Jiggin’ to the Southern Region Oireachtas


Ava Proehl at the Southern Region Oireachtas

Emily Peacher

Irish Dancing is a form of traditional dance that has been around for hundreds of years, encompassing solo and group dancing. Ava Proehl is a junior at Freedom High School who has been doing Irish dancing for nine years.

“Irish dancing is such a unique sport, and I love all the opportunities and connections that it’s given me over the years,” Proehl said.  

This year, Proehl attended the Southern Region Oireachtas, which was hosted in Houston, TX on Dec. 1-2. This specific Oireachtas held all of the states in the area from Maryland to Texas to Florida. Oireachtas is a Gaelic word that means gathering, yet for Irish dancers, it is their regional championships.

“This was my sixth Oireachtas,” Proehl said. “I did two teams as well as a solo. Our teams danced on Saturday and my solo was on Sunday.”

Proehl’s team trains nearly year-round for the Southern Region Oireachtas, but August is when their training intensifies. This competition requires intense training due to the long competition schedule, starting at 8 a.m., beginning with the hard shoe round, the soft shoe round, and then a full day of waiting to be called back for recalls. Those who are recalled will have to dance again, which is called a “set” at the Oireachtas.

“Each dancing has a unique set to unique music,” Proehl said. “The one I danced to was to tune called ‘Vanishing Lake.’”

During Proehl’s solo performance, there are two rounds, hard shoe and soft shoe. Hard shoe is a form of tap, yet it is on pointe with thicker fiberglass, which makes lots of noise. Soft shoe is made out of the same material as a ballet slipper, yet the Irish dancing soft shoes are black and lace up all the way.

Proehl’s solo competition placed 48th, which may not sound high to the average person, but there were about 150 people competing in Proehl’s age group.

“My 4Hand, which was my team with four people, placed 13th out of 75 teams,” Proehl said. “This was great for us because it meant we were top 15! We were 16th last year so we were glad we improved.”

Although the Southern Region Oireachtas sounds very chaotic and hectic, the Irish dancers spend all year looking forward to this final moment to put their skills to the test.

“I honestly don’t have time to stress or worry about anything else because my whole focus and soul goes into one thing… dance,” Proehl said.

Proehl’s 4Hand team