With St Patrick’s Day fast approaching, signs of the iconic holiday are everywhere – shamrocks, the color green and Irish dancers.
Almost everyone has seen Irish dancers in action, and for most, they never fail to impress. It seems almost impossible to be able to dance with just the bottom half of your body, while keeping your hands still. (Maybe that’s because our generation does so much fist-pumping, though.)
Adler Papiernik, 15, a sophomore at Canisius High School, has been Irish dancing since the age of 4. Being one in a handful of male Irish dancers locally, he gives insight into how it works for him as opposed to the girls surrounding him.
“For boys, Irish dancing is completely different,” Adler, who dances with Rince na Tiarna, said. “When you are a beginner and until you get into championships, you compete against girls. When you get into championships, you compete only against boys. In a small feis [competition], you may only have three to five boy dancers. But when you get to majors like the Oireachtas (mid-Atlantic region), nationals and worlds, you may have up to 50 boys that are all experienced and amazing dancers.”
Adler started his dancing career after seeing his sister’s friend perform.
“I begged my mom for a year and a half to let me do it until she finally gave in,” he said. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.”
He now practices anywhere from two to five times a week, depending on his next performance, at the Buffalo Irish Center in South Buffalo.
Adler not only performs but competes as well. The night before a feis, Adler prepares just like any athlete would, with a bowl of pasta and a good night’s sleep. The morning of the competition, he stretches and runs through his dances. He then gets dressed and heads for the stage. In the two minutes that he’s on, Adler is judged on everything from his footwork, to his posture, to his hair.
Last year all of his hard work paid off when he made it to the Worlds in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
In Irish dance, as in any kind of dance, boys may not be as appreciated as girls.
“Most people don’t understand that dancing isn’t only for girls,” Adler said. “It isn’t all about the glitter and dresses. All kinds of dancing requires hard work and discipline. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a time-consuming sport.”
He also reminds others that “girls will always need a partner to dance with!”
Since there are so few male Irish dancers, it would only make sense that those boys get better parts than the girls. But Adler says this isn’t the case.
“The only major thing is that a boy will probably be front and center,” he said.
Within the next couple of days, Adler is bound to be busier than usual. The days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, Adler performs up to 20 shows, including parades. On the big day, however, he does around 10 shows.
“I love dancing on St. Patrick’s Day and going around Buffalo performing for crowds. The only bad part is that my feet hurt the next morning.”
Jane Rose is a junior at Nardin Academy.