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Young Irish dancer has found her step
Practice makes perfect…and if you’re really good, it also earns you trips to Ireland.
Emilee Lowry, 10, daughter of Melissa and Joshua Lowry of Ephrata, has been practicing Irish step dancing since the age of four.
Only a few weeks ago, out of 100 dancers competing in the All Ireland Championship in Belfast, Emilee placed high enough to qualify for the world championship to be held in Dublin, Ireland, this coming April, making a second trip to that country in a year’s time.
The Lowrys were also in Ireland last year for another big competition.
“We were very, very happy,” said Emilee’s mom, Melissa Lowry, after her daughter qualified for the world championship. “It’s very prestigious; to qualify for that is such a great honor. It’s been a really, really good year.”
When she was three years old, Emilee began ballet and tap lessons, but the moment she tried Irish dance, it was love at first step.
“Dancing is really fun and I get to see new things,” Emilee said. “I like to travel and see new places.”
That includes Australia, where Emilee achieved a remarkable second place out of scores of the best Irish dancers in the world during a competition last June.
Her commitment to the dance has brought Emilee a number of significant championships up and down the East Coast, too.
“We kind of get everywhere,” her mom said.
In July, Emilee placed seventh in the nation out of all the Irish dancers in the U.S. that were competing in Orlando, Fla.
Last year at the Oireachtas Mid-Atlantic regional championships, held in Philadelphia, Emilee came in fifth out of 100 dancers.
“This year, she’ll be defending her title, when several hundred Irish dancers come to Philly,” Lowry said.
Emilee is in “open championships,” which is the highest level of competition, her mom said.
“Dancing helps me to feel confident,” Emilee said.
Initially, Emilee was introduced to Irish dancing by Raymond McAreavey, the significant other of Emilee’s grandmother, Mary Hutton.
McAreavey, a native of Ireland, has been a part of the family since the Lowry kids were born and is known as ‘grandpa,’ said Melissa Lowry.
With more championships to strive for, Emilee isn’t resting on her laurels, in fact, she doesn’t seem to rest much at all.
The secret to her success is simply hard work; the 10-year-old practices for hours each day.
“I practice a lot and that really helps me,” Emilee said. “And, I listen to my teachers.”
When she’s not practicing, she’s traveling to her dance class in New Jersey.
Owned and operated by father and son Kevin and Ryan Broesler, The Broesler School of Irish Dancing is considered to be one of the top schools in the nation, Lowry said.
The Lowrys make the two-and-a half hour drive three times a week, then Emilee has practice that can last up to four hours.
“We sound a little crazy, because we drive to New Jersey three days a week,” Lowry said. “She practices six days a week and she loves it. Ever since her first class, she just hit it off and she’s been doing it non-stop ever since.”
A fourth grader at the appropriately-named Highland Elementary School in Ephrata, Emilee maintains an “A” average. Her teachers and principal have been a great support, Lowry said.
Meanwhile, her parents feel bemused and exhilarated at the same time.
“We started her in this and she just started doing fantastic,” Lowry said. “She’s winning multiple top five and top 10 titles and she qualified for the world championship twice, so we feel like we made a good move.”
Emilee’s brother, Nicholas, seven, also takes lessons at the Broesler School, but hasn’t competed in any major competitions yet.
When Emilee competes, she wears a traditionally styled Irish costume, inlaid with Swarovski crystals. The dresses worn by competitors typically cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000, her mother said.
Irish dance is notable because while the feet are flying, the arms are held stationary by the sides, and there’s a reason for that, Lowry said. As the story goes, centuries ago, Irish dance was outlawed, so when soldiers strode by cottages, the folks dancing inside kept their arms by their sides, so it wouldn’t look as though anyone was dancing.
“If you love Irish dance, it just all becomes so real, getting to know the background,” Lowry said. “I feel Irish dance is like a hidden sport, although it is becoming more well-known in the United States.”
Traveling to Ireland for competitions has been a wonderful experience for the family, Lowry said.
“It’s just a beautiful country,” she said. “It’s breathtakingly beautiful and you feel like you belong…when we’re there, Emilee never wants to come home.”
It was also interesting, Lowry said, to find out that her family actually has Irish blood.
“On my mother’s side, my great-great grandparents came from Ireland, and it was exciting to find that out,” Lowry said.
Along the way, there have been ups and downs, as with any success, but the Lowrys are still impressed with Emilee’s dedication when it comes to dancing.
“To be good at it is one thing, but when you have a passion about it, that makes it very special,” Lowry said. “She has really worked to get where she’s at and we are just really proud of her.”