Confessions of an Irish Dance Mom

I admit, it is always a letdown when our March Madness is over. Tara has been Irish dancing with the McNulty School of Irish Dance  for 11 years, and March always brings a whirlwind of performances.  I still remember her first public show, at a senior center in Libertyville.  The affection the audience gives the younger kids, who know the steps to only one or two dances, has not diminished over the years.

I remember the nervousness of handing my 6 year old over to the older dancers—all of maybe 14 or 15—while they finalized their “lineup” and parents decided who would be announcing and also running the music.  The procedure became routine as we danced over the years at parades, churches, grocery stores, fundraisers, restaurants, weddings, private parties, taverns, malls, libraries.

June parade from about 2004.
June parade from about 2004.

Soon my little girl was the one in-charge of the line up, checking off the dancers there, rehearsing, fixing costumes.  They graduated from skirts and vests to class costumes to finally the sparkly solo dresses, as their abilities increased. These young ladies (and a few young men) have grown into leaders, occasionally fighting off stage moms who want to take charge.  Great practice for beating down bullies.

Navy Pier, 2008

We moms drive from show to show during this busy month, with cars full of dresses, sock glue, make up, sound systems, water, snacks,as performances are added  throughout the day.

We chauffeurs have our own stresses of finding unknown places (thank God for GPS now), no outlets for the sound systems, Ipod malfunctions (way better than the CD’s we used to have to swap out), finding a place to hang out in some smaller locations, dealing with unfriendly managers, forgetting names of parents we only see once a year, dealing with a few parents we would rather avoid, fixing wardrobe-makeup-wig malfunctions.  It is exhilarating but exhausting, trying to help the shows run on time and without incident.   I think my feet hurt almost as the dancers at the end of the day.

This weekend was spectacular, as the older girls in my group had fun between shows putting on their own “flash mob” performance at a train station full of surprised and happy revelers headed to Chicago, videotaping themselves dancing on the streets, two-hour prep before a completely different costumes and hair at the Genesee Theater, five-minute notice to dance with the Shannon Rovers.

Finale of awesome Genesee Theater performance, 2012.

These kids get an immense amount of credit, for performing the fourth show of the day with as much energy as the first.  Kicks as high for twenty people in the audience as 1200.  Whispering start counts and encouragement to the younger dancers, some doing their first shows. Cheering for their partners.  Some (yes, you Breda) announcing shows.  Changing plans and costumes on the fly as shows change mid-stream.

People may put away their green shirts, green beer, green beads, shamrock hats until next year,  but the Irish dancers keep up with the hop-two-threes until the next show.  The countdown to my final year of March madness begins now.  C

PS.  Since people have asked, Tara is a little blond right behind the banner in the top pic, on the right in the middle pic, and the “boy” second from the right in the final shot.


2 thoughts on “Confessions of an Irish Dance Mom

  1. Maureen

    Love your story. As a mom with two dancers, I relish the moments of them being young, but look forward them growing up with their McNulty family. It’s only been a few years of dance, only two parades under our belt, but it’s going by too fast. I don’t look forward to the day when it all comes to a screeching halt. You’re right that this is the life of an Irish dance mom. I can relate to nearly all of it! Thanks for sharing!

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