Friday, March 28, 2014

Cross-training for Irish dancers: Running

What do you do for cross-training?

When considering Irish dance, what kind of cross-training do you think is best?

I used to run a lot, mostly to stay in shape, but I've stop because I dance almost every day. I thought that was good enough.

As a workout, Irish dance is a killer, but I want to improve as a dancer and I'm realizing how important cross-training is.

I've recently joined Instagram and I saw this great picture of Heather Monaghan gearing up for a run.

She's an amazing Irish dancer -  U17, 2x national champ, 5x regional champ, 6x world medalist.

Needless to say, she knows what she's doing.

She knows how to train to be a champion Irish dancer, and in her own words:

I'm "100% in love with Irish dance and I want to share it with the world."

I thought I'd pick her brain and ask her how running helps her as an Irish dancer. I was curious if running was just another way to stay in shape or if there were specific benefits for Irish dancers.

She is such a doll and got back to me asap! Here's what she said:

"It absolutely does!! It totally helps to stay in shape but it's great for lung stamina to get through steps and definitely makes your legs skinnier/more toned :)"

I thought that was great. I researched a bit more and found a printable guide on about the Irish dancers. It was put together by Duke University. (We thank you Duke!)

"Cardiorespiratory fitness improves the ability of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system to efficiently supply the muscles with blood (oxygen).

"Practicing Irish dance continuously counts towards cardiorespiratory fitness, because your heart rate is elevated; however, if you stop frequently (do one step at a time only), then the benefit is lessened. To focus on cardiorespiratory fitness, do several steps in a row, or reduce the breaks between each set of steps so that your heart rate does not drop as much (interval training).

"Alternatively, try any of the endurance activities listed in cross-training."

The guide goes on to list a few ideas to help with endurance: swimming, running, playing soccer or field hockey, jump roping.

I'm going to focus on running. My new goal for April:


Who else wants to join me? Perhaps you are already running and strengthening your endurance. If so, keep at it! Maybe you would also want to add on another bit of cross-training like weight-lifting to increase your strength or yoga to increase your flexibility.

I would LOVE to hear your success stories regarding cross-training!

What suggestions do you have? What is your favorite cross-training activity? What benefits in dancing have you seen?

Comment below or send me an email and I'll share your responses with the rest of the readers on this blog.

And one more thing...


Heather has such a great attitude. I want to share with you her latest post on Instagram. It's quite inspiring:

"Last year, Worlds was not my best Worlds, but I came out of it and realized how much I truly loved Irish step dancing and that I  should be doing it for that and nothing else. I took that and trained as hard as I could and achieved what I wanted to, so this year's Worlds, I'm going to train to the very best that I can and hopefully I can perform that way in London in 20 days."

Great perspective!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping a Dance Journal: Organizing and conquering short-term and long-term goals

How many of you have a journal?

How about a dance journal?

I've found that keeping a journal is a simple yet extremely beneficial practice in helping you progress as a dancer. It allows you to think about what you want to accomplish, what you need to work on. Then it allows you to track your progress as well as seeing how far you've grown.

Here's what I suggest:

First, go buy a nice journal. Something that shows your personality and something you will WANT to write in -- something you'll cherish.

Then, think about your dancing. Set some long-term and short-term goals. My rule for goal setting is to create your short-term goals from your long-term goals. This allows you to have broad goals for your dancing (long-term) and to think about specific, tangible ways (short-term) to conquer them. 

Here's an example: Say you want to get higher on your toes. That's your long-term goal. Your short-term goals will be measurable steps to get you to your long-term goal. Your first short-term goal can be "Research exercises to get higher on your toes." Your next short-term goal can be "Create an exercise plan that will help me get higher on my toes." The last one can be "Do my exercise plan every night before I go to bed for a month." After a month, because of this process, you will have conquered your long-term goal and be higher on your toes.


I hope you can see how these small goals act as building blocks to reach the long-term goal. The journal helps you STICK TO your goals by self evaluation and hard work. 

Here's how to use your dance journal:

Started by creating a few broad, yearly goals. These are basically your New Year's resolutions. Then create more detailed goals for each month. That goes onto weekly goals. Then onto daily goals. The daily goals are basically an outline of my practice schedule you will do that week. Finally, write an entry at the end of the week explaining what you accomplished and what you need to work on -- a self-evaluation. 

