Stepping onto the stage: Mercy’s own champion Irish step dancer


Junior Sarah Dwyer will be going to Nationals this summer to compete against some of the best Irish dancers in the country (Photo Credit: Alana Sullivan).

While most students may be relaxed and comfortable in the silence of a library or an empty room, junior Sarah Dwyer finds peace in a different setting.

“The studio feels safe,” said Dwyer. “It’s kind of like how when you’re little and you think the monsters can’t get you if you’re under the covers. That’s what my studio feels like.”

Dwyer is speaking of her dance studio, where she doesn’t practice ballet or tap but Irish stepdancing three to four times a week for two hours a day. This does not include the countless hours Dwyer puts into practicing outside of her studio time. Dwyer, currently one of the top dancers in her age group in the country, started her dancing career 10 years ago.

Several of Dwyer’s older siblings had done Irish dance, and typical of little siblings, she wanted “to be like the big girls.” So she asked her mom for lessons while attending a St. Patrick’s Day festival. Unlike her siblings, Dwyer didn’t stop there.

“My first competition was [in] June of 2006, and I got first, first, and third in three different dances,” said Dwyer. “I kind of just fell in love with it and never stopped.”

Today, Dwyer dances at Tim O’Hare’s School of Irish Dance in Plymouth. Dwyer loves that she can develop some of her own choreography. She challenges herself to mesh both the graceful aspects of a dance with the strong, muscular ones. She also likes to help design her dresses, each of which is one of a kind. One thing Dwyer loves the most about Irish dance is the strong and close bond she has formed with many dancers, leaving her with a network of friends that spans the globe.

“In a group chat we’ve got girls from Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Missouri, Maryland, and Connecticut. There are two girls from England and one from Australia also,” said Dwyer. “I love getting to know all these people because we all have such a strong bond through dance.”

Dwyer’s most recent competition was the Wisconsin Dairyland Feis in January, which helped determine whether or not she would go to Nationals. Dwyer received first place in the first round, the second round, and the overall score. Her high scoring performance also moved her up to the highest level of competition (Open Championship) and qualified her for Nationals this summer, which will be in Providence, Rhode Island in early July.

“I was coming out of a string of competitions where I wasn’t doing as well as I would have liked. I remember standing there with my mom, and she was holding my shoulders as they called my name,” said Dwyer. “She gave me this massive hug, and I was so excited; I didn’t really believe it at first.”

Dwyer is not sure if she will continue dancing past her freshman year of college. She is, however, considering getting her Gaelic Teagascóir Choimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha (TCRG): the Irish dancing teaching certificate. For now though, Dwyer is utterly happy simply losing herself in her passion.