We just returned from the North American Irish Dance Championships held this year in Vancouver.  Thirty-five-hundred dancers and 20,000 family and friends descended on the city for a week full of Olympian artistry.  The gorgeous venue overlooked the Pacific Ocean and the first thing I noticed after the salt-water breeze was the air of expectation.  It was palpable.

There were dancers attending their first major competition.  There were dancers who have graced international stages countless times before.  There were dancers who hoped to recall for a medal.  There were those who wanted to place higher than they had in the past.  There were competitors who yearned to qualify for the Worlds.  There were those who hoped to make it through their dances in spite of an injury.

And Irish dancing is a judged sport.  So everyone must remember that it’s not who crosses the finish line first, but who earns the notice of human judges on a given day.  So many factors come into play.  And success is defined differently for everyone.

Both my sons danced their hearts out.  My 16-year-old did not recall for a medal but ended up 18th in his age group in North America.  My 14-year-old did recall for a medal and placed 14th in his age group.  In the end, what they will remember decades into the future is the friendships, the perseverance and the adventures in a new land.

When in British Columbia we saw bike paths on steep highways, evergreen trees growing on the side of a cliff, tree trunks wider than a car and mountain peaks higher than the clouds.   The perfect environment to host Irish dancers.  Fearlessly taking paths that are lightly-trodden.  Blazing trails.  Gripping the side of their mountainous goals as they claw their way to the top.  Growing in their sport on a strong trunk of practice, dedication and belief in dreams.

The choreography and athleticism in Irish dance is breathtaking.  But the journey to becoming more of yourself is what takes your breath away.



  • Siobhan Kelleher Kukolic

    Mother-of-three. Freelance writer. Author. #HuffPost blogger. Believer in dreams. www.siobhankukolic.com

    Siobhan Kukolic is a storyteller at heart. She writes to inspire the belief that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see. She recently published her first book, available on Amazon and Indigo. The Treasure You Seek is about following your heart, believing in yourself beyond reason, embracing failure and knowing that you are enough. It includes inspirational stories about famous failures, cultural icons, world leaders and regular folks like you and me. The goal is to remind us that we have all we need to be the change we wish to see. A perfect read for graduates from elementary school through university, people starting their career, changing jobs or retiring, friends going through a medical crisis, new parents, empty nesters and anyone who wants to be inspired. She started her career as a copywriter working on campaigns for organizations including Esso, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Grand & Toy, Labatt, and SC Johnson. While raising her kids, she volunteered as co-chair of her school council for seven years, helped get eight 20-foot maples donated for an eco-classroom and co-ordinated the building of a school peace garden with 115 donated trees and shrubs for Earth Day. She co-founded a not-for-profit movement called Blueberry Shark, named after a healthy fruit and the only animal that doesn't get cancer, with a mission to create the healthiest kids in the world. By providing a voice for those who didn't have one, she rallied enough media attention to help crowd-fund $105,000 in two weeks to pay for an unfunded drug for a mother of two dying of stage-four brain cancer. She also used media attention to nudge the government to change drug coverage policy right before an election and get a $360,000 a year drug covered for a 12-year-old cystic fibrosis patient. Her letters to the editor are frequently published in the National Post and she has represented her neighbourhood by making deputations at city council and the school board. She spends her time blogging, speaking to students and corporations about grit, and juggling the schedules of her three kids as they follow their dreams in competitive Irish dance and ice hockey. www.siobhankukolic.com