Now here's my disclaimer: this is a mock journal. I wrote the following entries pretty quickly just to show the idea of journaling I'm trying to illustrating: 

Here are your New Year's Resolutions

Now, make monthly goals based on your New Year's resolutions
I like creating a theme for the month. Something specific to focus on.

Now, from your monthly goals, create weekly goals.
They will be more specific.

Here are your daily goals created from your weekly goals.
I like to take time on a Sunday to think about the coming week's schedule and my goals I've already made to make a practice outline for that week.
It's like a to-do list.

Lastly, write a little note to yourself evaluating how you did that week. 
What did you accomplished? 
Did you stick to your daily goals? 
Did they help you with your weekly goals? 
Your monthly goals? 
Your New Year's resolutions? 
Are you a better dancer?
What did you learn? 
What are you proud of? 
What could use some work? 
How do you feel?

This personal evaluation will also allow you to modify your weekly, monthly, yearly goals if needed. It will allow you to see specifically what you need to work on.

On the above example, I say I need to work on timing. Because I wrote this down and I know I need to work on it, I'll be more motivated to research exercises on precision or tips on timing.

I hope you can see the benefits of keeping a well-organized, personal dance journal. Anything is possible if we know specifically what to work on and have a tangible plan to conquer our goals.

Please tell me your stories regarding dance journals! Do you keep one? Did it help? What other suggestions do you have for me and other readers?

I'd love to hear what you have to say!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

VIDEO: A Short History Behind St. Patrick's Day

I'm constantly amazed how a small country like Ireland has such a cultural influence on other nations around the world.

I love this time of year where the Irish spirit is thriving. St. Patrick's Day is definitely one of my favorite holiday, if not my all-time favorite.

I discovered this 4-minute video on the history of St. Patrick's Day that I found quite interesting. It's sweet, short and to the point and I wanted to share it with you:

Click above to watch.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Simple Tip on Improving Your Turnout

Here's a tip I've discovered on how to improve your turnout.

It's simple:

Go for a walk with your legs turned out.

Click image to pin on Pinterest

If feels silly but it works those muscle you want to strengthen to keep your legs turned out while dancing.

I saw this tip on Instagram and had to try it. I actually went to the store and the whole time I was turned out. I was probably looked at as a weirdo but, oh well! Dedicated dancers are constantly in "improvement"mode.

So, go walking with your legs turned out, give it a couple minutes, and you will start feeling the burn in your leg muscles.

Those are your turnout muscles! Those are the muscles you have to strengthen to keep that beautiful, yet essential, turnout while dancing.

Let me know how this tip works out for you, if you like it or not, or if you have any other tips to share with me or other Irish dancers.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Irish March Madness Begins!



I'm so glad February is done and that March has 31 days! More days to celebrate. People don't understand what a great time of the year this is. Though, people who are Irish or Irish lovers do.

I don't have any children yet but I found this picture and want to claim her as my own. Look at this little cuteness celebrating St. Patrick's Day:

She's my inspiration this month.

So, what do you guys do for St. Patrick's Day?

For me, I'm going to walk into work on Monday wearing my new green dress wishing everyone a Happy March and a Merry St. Patrick's Day.

It's funny because so many people that I have met through the years remember me at this time of year purely because I'm Irish obsessed?

Does that resonate with anyone else?

It is such an honor.

One of the things I do this month is listen to Irish music and only Irish music. 

Here's my suggestion:

Create these 3 Pandora stations and you will be all set for whatever Irish mood may fall upon you during March. 

1) "Riverdance" -- this is when you're in a dancing mood.
2) "Flogging Molly" -- this is when you're in a rocking-out mood.
3) "Molly's Revenge" -- and this is when you're in a traditional mood. 

I promise, it will cover all your Irish-music needs. But, if I have missed an amazing Pandora station, please let me know!

Also, if possible, don't miss out on live Irish-music concerts. Talk about a party! Bring your non-Irish loving friends, those who just don't get why you love Irish things so much, and then they will understand your obsession. 

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Young Dubliners are coming to concert March 15th -- the day Salt Lake celebrates St. Patrick's Day. (Always the Saturday before March 17th) I am so excited of this concert and I'm bring so many friends to help them realize how marvelous Irish music is. 

Same day as the Young Dubliners, we have a massive St. Patrick's Day parade that goes through a outdoors mall in downtown Salt Lake. My Irish group will be in it and we've been practicing our parade-route number. SO EXCITED!

