Clicking her way to the top

Skyler Kasselmann, Arts Editor

More than 250,000 people in America regularly participate in Irish Dancing. One of Mount Pisgah’s very own students, junior Olivia Cook, dances for Drake School of Irish Dance and participates in competitions worldwide. She has qualified for the World Championships for five years and has placed in the top five in the southern region.

Her interest sparked after watching an episode of “The Wiggles” when she was just four years old.

“In one of their Christmas edition movies, they had Irish dancing and I fell in love with it.”

Cook attends dance classes three nights on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights for a total of nine hours per week. There are also extra classes in the weeks leading up to Regionals as more time is needed to prepare. In addition to class time, Cook practices at home. She said that “the athleticism and the training that goes into preparing for competitions is enormous.”

In Irish Dance, competitions are called “feis,” coming from the Gaelic word that means festival. The competitions are a part of why Cook loves Irish Dancing.

“When you put so much hard work and hours into something that you love, [being] rewarded feels really great,” says Cook. “Even when you do not get the placement that you hoped for, it teaches you to be humble and support the other dancers.”

On competition days, participants have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get dressed and be ready for the busy day ahead. Cook compares a competition to a beauty pageant because each dancer wears a wig, heavy makeup, a blinged out dress, and even a spray tan which completes the ensemble.

“Custom solo dresses are heavily sought after and many Irish dance dress companies have waiting lists that are very difficult to get onto.” It is important to choose your dress carefully because they are very expensive and most dancers buy a dress once each year.

“Buying a dress is very similar to buying a car, because once purchased, the value drops significantly, she says.

In addition, there are two styles of dance shoes. One is a black leather shoe that laces up and is called a soft shoe and the other is called a hard shoe which is used for dancing “en pointe.”

There are four types of Irish solo dances: Reel, Slip Jig, Hornpipe and Treble Jig. Reel and Slip Jig are danced in the soft shoe and are more graceful. The Hornpipe and Treble Jig are danced in hard shoe and make noise when dancing and are used to create different rhythms.

“As you get to the highest level, open champion, you also dance a routine by yourself, which is choreographed for you based on your strengths and weaknesses.”


Family relationships are an immense part of Cook’s dancing. Her two younger sisters, Amelia and Alexis, dance as well and are extremely supportive. They both became interested in dance by watching Cook perform and started to dance soon after.

She is grateful for what her parents sacrifice financially and personally for her by and her sisters to have the opportunity to dance. Victoria Cook, Olivia’s mom, coaches her daughters on technique and presentation, as well as drives them to their practices.

Olivia hopes to continue dancing after graduating from high school because of her passion for the sport. She also has many friends that have continued to dance after graduation.

“I am not sure if I want to perform professionally, as I want to become a doctor when I am older, but I would like to become a certified Irish dance teacher as I love the Irish dance community.”