugford comes to classes from Innisfil; the McGregor twins come all the way from Walkerton to study with Miller, who is not only a teacher but an accredited Irish dance judge.
All three agree with Teagan Harrison that the commitment is the hardest part – since it means missing birthday parties and days out with friends to practice Irish dance.
On the other hand, there’s an opportunity to make new friends, to dance – and, in future, to embrace a career of dancing, teaching or judging.
They were at the Barrie Dance Conservatory last weekend, joining in the weekly Caleigh Club – a meeting of Irish dancers of all ages, who come together to practice their steps.
“They’re all different levels,” some as young as four, said Miller.
For some, it’s just a fun morning, learning Irish dance. But for others, it’s a step on the way to competition, possibly even the world championships.
“Pretty much that’s their top goal,” Miller said.