Whitefish Bay Irish dancers Kyra Fox and Mara Peterson achieved a success some girls who dance may only dream about. Both girls, age 17, have earned the honor of competing at the World Irish Dance Championships in London.
"It's every Irish dancers dream to go to World's," Fox said, who started Irish dancing at the age of six.
Mara Peterson started Irish dancing at the age of four. She was drawn into dancing because of her family's interest in it.
Peterson said that her parents wanted to see her perform the folk dances on stage — to be one of the girls seen in parades and in performances — adorned in the traditional A-line, hand-embroidered dress with long hair coiled in ringlets, kicking and hopping to the skirl of a bagpipe jig.
Fox and Peterson will be showcasing their dance routines throughout this week to approximately 20,000 audience members and judges.
They are competing against nearly 200 dancers in their age category. Over all, more than 5,000 male and female dancers will be showing off their skills with the hope of winning a World Champion title, according to the event web site.
Started for fun
When both girls started Irish dancing, they thought it would be just another fun activity like ballet or soccer. Neither girl knew at the time how they would fall in love with it.
As the girls grew older, they realized that if they wanted to compete and win, it would be solely up to them — to work hard at it. And they did.
Peterson completed last November in the Midwest Championship of Irish Dance, which qualified her to dance at the World Championships.
Fox competed last July with dancers from all over North America and internationally in the North American Irish Dance Competition in Anaheim, Calif., where she qualified for the world competition.
The girls accomplished their success "with hard work and perseverance over many years," said Sean Beglan, teacher, professional Irish dancer and owner of Beglan Academy of Irish Dance in Glendale.
This year, Beglan Academy had eight dancers who qualified to go to the World Championships in categories ranging from age 11 through over 21 years of age. Beglan has been the girls' teacher.
Both girls acknowledged how their dance teachers inspired and pushed them to work harder, especially on technical aspects of their dance steps.
These technical matters, such as turning their feet out while dancing, and increasing toe height and toe points, which create prominent arches, are core skills judges assess during competitions.
Fox acknowledged she needed to change her attitude to combat her nervousness and the sleepless nights that have plagued her before competitions.
"I had to work hard and work smart," Fox said. "I sailed through the younger levels ... now, I have to not self-criticize. It takes a toll on dancing. I need to build myself up, change my attitude and try to make the steps."
Peterson also admitted to succumbing to pressures on her journey.
"My friends moved up to the next class. In order for me to get there, I had to work my basics," she said.
The girls' determination paid off, according to Beglan.
"I am happy to see their reward for their hard work," Beglan said. "Trusting on their part ... to stick and continue to practice."
The support the girls received from their teachers and parents as well as fellow dancers made their efforts worthwhile.
"The support that made the difference was from my teacher definitely," Fox said. "My dancing friends saw good in my dancing when I didn't."
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