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On 'The Worlds' Stage

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By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Mar. 13, 2013

While Boston’s hopes for landing the Olympic Games seem to be a long shot, later this month the city will host another event of Olympian proportions — and one with a Boston College presence.

From March 24-31, Boston will be the site of the 2013 World Irish Dancing Championships, which is expected to draw some 7,000 competitors from Ireland, the UK, Canada, Australia and the US. It’s only the second time in its 40-plus years that “the Worlds,” as the event — often referred to as “the Olympics of Irish dancing” — is popularly known,  has taken place in the US, and the economic impact for the regional economy is estimated at upwards of $13 million.

Among those taking part in the Worlds, which comprises solo and group competitions in numerous age categories, will be five members of the Boston College Irish Dance student organization: freshmen Madeline Jacob and Bridget TeeKing, sophomores Taylor Laffey and Kiera Keller, and junior Stephanie Armstrong (four other BCID members have competed in the past).

When it comes to the Worlds, Jacob and TeeKing are seasoned veterans, both of them making their seventh appearance this year — but neither have become jaded about the experience.

“It’s one of the most important and stressful times of the year but also one of the most enjoyable, because you get to see and meet friends from all over the world,” says TeeKing, a pre-med biology major from Brookfield, Ct., and an Irish dancer since age five. “The scene is both beautiful and terrifying, as you walk into the hall seating thousands of spectators intently watching a massive stage. You see girls with big curled hair, made-up faces, and stunning, sparkly, colorful dresses. However, any sense of pageantry fades away once the girls begin to dance, because you see them perform lightning fast footwork and push themselves to their potential.”

TeeKing finds herself “continually inspired by the level of execution that raises the bar higher and higher every year.”

Says Jacob, a Media, Pa., native majoring in secondary education and mathematics who started dancing at age four, “There are different accents, different languages, and different clothing styles wherever one looks. Dancers are warming up in every open space, teachers are giving their last words of advice, mothers are running everywhere. Some may say this is a chaotic time with wigs, fake tanner, and rhinestones everywhere you look — but I would say that this is normal.”

BCID Co-president Brianne Marron ’13 isn’t taking part this year, but she competed in seven of the eight Worlds for which she qualified, and is grateful for the confidence and sense of accomplishment she gained.

“Competing in the Worlds gave me the opportunity to travel and make life-long memories with friends that end up meaning so much more than any one year’s result,” says Marron, a Dix Hills, NY, resident majoring in history with a minor in Environmental Studies. “It’s great to enjoy the experience with people you have really bonded with through the ups and downs of preparing for the competition. There’s a real sense of community.”

For more on the Irish World Dancing Championships, see clrg.ie/boston2013.