Anybody else going to be in a parade?

On March 17th, I'll be with a large group teaching them all how to Irish dance after we have eaten homemade Irish stew. I love teaching people how to dance and usually  people love learning it.

And lastly, don't you find that there is a different energy at dance class during March? I feel we work harder but also have more fun. 

It's our time to shine Irish dancers! Let's show the world why our hobby of dance is much more than just a thing we do -- it's a thing we eat, sleep and breath. It's our passion.

Erin Go Bragh!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Update and goal for the week of February 24

Every Monday, more-so for my sake, I'm going to post what I'm working on for the upcoming week and give anyone who is interested an update on my dancing life.

Here's my update as of now:

I competed in my first feis since 2006 a couple weeks ago. I wasn't nervous until I was behind the curtain waiting to go on. Reel was first and I completely blanked when I was practicing right before I went on stage.


I completely psyched myself out and my reel was a blur. I can't remember what I did right, what I did wrong -- all i know is what the judge told me, which is to work on my timing and to over-cross more. I placed 2nd to last.


Oh well. I'll keep working. Reels are hard for me because I'm not very quick in soft shoe.

Overall, I placed only in my hard shoe dances. I'll take a positive spin on this and tell myself, "Look! Now you know what you definitely need to work on!"

Soft shoe!!

So, my goal for the week: SOFT SHOE. SOFT SHOE. SOFT SHOE!!!

And more specifically, to work on my strength.

I'm just about to head out to go practice and this week I'm focusing completely on soft shoe. No hard shoe at all.

I'm hoping to strengthen my 2 major upper-leg muscles. My quads and my hamstrings.

Whenever I see really good Irish dancers, their legs are bulging with muscle. I found this picture of some amazing legs on Google and it will serve as my inspiration this week.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Future of the Irish Dance Solo Dress?

Recently on Pinterest, I've found some amazing runway dresses that resemble Irish solo dresses.

It makes me wonder and imagine what the next trends for Irish dancers will be.

I've noticed that the wigs have gotten bigger and bigger, and that I don't care about. The dress though, I'm loving the new solo dresses. The outrageous styles I see are amazing!

Here are a couple of pictures of dresses that could be used as some inspiration for future Irish solo dresses.

A fuller skirt?

A simpler, more fitted style?
I  love this idea!

Lace and tassels?

Simple pearl and lace detail? Just one color?

Tailored to look like a jacket?

Oh, wait! They've already done it! This is an actual solo dress!


Do you have any wild ideas for a solo dress??? I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Reason Behind the Look -- The Competitive Irish Dancer

I've got so much to say to the author of the article "Why Irish dancing has lost its way and needs to change." If you don't know about it, it's the article that is enraging Irish dancers everywhere.

Rather than spouting out my feelings in a blog post, I'm going to (hopefully) calmly tell Cahir O'Doherty, the author, some of the facts he carelessly didn't check before writing his poorly researched article.

Mr. O'Doherty, you first stated, regarding the Irish dancer's modernized look, "They need costumes and giant wigs and spray tans and extensive wardrobes. We need to hide them beneath multiple layers of pan stick and polyester if they're to stand a chance on the stage on their own."

There are reasons behind everything you mention here. You didn't care to research the "whys" behind the costume (solo dress), the wig, the spray tan -- you just decided to write down your shallow opinions. 

In a competition, dancers get less than a minute to make an impression on the judges while they are dancing. Traditional athletes, as in basketball players or footballers, etc., get hours of game time to make an impression of their talent. 

We don't have that luxury.

That's why we have to make every second count.

We spend money on solo dresses that, first, represent ourselves. The solo dress is a reflection of the dancer wearing it -- their personality, their style, their interests. The dress also needs to draw the eye of the judge to the dancer. We're fighting for the spot light -- that opportunity to be seen! That's one reason why glitter and stones are so popular right now. They add flash and attract the eye of the judge to our outfit, and ultimately to ourselves. 

It's a tactic.

There's so much truth in this picture:

And another thing!

Who are you to say what we spend our money on??? That's none of your business!

*calm down*

Back to the points:

Irish dancers wear wigs as a symbol of our traditional roots in old Ireland. Irish girls would curl their hair before they went dancing. We do the same thing. It's important to keep tradition when your activity is rooted in a folk dance. 

And there's this indisputable fact:

Who can argue with that???

O'Doherty then mentions spray tans. Here's my question for him:

Have you ever seen a bodybuilder?

