Updated: Apr 13, 2020
For many Irish dancers, the people you dance with are the closest friends you could ask for. They’re often with you through the highs and the lows, and they’re the only people you’ve never had to text and say “sorry I can’t, I have dance.” But what happens when your best friend is your competitor? How do you stay friends through feis results? We’ve interviewed two sets of dance friends who shared their experiences and best advice on competing against your friends. Ella and Kylie, U14, dance for different schools, while Aisling, Ava, and Leila, U18, all dance together both in class and at feises. We got to talk to them about how they navigate Friendship & Feising!
TT: How long have you and your friend(s) competed against each other?
Ella: Kylie and I have been competing against each other for a really long time—we even went to our first feis together! Leila: We weren’t always at the same level, especially in the beginning, but after we were all in PC around 2013 it’s been neck and neck since.
TT: Do you and your friend spend time together outside of Irish dance? Do you feel this makes it harder to compete against them?
Ava: We spend a lot of time together outside of dance, and I think just the opposite! Spending time together outside of dance has helped me get to know them better, and we’ve become extremely close to the point where I think competing against them is actually easier because we truly want to see each other succeed.
Ella: Kylie and I hang out, have sleepovers, and even go on family vacations together! When Kylie danced at Worlds in 2017, our families took a big Ireland trip together! Spending time with Kylie does not make it harder to compete with her. In fact, it reminds me what a great person she is, and how much she deserves to do well.
TT: How do you and your friend deal with tough results (or, how do you move past it if one of you places better than the other)?
Aisling: We’re all so truly happy and supportive for each other it doesn’t get to us. Ava: Honestly as cliché as it sounds we are such good friends I think that we are genuinely so thrilled or each other when we watch each other accomplish our goals that it’s almost impossible for us to sulk about our own result because we sincerely want each other to succeed. Ella: I am always super proud of Kylie, as a friend. However, as a competitor, I can be disappointed in my own results—but this doesn’t mean I am bitter about her accomplishments! Sometimes we just need some time alone after tough results, but after that, we’re always extremely excited for each other.
TT: Do you think competing against a friend has made you a better sport, win or lose?
Ava: Competing alongside my friends has had me on both sides of that scenario, which has taught me how it feels to be on either side and how to deal with the emotions that come with my results, good or bad, while also respecting the emotions my friends are feeling.
Leila: When I dropped in placement at the Oireachtas because of a sprained ankle and Aisling qualified for worlds, I wasn’t happy with my results but I was so thrilled for Aisling that it didn’t even matter.
Ella: I definitely think that competing against friends has taught me a lot about how to win and lose kindly. Whenever I do better than my friends, I am sure to try and mind their feelings while still celebrating. I used to just try to not hurt my friend’s feelings, but that made me feel as if my accomplishments were not as good as they actually were; it’s a very complicated balance. I am also a great loser. I go have my little meltdown, then remind myself my friends 100% deserve their good results, and what they do has nothing to do with me. You are really only competing for yourself; not to do better than someone else. You are trying to dance your best dance that day.
TT: What is your number one piece of advice for people who compete against their friends?
Aisling: Always celebrate your friends’ successes, even if you didn’t reach your own goals. You improve with each other because you’re there to support each other. Friends push you to do better because they know you can—as a dancer and as a person.
Ava: Never forget the love you have for your friends is worth so much more than the ranking from a judge on any given day! It’s so important to surround yourself with people you truly love and have bonded with, because then it becomes completely natural to be as happy for their successes as you would be for your own.
Leila: Never lose sight of what’s important when you dance. My friends are the reason I dance, and I would never sacrifice that over a result.
Ella: My number one advice is to celebrate everyone. Remember, you can be sad for yourself, but that does not mean that you can’t be happy for someone else.
Thank you to Aisling, Ava, Ella, and Leila for your heartfelt responses! Happy training!
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