Pittsburgh's World Champion Irish Dancer

Name: Colleen O'Connor; Age: 16; Lives in: Shadyside



Colleen O'Connor

PM: How long have you been Irish dancing?
CO: 9 years
PM: Are you Irish?
CO: Yes, I am very Irish! My dad is 100 percent.
PM: How did you get into Irish dancing?
CO: When I was little, we would always go to see shows with Irish dancing at the Irish Festival and other places around Pittsburgh. My dad, who is really interested in Celtic culture, encouraged me and my sister to take lessons.
PM: Where do you take lessons?
CO: I attend Burke-Conroy School of Irish Dance here in Pittsburgh, where my teachers are wonderful. One of my teachers Theresa Burke travels to Pittsburgh from Cleveland once a week to give lessons and has been teaching Irish dance for more than 50 years.
PM: How much time do you dedicate to dancing each week?
CO: Before a major competition we have dance class three to four times a week for 2 hours, and then I usually practice on my own for about an hour every day.
PM: How often do you compete?
CO: My family and I travel to around 15 competitions a year. We have traveled to Killarney, Ireland, for the All-Ireland Championships, to Nashville, Tenn., for the National Championships and all over the eastern U.S. for feisanna (competitions). I’ll be traveling to Glasgow, Scotland, at the end of March for the World Irish Dance Championships.
PM: What has been one of your favorite competitions?
CO: My favorite competition was the All-Ireland Championships because it was my first time competing overseas. It was so exciting and I loved Ireland.
PM: Do you perform locally?
CO: We do performances all around the city, one of my favorites being at the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown.
PM: Do you enjoy performing?
CO: I love to perform because I love seeing people in the crowd really enjoying it.
PM: What do you like most about Irish dancing?
CO: I love traveling to so many different places and meeting people from all over the world. I also love the way the music and dancing seem to make everyone come alive.
PM: What sort of gear do you need as an Irish dancer?
CO: There are two types of Irish shoes we wear: Ghilles—they’re also called soft shoes—are similar to ballet shoes but with very long laces. Hard shoes are like tap shoes, but instead of a thin metal plate on the bottom, it has a thick fiberglass tip and heel. We also wear curly wigs and our solo dresses, which are usually handmade overseas.
PM: How do feel about attending the World Championships this year?
CO: This is my first time traveling to Scotland, and I’m sure it will be very exciting. It’s also my first World Championships, and there will be about 2,000 dancers attending—so I’m also a little nervous!
PM: As an Irish dancer, what is something you always have to remember to put on a good show?
CO: It’s hard when you’re on the stage to remember everything that you’ve practiced while preparing for the competition, but one thing you always have to remember is to smile!
 

Hot Reads

Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.
8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

Hoping to take a leaf-peeping road trip? Keep food at the top of your priority list and consult our lineup of eight destinations, most within 150 miles of the city.

The 412

Cameras Roll for ‘The Last Witch Hunter’

Cameras Roll for ‘The Last Witch Hunter’

Although shooting has begun for this flick, plan to catch Vin Diesel and Elijah Wood while they’re out on the town, not during film production.
Carnegie Mellon’s Smart Headlights Aim to Make Life Easier

Carnegie Mellon’s Smart Headlights Aim to Make Life Easier

CMU’s Robotics Institute may help to make nighttime driving a little easier on the eyes.
Put on Your Robe and Head for the Rooftop

Put on Your Robe and Head for the Rooftop

Catch a screening of "The Big Lebowski" — plus grab a White Russian — at this showing, held on top of a downtown parking garage.
Bayardstown Went from 'Lo-Fi Side Project' to 'Business Asset'

Bayardstown Went from 'Lo-Fi Side Project' to 'Business Asset'

Fast Company details how Deeplocal CEO Nathan Martin made something out of (just about) nothing.

Hot Reads

Review: Sienna Mercato

Review: Sienna Mercato

Matthew Porco, one of our Chefs of the Year, designs the menus at Sienna Mercato's downtown establishments.
An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

An Open Letter to Local Sports Reporters

PittGirl has had enough of the criticism of fanatics and asks the media to stop labeling everyone.
Film Noir Fall Fashion

Film Noir Fall Fashion

Fall into autumn with a fashion landscape awash in black, white and nifty shades of gray.
8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

8 Foodie Day Trips (and a Few Weekends, Too)

Hoping to take a leaf-peeping road trip? Keep food at the top of your priority list and consult our lineup of eight destinations, most within 150 miles of the city.
From Field to Fork

From Field to Fork

We put together this dynamic guide to help you find and engage with the region’s sustainable producers of meat, honey, alcohol, fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

Sometimes Your Best Friends in Life Aren't on Facebook

PittGirl wonders if it's still possible to raise kids to be big-hearted people in an age of self-obsession.