Artist Spotlight: Smial taps into competitions


Caroline Cooney

Senior Casey Smial performs an Irish dance routine wearing hard shoes. She has been Irish dancing ever since she was six years old.

As a child, senior Casey Smial used to go with her mother to the Emerald Isle Ceili to see experienced Irish step dancers. Watching the older dancers, Smial was amazed and could not take her eyes off.

“When I was six my mom decided to put me in Irish dancing because I was obsessed with it,” Smial said. “I was really shy walking into [my first] class. We [got] into line and my dance teacher at the time would go over steps with us and that’s [it]. I just learned Irish dancing for an hour and a half then I left.”

Smial’s “obsession” with Irish tap and step dancing didn’t waver, and by age seven she was dancing competitively. “You get drawn into it, and then you buy the dress and the wig. Before I knew it, I was flying to Atlanta and Dallas for regionals. I had to start practicing more.”

Since, her dance schedule has grown to more extensive hours. “Every Monday during the week, I leave right after school and go to practice for 3-5 hours. On Thursdays, I have class, but it’s only 2 hours. Leading up to major competitions, I’m practicing, with or without a teacher, every day in my basement,” Smial said.

Smial’s regional competitions take place every December. “The competitive side of it is hard. [With] Irish judges, one day they might like you, one day they might not. I’ve gone through periods where I’m just not placing. I’ve put in so much time and commitment and not getting the results you want [is] devastating,” Smial said.

But the difficulties of competitive Irish dancing for Smial do not come without reward. “It’s taught me a lot of things like to never give up. It’s also taught me time management and dedication, and not to let your failures define you,” Smial said.

Smial has also formed lasting friendships with people from all over the world.

“When someone outside of dancing looks at Irish dancing, immediately, they see the big wigs, expensive dresses, the tanning… they see pageantry. They don’t realize how hard it is and how many hours you put in the studio,” Smial said. “The fake tanning and stuff is just for show, but really we’re training like professional athletes.”

Nick Miller is an Entertainment Editor for The Patriot and