A passion for dance

From the young age of two until she was seven, Samantha Dennie danced tap, jazz, ballet, acro, and gymnastics. At age seven, she switched to Irish dancing after attending a free class. It was at her first competition that she describes as a turning point; she placed second, and has “been hooked ever since.”

When asked why Dennie has continued Irish dancing, she divulges, “It’s because of the competition. And I liked going to class seven times a week, five hours a night, working towards a goal; I could feel my muscles hurting so badly that I just wanted to keep pushing.”

This Laurier first-year confesses the difficulty lies in keeping your stamina up and staying dedicated to push yourself because everyone wants to win. Constant concentration is the desired state of mind during this military-style dance, for Irish dancers must keep their feet turned out, toes pointed, knees straight, and arms tucked next to the body, all simultaneously.

Now after 11 years of Irish dancing, Samantha has achieved many awards that other dancers only dream about. She has won the Canadian Championship for Eastern Canadian twice, and has placed in the top four each of the seven times she has competed there. In addition, Dennie placed seventh in the Great British Championship in England, second in the United States and, perhaps most impressively, placed eighth in the world out of 240 girls.

Dennie believes that the biggest misconception about Irish dancers is “That we’re really uptight and stiff just because we dance with our arms down. We know how to have fun too.”

Although Irish dancing isn’t cheap, sparkly dresses are custom-made in Ireland, coming with a hefty price tag of up to $3,000. The types of socks and certified shoes are specific and are only available at the competitions themselves. Curly wigs, makeup, tans, and tiaras become more and more required as girls age and increase their competition level.

“It’s a lot like a pageant competition,” Samantha acknowledges.

Even though she has tried many forms of dance, Samantha admits, “I would love to try ballroom dancing. I think it’s so pretty. It just looks really nice and I like the couple aspect of it too because I’ve always done solo.”

Some may remember Samantha performing during the A-Team’s talent show during Orientation Week for the gold team, where she welcomed the great feeling of dancing in front of a large crowd.

While Dennie admits being asked all the time why she didn’t join anything dance-related recently, she doesn’t regret her decision. Dennie wants to focus on her school work and find a balance to see how dance can fit back into her life.

Dennie realizes that while the costumes, style, and steps have changed to become more intricate, “We still try to keep the culture in it with some traditional steps and still keeping the traditional music.”

When questioned about what she has in her dance bag, Samantha throws her head back and laughs.

“For dance competitions, everything you could think of that could possibly go wrong, we have it in our bag to fix it; from sock glue to keep you socks from falling down to duct tape to hold necklaces down under our dresses if we have to wear them.”

For Dennie, Irish dance is not only a passion, but a way of life.