Senior Ciara Kingham shares her experience in Irish dance


The Catalyst / Photo courtesy of Ciara Kingham

In honor of Irish American Heritage Month, The Catalyst recognizes longtime Irish dancer, Ciara Kingham, from the Class of 2023 for her dedication to honoring her culture. Kingham has been dancing for over 10 years and has traveled locally, nationally and internationally for competitions, showcasing her skills to audiences everywhere.

“My mom, sister and I have all done Irish dance to stay connected to that culture and to keep it going in our family. Instead of it just being like a DNA part of us, it is a real part of our culture,” expressed Kingham.

Kingham belongs to an Irish dance team based in San Francisco, California, and makes the 45-minute drive to practice three to six days a week, depending on the time of the nearest competition.

“Practices are held to go over your dance routines and to get corrections. Outside of dance practice, you do your own exercises to build strength,” explained Kingham. “Competitions, however, can range from very light to intense competitiveness. But, for the average competition, a lot of preparation goes into it, and you are there all day.”

At these competitions, dancers prepare their costumes, wigs, makeup and oftentimes spray tans in advance to ensure the best visibility on stage. The way that dancers present themselves during their routines plays a crucial role in their performance and the way that they are judged.

Although Kingham has competed at many competitions at the local and national level, her most memorable experiences have been at the World Championships, known as “Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne” or “Worlds” in 2018 and 2019. Worlds is the highest level of competition that an Irish dancer can participate in, and qualifying can be incredibly difficult. The environment is intense, yet being surrounded by the top dancers in the world is incredibly rewarding.

“It was amazing. I mean, I would do it all over again if I could. It’s extremely stressful, and nobody is messing around,” said Kingham. “It is all the best dancers there, and you train incredibly hard for it. It is so stressful, but you get through your first two rounds of performances and hope for a recall to the third round, and then hope to place.”

Aside from the intense competition environment, the cultural element in Irish dance is incredibly important. Although it is a tradition to celebrate Irish culture, dancers by no means have to be Irish just to be involved.

“I think it’s really cool that it’s expanded into a sport that anybody can do. I mean, at competitions I go to there are dancers from Mexico, Canada, U.S., Africa, Russia. It is not something that you have to be Irish to do, which I love. I think that’s really interesting, but you meet a lot of cool people.”

Although Kingham will not be able to continue dancing with her team in college, she hopes that Irish dance will remain a part of her life in other ways.