Interview With An Irish Dancer

Read about a family of dancers!


courtesy of Clare Padilla

Members of the Padilla family after an Irish dance competition.

You’ve all heard of the von Trapp Family Singers, but have you heard of the Padilla Family Dancers? Most of the Padillas dance; in fact, Mrs. Padilla runs her own dance studio in New Mexico. MODG reporter Maile Stroecker interviewed Clare Padilla, the second oldest in this family of Irish dancers!

How is Irish dancing different from other forms of dance?

Irish Dance is a combination of Ballet and Tap dancing – it involves two different types of shoes called ghillies (which are similar to ballet shoes) and hard shoes (which are like tap shoes.) The major difference, however, is that Irish dancers don’t use their arms. The one exception to this is when dancers perform in groups, which is called ceili dancing.

How many of your family members participate in Irish dance? Does your whole family dance competitively?

All of my family members except for my older brother Isaiah, my dad, and my mom dance (although for a time, the boys did ceili dancing, and my mom did solo dancing). However, my other siblings and I all do solo dancing competitively.

How long have you been dancing?

I have been dancing for about 11 years. I started when I was six because I wanted to be like my mom.

How have you grown as a dancer since you started? What impact do you hope to haveon others through your dancing?

Irish dance has taught me about perseverance, setting goals, and hard work. Without a combination of these three things, I would have given up long ago. (In fact, I almost did a few years back, except my parents wanted me to write a paragraph about why I wanted to quit. I was so lazy that that’s what kept me from quitting!) I always hope that when people watch me dance, they are inspired to achieve their own goals no matter how impossible they are.

How does dancing with your family affect your attitude and outlook? What are the advantages and disadvantages of dancing with your family?

I’ll be honest, when I first started going to class with my siblings, I felt a little intruded on because I was with them constantly (I am homeschooled), so I didn’t really get a break from being around them. Now that I am older and have grown better relationships with them, I don’t think I could survive going to class without them! One advantage that it presents is that we can keep each other accountable! For example, if one person is going on a run, it works to have us all go together since some of us are too young to go alone.

How long do you practice each day?

During a usual competition season, about 1-2 hours every day.

What is it like to participate in dance competitions? How does your faith impact the way you compete?

Clare Padilla dancing (courtesy of Clare Padilla)

Utterly terrifying. Imagine being stuck on an enormous stage with 150 bobby pins sticking into your scalp, high heels taped to your feet, and about 200 people, plus 5 judges, watching your every move and waiting for you to make a mistake. That being said, though, I really feel that my faith in Christ gets stronger with every competition. Praying to the Holy Spirit for a sense of calm, or to Our Lord for strength is my go-to when I’m walking up onto that stage.

What is the hardest part about Irish dance?

For me, the hardest part is probably motivation. Being able to have the strength to roll out of bed at 5 in the morning so that I can practice before a full day of work or school takes a lot of willpower. However, my family is really good at keeping me accountable, which is good.

When your mom decided to open an Irish dance studio, how did that impact you and your family? Was the effect positive or negative?

My parents took on the studio because we broke apart from a different studio that was in another state (so we shared the same name, but had to have teachers fly in and out for some classes). That was really hard on us, so my mom taking the studio on her own shoulders was an amazing thing for the students. For our family, however, it was really hard to have my mom working more on the computer and in classes, but gradually we grew more accustomed to it.

Parting funny stories or tips?

Always make sure your shoe is tied before you start dancing. I didn’t do that one time and it completely flew off while I was doing a trick!