For 12 years, Neuqua Valley High School Sophomore Elyse Smith has danced her way around Naperville and around the world with the renowned Trinity Academy of Irish dance.
“Irish dance means to me, it’s really the world. I have been training ever since I was 3 years old. It’s been a passion of mine,” said Smith.
Her mother, Julie, would agree. “She really loves performing. She would not give that up for anything and that’s led to some terrific opportunities for her. She danced in France last year and Spain this summer with Trinity. She’s been on the Jerry Lewis telethon. She danced half time at the Bulls game,” said Julie.
But for as much as Elyse likes performing, she’s equally passionate about the competition side of Irish dance. She’s a seasoned competitor and has placed top ten at regional and national championships.
“She’s a tremendously hard worker. She’s amazing to work with because she is so hard working. She corrects things right away, takes criticism with a grain of salt and she is just a really great person,” said Deirdre Mahoney, Smith’s Irish Dance teacher.
Smith is part of an elite group of dancers from around the world that will travel to Dublin, Ireland next month for the World Irish Dance Championship to compete to be the world’s best.
“The World Championships in Irish dancing we compare to the Olympics level. So it’s a very small percentage of Irish dancers that actually make it to the World Championship,” said .
Smith trains more than 30 hours a week to compete as a soloist and on a team. It’s that extensive training, precision timing and attention to every last intricate detail that could mean gold for Smith. But she admits she’s just thrilled to be going.
“Only 15 kids in my age group in the Midwest are going. So I feel really honored,” said Smith.
It’s an honor that has paid off for Smith in the past. In 2008, she won gold with her Trinity Dance Team at Worlds. Now she hopes to bring home that team gold again and one for herself as a soloist.
“I am just so excited for the competition. You might get nervous the day of but you just have to keep thinking about the journey that got you there and all the hard work you put in and how it’s really going to pay off when you’re there,” said Smith.
But for Elyse’s mom, all that hard work and competition has already paid off. “Elyse amazes me every day with her commitment and her achievement, how she balances her life. I couldn’t be happier with my daughter,” said Julie.
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