5 Years ago, I took a plunge into an adventure where I could not know what to expect at all.
One surprise after the other followed and I really didn't know what hit me when I visited my first Feis in 2012.

Back then, it was my goal to do 'something simple' on heavy shoes. Never could I have imagined that the road to it would be so long, which would also take a lot of pain and perseverance.
I also never would have expected doing 'something simple' on heavy shoes would be so extremely tough.

From 'Competitions? Never!' to my first Feis

When I started dancing, the whole competition-thingy was something for the future. First, let's see how far I could take this.
Eventually, I got to the point I was like 'Feis-ready'. It took me another 3 years before I finally was up for the challenge and decided I wanted to be registered for a competition.

That competition (RTME Feis 2014) one of the biggest possible because of the connection with the European Championships, was absolutely scary. I couldn't have suspected how scary that would be in reality and how much perseverance this (again) would take. I did have my thoughts about it, but going through it in person is far more scary.

If you think the pins and needles only come to the teenagers and people in their twenties: forget it. Also 40 and 50 year old competitors feel the relief when they are safely at the side of the stage again. Yes, even very experienced dancers sometimes have a hard time controlling their nerves.

The feeling of unity is something I immediately saw at the first Feis I visited. Right before the dancers take the stage they talk alot with eachother and they could even be exchanging some dance-steps. Once they have taken the stage, it's all for one. After dancing, hostility is gone and like friends they re-unite (I do think this changes as you get higher up in levels)

Mistake? Well, don't bother

Failing? That still happens. The best thing I learned from making mistakes on competitions is that it happens to everyone, so that includes me. Even the most experienced dancers sometimes go completely blank and though stopping with dancing is one of the worst things you can do at a competition, it happens to them as well. You just can't have it all, all the time.

Did it change you in other ways?

Yes, it sure did. If it isn't the huge respect you get for all those show-dancers out there the first time you put your feet in a pair of heavy shoes, than smaller things surely changed me.

Cutting my nails is one of them. I never really was that regular with cutting them. It never lead to excesses, but missing a week was more of an exception to the rule.
If I do that now, I will surely pay the price as both in my soft and in my hard shoes, the nails will be pushed down which is unpleasant to say the least.

Something else that comes to my mind is general caution in daily life. In Amsterdam, many canal-roads cross main-roads at some point. Those crossing are guarded with signals, but as traffic sometimes is nowhere to be found, you easily jaywalk.
Since I dance, I don't do that as often as I used to and when I do it, I tend to look more closely if I can do it safely. A life without dance is almost impossible to imagine and I don't want to think about having to miss that because of some stupid accident.

The biggest change is also one that has gone very slowly as it is a mental one. Dancing did wonders for my self-confidence and though I came very close to giving up on my first competition, I managed to pull through. That really got my confidence up and since then, I feel more like I'm a 'real' Irish dancer.

In connection with self-confidence is my posture. Without knowing it myself, the 'shoulders back and chest up front' has done wonders for my appearance. I tend to stand more straight and my shoulders are more to my back and relaxed.

So, you're an Irish dancer!

Well... here we hit the area of modesty!
Though I'm getting close to the point where I dare to say it like that, I still feel like 'well, not really'.

This mainly comes down to my tendency to compare myself to others. After weekly dance-class is over and I sometimes stay for a while, I whitness the girls that take their class in the next hour. Impressive firework comes out of their legs and with sheer impressive loudness, they slap their feet to the floor and with incredible grace and elegance, they hover over the floor in their soft shoes.

But, let's be fair. Comparing myself to experienced Intermediate dancers and a European Champion is no comparison at all.
I would be better off if I am little more proud of what I have achieved so far. Take an average person from the streets and big chance he or she will have a very hard time copying me.
So, eventually I will come to the point where I can honestly and truly say I'm an Irish dancer.