They're pretty tan aren't they? Why would they tan their bodies?

Think about it...

There's an important similarity between bodybuilders and Irish dancers, believe it or not. Each tans their bodies to enhance the visual muscular definition. Muscle definition can be more easily seen on darker skin than fair skin. This is why Irish dancers tan their legs. We are athletes, muscle strength is essential and the adjudicators look for strong legs while judging. Irish dancing is all about legs. We've got to make them look good!

Woo! Look at that!

Ultimately, Mr. O'Doherty, we look this way because it has the power to make us feel invisible. When you look good, you feel good, you dance good.

I hope all my readers take this next quote lightly. Being a strong, technically savvy dancer is what gets us trophies, but looking good can't hurt.

I love how modern Irish dancers look. It makes sense, the way we dress, if you think about the overall goal of wanting to shine on stage. 

I hope with all the backlash Cahir O'Doherty has received, he'll think twice before he messes with Irish dancers again.


If you want to hear an NPR (National Public Radio) piece on competitive Irish dance, click here. You'll love it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Intoxication of Irish Dance

Do you remember the first time you saw an Irish dance performance?

For me, it was a junior high talent show when I was 13.

A family performed made up of 5 children including 2 sets of twins -- a set of boys and a set of girls. They were perfect for Irish choreography.

I didn't remember the dance but what I did remember was wanting, with all my heart, to be able to dance like that!

Do you share this feeling with me? Were you drawn to Irish dance when you first saw it? Heard the music? Felt the rhythm of the hard shoes? Did the memory of the dance performance keep pleasantly nagging at your brain until you found out where the nearest place Irish dance was taught?

This was basically my story of how I became to be an Irish dancer.

Never have I yearned to become another kind of dancer. Irish is what I feel I was born to do.

Am I not alone?

It's one of my favorite parts of a dance performance, while looking out from the stage, and see little girls in the audience jumping around to the music.

I imagine they are little Irish dancers in the making. *sigh*

I found this video on Pinterest. She is an amazing dancer but what I really loved happens just after the 1 minute mark in the video.


The woman videotaping says "She makes me want to do it."

I love that!

By this simple performance, a woman in the audience wants to learn how to Irish dance. And she can't be the only one.

Irish dance is so intoxicating and so catching. Whenever I tell people I Irish dance, 90% of the time the response is, besides "Is that the same thing as Riverdance?" but rather, "I love that kind of dance!"

It's exciting to be apart of something that not many people do but a lot of people know.

Please share your first-witness-of-Irish-dance story with me! I'd love to see how you felt when you first saw Irish dance.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

UPCOMING: Strengthening Those Irish Dance Legs

I live in Utah so I am apart of the Western US Region Oireachtas.

I wasn't able to go in 2013 when it was in California, but a few of the dancers at my school and my teacher went. I was incredibly proud and a wee-bit jealous when I saw their pictures and read their updates on Facebook.

My teacher came back to glass after Oriechtas with the goal to strengthen our legs. She said, compared to the girls at the competition, our legs "are a bit flabby."

I laughed at this but it is indeed true.


That being said, it is my goal this year to strengthen my leg muscles so I can aim to look like this:

Aren't her legs the most gorgeous things you have ever seen?

She looks invincible. 

I bet she feels invincible in those legs.

I want them!

We are Irish Dancers. We have strong legs and wimpy upper bodies. And that's fine with me. 

Here's a bit of humor...

That being said, I'm currently in the process of making a killer Irish dance leg-strengthening routine to share with you.

So look out for it. 

Let's get our dream Irish dance legs together!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Power of the Irish Dance Solo Dress

So here's a question:

If you are able to remember, can you recall what you thought of the Irish dance solo dress the first time you saw it?

Positive? Negative? Blown away?

Me, I was blown away.

"Really?? How can anyone dance in that? How much fabric did it take to make? How many jewels are on that dress?"

And finally,

"How much did that cost?"

Little by little, I've come to realize how FABULOUS the solo dress is.

They certainly have evolved from what Irish dancers used to wear:

I found this article from the New York Times about the Irish dance modernized look. The interviewee, author John Cullinane, explained the solo dress in an interesting way:
For girls’ costumes, there were certain things that constituted the early Irish dancing costume: the shawl, the use of the Tara brooch as an Irish national emblem, a lot of Celtic embroidery and Celtic lace. Now you look at some of the contemporary creations. They are fashion creations — lovely colorful designs, etc. — and not a scrap of identity to say that they’re Irish. Also, the costumes nowadays are designed to facilitate a very elevated kind of dancing. The dancers appear to float about three feet off the floor. That wasn’t the case in my time, in the 1960s. So the dancing style has changed enormously, and so too then has the costume.
It's interesting that perhaps the costumes we wear have changed in order to incorporate the new and different dance moves we progressively learn.

Have you noticed this? How so?

It's always a new Irish dancer's dream to work up to the level it takes to get a solo dress. I love how the dresses can be completely personalized to represent the personality of the dancer. 

I've never owned a solo dress. But this year I finally get to buy one so I'm on the look out for my dream dress. 

Here are some of all-time favorite dresses I have found on Pinterest!

(Click on each picture to pin it on Pinterest if you want)

I LOVE the twist on this next dress!

I adore the simplicity of this one.

And this picture is absolutely adorable!

But here is my all-time favorite dress! I want this in my size, on my body, right now! I don't care what it costs!
(Famous last words)

And just for fun, take a look at this old set dance recorded in 1963 and compare our style of wardrobe and dance moves to the man dancing. :)

Fun fact: The man dancing is the same author I quoted above.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Figure Skating/Irish Dance cross-over routine by Jason Brown = Amazing!

I've watched this video so many times.

If you haven't seen it yet, drop everything you're doing, take 10 minutes and appreciate the beauty of this figure skating/Irish dance cross-over routine.

Jason Brown is a 19-year-old figure skater from Illinois. He qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia during the U.S. Championships in Boston.

He wowed the viewers with his gracefully leg work and amazing axel jumps while skating to the opening song from Riverdance.

Jason nails this performance and I cannot wait to watch him in the Olympics.

Watch clear to the end because his reaction when he gets his score is priceless.

Thank you Jason Brown for incorporating Irish dance into figure skating! We love you!

You did it!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

I'm new but I'm dedicated

I've been planning on creating this blog for a while.

It will help me stay motivated and let me connect to others in the Irish dance world. Read more here.

I'm new to this blogging world but I've got a lot of ideas, so keep coming back and join with me in exploring the world of Irish dance that we oh-so love.


Follow me on Pinterest or Twitter for updates. And if you want, you can follow my personal Instagram account that goes beyond my Irish dance interest.

What kind of content would you like to see on my blog?

I am an adult Irish dancer

It's true.

Often I feel like an oddball, being 26 and a novice, but I've always heard to do what you love and that's exactly what I am doing.

I'm jumping back into the Irish dancing world after a couple years on break while I was at college. I still danced, in my apartment kitchen mostly and on St. Patrick's Day with friends, but that's about it.

I missed it.


Besides being done with school and getting a full-time job, Irish dancing again was the thing I looked forward to the most after graduation.

I've been practicing like crazy (I lost so much of my technique!) and I've overloading my mind with all sorts of Irish-dance motivation. Pinterest has been wonderful!

One day I found a beautifully worded, beautifully created meme that describes my situation perfectly:

It's one of the highlights of my week to go to class after a day at work and hang out with junior high and high schoolers. We giggle. We talk about boys. We talk about their college plans. 

And we dance.

It is a delight.

I know I'll never "win it big," but I'm not dancing for that. 

I'm dancing because I can't imagine life not Irish dance.

Why do you dance?

Need "Irish Dance" Motivation???

I think we've all had the feeling of intense motivation in our Irish dance career. That being said, we've all experienced the exact opposite:

Moments of extreme discouragement and lack of interest.

What are some things you do to increase your motivation?

For me, few things have come close to the motivation "Jig" gives me.

If you haven't heard/seen Jig, it's a documentary about the competitive world of Irish dance. It follows various groups and individuals from around the world preparing for Worlds -- a competitive Irish dancer's ultimate destination.

I don't know about you but when I heard that someone had made a documentary about Irish dance, my first thought was:


The Irish dance world is small but intense. Irish dance consumes those involved. We eat, sleep and breathe anything Irish. Finally, the creators of Jig have allowed people to glimpse into the world of Irish dance that we call home.

It's always a good idea to watch Jig before it gets too late in the day because I can almost promise you that you will want to go dance for at least 1 good hour after you watch it.

It's that motivational!

Ooooo... just watching the trailer gives me goosebumps.

What motivates you?