Irish Dancing at the Highest Levels: Grace Keane


Imagine you are performing on stage in front of 4500 people, some being your opponents, and there are judges evaluating your every move 

VHS junior Grace Keane doesn’t have to imagine it. Grace has traveled to places like Ireland and Canada to perform at world championships for Irish dance. 

Grace started dancing when she was three years old.  Her mom and her aunt have owned their own Irish dance school, the Denogla Academy of Irish Dance, since 1992. Irish dance is a heavy commitment, which is something Grace has had to balance with other things she enjoys over the years. 

Anyone who isn’t familiar with the atmosphere of the sport may assume it’s an easy job, but it’s anything but that. Grace says that at the top level dancers practice seven days a week for three to four hours a day, and travel to Europe every year to compete at top competitions like the world championships.  It is also encouraged that dancers take up another sport to stay in shape, on top of dancing.  Grace likes to go on runs to stay in shape for the sport, and also ran cross country for awhile.

Grace is 47th in the world, 17th in North America and 8th in the region in her age group. The groups are categorized by age and gender. These high placings all come with a cost, though.

“It’s never been easy time managing with dance, there will be a lot of nights I come home super late and am too tired to finish my homework. I’ve gotten better over the years of trying to manage my time and energy better but it is still a challenge to this day.” 

Last spring she traveled to Belfast, Ireland to compete against girls who were ranked top in the world but she still managed to rank 47th out of 200 girls. Even though this is a very high ranking, Grace is still pushed to be the best of the best since she is the coach’s daughter.  She says she doesn’t love the sport all the time since it can get toxic and stressful seeking validation even when she is putting in her all. She tries her hardest in the sport but sometimes it isn’t enough for her mother and that could put a lot of stress on her on top of school and other things. Dance can mentally challenge her but she always finds a way to push through the challenges in the sport.  

Grace says she “will always have a love for the sport” but over time it gets hard to manage and can become stressful for a teenage girl balancing many other things. As of now, she still dances at her mom’s  studio with her cousin by her side and friends she has made through the sport.