At only 9 years old a Greendale girl has competed and placed in national Irish dancing competitions and has set her sights to the World of Irish Dancing Championship.
Little did Erin Johnston’s parents know what was going to come when they enrolled their 4-year-old daughter in six introductory classes from Trinity Academy of Irish Dance.
“She ended up taking off and doing really well and just really enjoying it,” said Erin’s mother Danielle Johnston. “That’s how we got started. Some parents say they couldn’t wait to put their kids in Irish dance, but it wasn’t really like that. It was just something for her to socialize and meet other kids her age.”
Erin won her first competition at age 6 and was asked to be on a team for the Midwest Irish Dance Championships. She has placed every year and this fall will be her fourth time competing.
Last year was the first time she competed nationally at the North American Irish Dance Nationals against dancers from all over, including Ireland and Wales. Last summer she placed 15 out 69 competitors and this summer she placed 19 out of 89 competitors.
“It’s not the norm to do all of this at a younger age,” Johnston said. “Other kids usually do all this at an older age.”
Erin loves to compete.
“I really like doing it, because I like to see how good I am and how I can get better at things,” Erin said.
Erin’s competitive drive already has her thinking about the 2014 World Irish Dancing Championship in London. "Worlds" is like the Olympics of Irish dance. She can qualify at age 10 and compete as early as 11. Her mother says it’s definitely a possibility down the road.
“I think the biggest thing that we have noticed is her confidence,” Johnston said. “She likes to compete. She went from crying next to the stage to ‘OK, I love it when there’s three international judges.’”
Erin spends anywhere from 11 hours to three hours a week practicing in classes, as well as in her additional down time. On several occasions she can be seen dancing around and teaching others to dance.
Her mother says that it’s definitely a time and financial commitment for the family. Many times their family trips consist of going to competitions, such as this year in Chicago.
“It’s what she loves and as long as she’s doing it well and enjoying it then we like to do what we can,” Johnston said.
Irish Dance has become a family event with Erin’s two younger sisters also taking part in Irish dancing classes and shows.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to do shows year-round,” Johnson said. “Well, Erin loves to compete so there’s that balance and just picking what your child likes to do.”
It’s not all about dancing and competing for Erin. She has made some great friends along the way.
“I think once she got involved with the teams that’s when it really started taking off for her,” Johnston said. “She met some good friends. The same group of kids has been together for a while.”
Erin’s parents say they have noticed what dancing has done for Erin’s self-confidence and goal-setting abilities.
“To have three girls doing this I’ve really been so happy with their dance school and their teacher and the drillers,” Johnston said. “They have been great role models for the girls. They learn self-confidence and goal setting. It transfers to other parts of their lives.”