Dancing in the Dome • How Irish Dancing helped me to become a Rose

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In her latest blog post, Dublin Rose Maria Coughlan has written about how her background in competitive Irish Dancing helped her get the most out of her experience in the Rose of Tralee Festival. From her initial decision to apply, through local selection events in Dublin, judges interviews and on to the International Festival in Tralee live on RTE Television, she describes how lessons learned over many years in countless dancing competitions stood to her, up to and including those famous foot undeez! 

Her post is re-published below. See the original article here.

This summer has been an absolute whirlwind, I simply do not know where is the best place to begin. The Rose of Tralee International Festival has had the most amazing impact on my life, one that is totally unique and has no parallel. Through this experience I have been able to make many new friends, see places I never imagined seeing, meet people I never thought I would meet, and find a side of myself I never knew was there. Although I have so many more wonderful things to say about the whole experience, I want to focus mainly on the experience from a dancer’s point of view, because this is after all, a blog about Irish dancing.

In this blog post I want to address the symbiotic mutualistic relationship between the Rose of Tralee experience and my background as an Irish dancer. In other words, my experience as a dancer helped me to overcome some of the challenges that come with entering the Rose of Tralee, just as much as the Rose of Tralee festival helped me to overcome some of the challenges that come with being a dancer. Let me elaborate…

Maria Coughlan Dublin Rose

My background in Irish dancing played a major part in how I carried myself and dealt with all of the nerves that came with the various experiences in Tralee. There were many things to be enjoyed of course – I have endless memories! – but there were also many challenges and things to be nervous about, for example interviews with judges, local radio stations and journalists, meeting new people for the first time, and of course, walking out on to the Dome stage to be interviewed and to perform on live national television! For me personally, I’m not entirely sure how I would have done all of those things if it weren’t for my 19 years of Irish dancing experience. My background in Irish dancing helped me to channel my inner performer and not let the nerves get to me.

Many people have since asked me was I nervous before I walked on stage, and the answer will always be ‘yes, of course I was nervous!’ But I was able to calm those nerves the same way I would have before a dancing competition, long enough for me to be able to get myself out on that stage and start speaking to Dáithí. Once I was out there, I immediately relaxed, just like all of the other Roses had described. This was similar to a dancing competition, in which my nerves would have peaked right before I danced, but once I got out on the stage the nerves would disappear and the excitement and adrenaline would take over, therefore allowing me to enjoy the performance.

Having grown up with Irish dancing as my passion of choice, I eventually learned to take control of my worries and fears and channel them into a positive energy. I learned to appreciate me for me. Being surrounded by so many amazing and inspiring women down in Tralee, it wasn’t difficult to feel inadequate at times. Each woman had something so special and unique about them that it sometimes made you wonder how you were lucky enough to be there with them. But once again I was able to tap into lessons I had learned through Irish dancing in order to counteract any self-doubt that would creep in. I remembered that in the same way that every dancer has their own unique style, strengths and techniques, every woman in Tralee including myself had something unique about them. I was enabled to realise that the Rose of Tralee is not only about appreciating the skills and talents of other women, it’s also about appreciating your own skills and talents. It truly is an opportunity to learn to accept yourself, and dancers learn to do this all the time.

I will never forget how much I enjoyed being on that stage, speaking to Dáithí and soaking up the atmosphere of friends and family cheering in the audience. And then came the dancing. Dancing on the Dome stage is something I will never forget. In the same way that my dancing experience helped me to deal with challenging aspects of the festival, the festival gave me the opportunity to truly appreciate the passion I had worked so hard for all my life.

When you dance competitively for 19 years you are so focused on your goals and achievements, that it’s easy to forget why you loved dancing in the first place. Dancing as a performer rather than a competitor was the most refreshing feeling in the world. Dancing with the means of entertaining and hearing people clapping along to the music in enjoyment really made me feel the happiness in its purest form. And yes, I’m aware that sounds dreadfully cheesy! But it’s the truth.

Having the opportunity to represent the CRN organisation for all my fellow dancers was a dream come true, and in doing so I really felt extremely proud of everything we’ve all achieved. I am forever grateful to the Rose of Tralee festival for affording me the opportunity to showcase a skill I had worked so hard on, and allowing me to remember all of the important and fundamental reasons as to why it was my passion for so long. I can only hope that I will help to instill this passion in the Irish dancers I teach, and remind them often that dancing is a passion to be appreciated and enjoyed.

And so as I wrap up this post I have one last thing to say. If any dancers out there wish to get involved in the Rose of Tralee but have any doubts about themselves, please remember, your dancing days have taught you so many life-long lessons, and will serve you well in appreciating the differences amongst all of the women and in accepting yourself. And just as much as you would bring to the festival, the festival will also give back to you, as it will remind you why you love the things you love, and why you deserve to enjoy and appreciate everything you do.