This past Saturday, the University of Michigan’s Irish dance group, Léim Irish Dance, had its 2015 show. It was my last performance with Léim. I’m a senior, after all. I’m getting old. But more than nostalgia for the group as it stands, I’m finding more and more that this performance makes me miss competing.
I remember working away at my own hair and makeup since I was about twelve years old, inspired to do so by the fact that I didn’t trust my mother to do my eyeliner without stabbing me in the eye. (She only did it once.) Honestly, I owe a ton to Michelle Phan’s YouTube videos for that. Young middle-school me couldn’t have learned how to do her Feis makeup without those priceless videos.
I remember how it felt each time I got a new solo dress. My first one came from Ireland. My dance teacher at the time had brought it back from Ireland after traveling there to see some of the big girls compete at Worlds. After that, every single solo dress I wore was made by my mother. I could feel the love encircling me, could remember every hour spent helping her design, cut, and model each piece of each dress. They’re a part of me. I can hold up my blue dress, or my red dress, and say “I went to the All-Irelands with this one. And I danced at Nationals in this one.” They hold so many memories.
I remember how it felt to walk into the bathroom at a Feis – to see the little girls get excited to see me. I remember seeing my face in the reflection, my round cheeks surrounded by the black curls of my wig, all of my features hyper-accentuated so that they could be seen on the stage. My face wasn’t mine, yet it was.
I remember how it felt to dance onstage. I remember soaring, and feeling beautiful and strong in a way I didn’t anywhere or anytime else. I was a Celtic warrior princess for those brief minutes. It was addicting. Nothing could stop me. Nothing could hold me down. For those few minutes, I felt invincible.
Léim Irish Dance revived some of that Celtic warrior princess in me, but never fully. It’s different when you have something to lose – when you have something to work for, someone to beat. I wasn’t trained for twelve years of my life to just perform – I was trained to win.
Oh, to be young again.