In a recent blog post I recieved a comment asking, what is your advice to older dancers in their 20s trying to qualify for worlds? I responded but decided it would be a great topic for my next blog post.
As everyone on Diddlyi knows, Irish Dance is far from easy. It takes hours of training and commitment, and that is why many dancers decide to retire from the competitive world when they start post-secondary education. I was one of those girls. The stress of work, school, and life are just too much to handle when Irish Dance is also in the picture. However, I came back, and many women and men never leave.
Coming back out of retirement, 5 years, was a challenge in itself, but other than the physical demand I realized I had to accept the fact that I was much older then my fellow competitors. At regular feises I could compete with dancers who are 6 years younger than myself, and that's intimidating. But I found that the best way to stay focused on your goals was to make a plan and stick to it.
Below are my top 3 pieces of advice for standing out in a young competive world.
1. STAY FIT & CROSS TRAIN!
You've probably heard it a million times from your dance teachers and fellow students, but it really is uber important. When you start getting older it's harder to stay as fit as we were when we were kids and teens. Although practicing your steps and drills are very important it's also important to train your body in a variety ways. This not only helps you stay fit but keeps you from getting bored as well. Some examples of cross training exercises are; Running or Biking for Stanima, Core Exercises for posture, and even Ballet for turnout!
2. MAKE REALISTIC SMALL GOALS
It's so easy to get frustrated when you're not reaching your goals fast enough. I found that if I created smaller goals I stay focused and encouraged, instead of disappointing myself and feeling like a failure. In my teen years my goals were "qualify for worlds" and "win" and I was never satisfied. Now my goals are "i'm going to wok extra hard on turning out my feet today" and "go on stage and enjoy it". You'll feel like you accomplished something everyday. This isn't to say not to have big goals, it's important to stay focus, however create smaller goals to step closer each day to your dreams.
3. DO ALL YOU CAN DO IN THE MOMENT
Come off of stage and out of class saying "I did all I could do today". If you are able say that you will feel accomplished no matter what the result is. There will always be factors of competitions that you can't control. At the Nationals it was my injury, and at the Oireachtas it was bumping into my competitor. You can control how react but you can't control everything. Give yourself a break and allow the uncontrollable to roll of your back. You might not of liked how you danced your first round, but did you give it your all on stage? Probably. So go back on stage and do the same in your second round.
I'm no expert. I'm just a 24 year old dancer trying to reach my dreams. These are the steps i've started to take to do that. I have had some recent success and plan on working more to keep going. I hope that you'll find some inspiration in this post. Don't give up on yourself. It's hard having the responsibilities of life and irish dance. Keep pushing and smiling.