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Camryn Harris ’24 reveals impact of Irish dancing career

Camryn Harris ’24 dances her way across the world; she participated in many local competitions at the age of five to get ready for the world competitions she attends now. (Photo contributed by Camryn Harris ’24)

Five-year-old Camryn Harris ’24 stares in awe at the Irish dancer moving across the screen, already picturing herself dancing to the beat of the music as the traditional footwork becomes more and more familiar to her. She sees a future: one where she’s standing on a bright stage, earning medals for her hard work. 

After 14 years of Irish dancing at the Sheeaun Academy of Irish Dance and the world-renowned Doherty Petri School of Irish Dance, as well as placing in several international competitions, Harris has developed a passion that remains deep-rooted in her identity. 

“[I started] participating in local feiseanna (Feis) [which are] local dance competitions usually held in high schools or other locations,” Harris said. “I won several ceili competitions (traditional irish group dances) at the Oireachtas (the New England regional competition held annually in November) while also competing in traditional sets.”

Coming from an Irish family, Harris was influenced in many ways to start Irish dancing. However, one of her biggest influences was an episode of “Sesame Street” where they featured an Irish dancer. She watched the episode, and then proceeded to beg her mom for dance lessons. 

 Her lifelong passion for her sport allows her to discover new ways to balance life and school to make time for competitive Irish dancing.

“I’ve found a way to balance my training,” Harris said, “[to keep me] placing on the same level or better than I had in the past, while also being able to be involved at school and [as] the captain of the sailing team.”

That time does not go unrewarded. Harris competes on the international level through competitions in Dublin, Glasgow and other locations across The UK and Ireland. She also will be preparing for the North American Nationals in Dallas, Texas this year. 

Training never stops for Harris; after one event, she trains for the next one soon after. For any major conception she has to practice at the studio four to five days of the week.

While the classes are two hours, the 45 minute drive to her studio in Bethel, Connecticut and back is additionally time consuming. 

Each class starts by focusing on core and strength training usually through pilates, barre and cross fit training, and they end the class with intense stamina drills. 

“Stamina is the most critical part of class because it’s what ensures we’re stage ready so we don’t get tired while competing,” Harris said.

This time commitment and training that Harris puts in helps her soak up the spotlight, as she got seventh place at North American Nationals and ranked 44th at the World Championship level in 2024. 

“I am also a six time world qualifier (after qualifying for nationals and regionals),” Harris said, “and only the top 10% of Irish dancers make it to the world championship.”

It’s definitely sad [to stop competing] because it’s closing a chapter of my life that’s been so crazy, but I’ll keep dancing [on the] traditional side of Irish dance rather than the glam of major competitions.

— Camryn Harris ’24

Harris is taking a step back from competitive dance to go to Villanova for college, but she still will dance recreationally. Also, the memories of her experience will be with her forever. 

“It’s definitely sad because it’s closing a chapter of my life that’s been so crazy,” Harris said. “But I’ll keep dancing [on the] traditional side of Irish dance rather than the glam of major competitions.”

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