Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

A fancy for Irish dancing

Photo by and used with the permission of Shannon Byrne
Byrne went to regionals last year during Thanksgiving. After a successful competition, Byrne will begin to learn new routines for her next competition season.

In a colorful, jewel-studded dress, an Irish dancer flies across the stage, performing to the beat of energetic and upbeat music. She is dancing the Reel, a traditional Irish soft shoe dance.

Shannon Byrne, junior, started her journey as an Irish dancer 11 years ago when she and her family went to see an Irish dance performance. It ignited her interest in Irish dancing and she has “stuck with it” ever since, having “grown to love it more” with time.

“The competitive atmosphere can be kind of stressful, but my [dance] school is amazing. The people that I dance with [have] really made a difference [to] me. I’ve [made] so many friends, [and] my teachers; they’re like family to me,” Byrne said. 

Her teachers, in particular, have had a great influence on Byrne, playing a part in her decision to become a teacher to young dancers three to five years old at her dance school. Having danced with them since she was five, Byrne says that their styles of teaching have “rubbed off” on her.

“I volunteered to help my teacher because we had some large classes with the younger ones. [My teacher] really liked the way I was working with them, so she gave me two of my own classes,” Byrne said.

This opportunity has been important for her as, along with the activities Byrne does at the high school with the preschool, it has allowed her to expand on her passion for elementary education.

“Not only do I love dance, I love teaching. So it’s kind of combining everything that I love,” Byrne said. “It can be frustrating because they’re young and hyper. It’s fun to see them start to understand something that comes so naturally to me. It’s hard to teach it to them, but when they do understand it, it’s like, ‘oh my god, I did that.’”

Outside of the classroom, Byrne’s love for Irish dance also stems from the shows performed on St. Patrick’s Day, as she loves to share the joy dancing brings her with other people. In addition, being Irish herself, she says that these shows have helped her to stay connected to her cultural heritage.

“St. Patrick’s Day is like our busiest time of the year. We go to different schools, and we put up performances for them,” Byrne said. “Usually at the end, we teach them one of our easier dances [to] get them excited about it. Hopefully, that inspires them to join because Irish dance is not just for people who are Irish. It’s nice to spread that to everyone else and I feel like that connects me because I get to tell people about what I love.”

Though Byrne is the busiest during St. Patrick’s Day, Irish dancing in general is not an easy commitment. This is especially true during competitions and practices, which all necessitate a lot of time and effort. Some competitions, including regionals this year, required Byrne to dance “seven days a week” in order to prepare.

“[Due to] the intensiveness of it, I’ve gotten so many injuries from it. […] A couple years ago, I sustained an injury to my knee [where] it moved out of its place. I did physical therapy to get it back in, [but it is still] weaker than it was. My ankles are [also] weak from all the twisting and turning,” Byrne said.

The competitive nature of Irish dancing, though intensive and “stressful,” is “fun in some aspects,” according to Byrne. Especially when she places well, Byrne receives her confidence that her “hard work is paying off.”

“We just came off of regionals, and it was my first time as a soloist,” Byrne said. “I was really nervous going into it because it was my first time, but I did so much better than I thought I would. That was really rewarding.”

Through all of this, Byrne says that she receives a lot of support from her teachers, friends, and family, which has “encouraged her to keep going.”

“[My parents have] been super helpful. My dad’s created a stage for me in the basement, because the hard shoes beat up the floor. So he made a stage [made from] plywood put together. They’ve put so much money and time into me allowing me to do extra classes. They also drive me to Wisconsin for competitions,” Byrne said.

As Byrne nears the end of her high school career, her journey as a competitive Irish dancer might end soon as well. However, though she may not compete, that does not mean that Irish dancing will be out of her life forever.

“I’m definitely going to miss it because it’s been such a huge part of my life,” Byrne said. “But I will still keep in touch with it, whether that’s through teaching or just coming back and helping out when I can. I’m never gonna get rid of [Irish dancing] because it’s very important to me.” 

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Grace Sun
Grace Sun, Secretary
As a junior, this is Grace’s second year on the Bear Facts staff, acting as secretary and Junior Spotlight Editor. In her free time, she enjoys running (sometimes), napping, reading, and doing various kinds of arts and crafts. As of now, Grace does not know what her future will hold, but she is working on it. She also has a stuffed animal dog, who Bear Facts loves dearly, named Bruno. 

Comments (0)

Comments will not be published until approved by the Bear Facts Student Media Staff
All Bear Facts Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *