Arms by her side, with toes pointed, 13-year-old Regan McDermott glides across the floor at Trinity on Laurens on Tuesday with ease, precision and grace.
But Irish dancing is not just a skill easily learned. Dancing since she was five, McDermott said now dancing is easy, but it hasn't always been that way.
“For me, now it doesn't take that long to learn the dances,” McDermott said. “But it used to take me a while.”
McDermott dances for the Glor na Daire School of Irish Dance in Savannah, Ga., under Brent and Abbey Wood. For the fourth year in a row, McDermott will head to London next month to compete in the World Irish Dance Championships. She has qualified for the championships every year she was nine – the youngest qualifying age.
The first world championships were held in 1970, and this year will be the first time the championships are housed in the United Kingdom, according to the World Irish Dancing Championships website. About 5,000 dancers from Ireland, the U.S. and Canada are expected to take part in the 100-year-old tradition.
Irish dancing became quite popular in the mid-90s after Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley performed in “Riverdance,” and later created “Lord of the Dance,” an Irish musical performed worldwide. From centuries ago, Irish dancing has evolved and transformed into a dance now created with choreographers creating unique performances.
“The music and the dances are very traditional, and date back hundreds of years,” McDermott's mother Michele said. “There are set dances, but now with a choreographer, you can add something new and still keep it traditional.”
Since she started dancing, McDermott has traveled and competed in Dublin, Ireland, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Canada. McDermott started out at the highest levels of competition when she was only six, and placed in the top 10 at the North American Nationals for the past three years. She also has received a top three slot in the Southern Regionals every year since she began competing.
To compete in the World Championships, McDermott had to place in the top 10 at either the national or regional level – a chance that doesn't come often for dancers worldwide. For McDermott, the opportunity is exciting and sometimes “hard-core.”
“This is my fourth time going, and it's the top 30 percent that get recalled,” McDermott said. “I've never been recalled yet. But I hope I get to be this year.”
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree with the University of North Carolina Asheville. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.