The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 21, 2024

From school stage to Kennedy Center: Freshman competes nationally in Irish dance

Freshman Alex Papados steps in front of the crowd and starts to dance. His feet move rapidly across the floor, tapping and jumping to traditional Irish music, while his arms and torso remain straight in place. The sound of a fiddle is intermingled with the rhythmic tapping of his shoes on the floor.

Freshman Alex Papados performs an Irish dance alongside other participants. Papados started his passion for the dance at age four and now competes at a national level. Photo courtesy Alex Papados.

Papados is a national competitor in Irish dance, a fairly uncommon talent for guys in this area, he said. He practices for several hours every day and has performed at the Kennedy Center, Swarthmore Hall and Black Brick. He will perform again at the Kennedy Center in February.

Papados said he worried how students would react when he, along with sophomore Nicole Ramirez, danced to the orchestra’s piece, “Irish Legend,” at the annual school’s winter concert.

“I was really scared because I didn’t know what people were going to think about it,” Papados said. “I didn’t know if people were going to tease me or think it’s girly or anything.”

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When many guys hear the word “dance,” they automatically think of prancing and twirling, and some guys at school do tease him for dancing, he said. Ultimately, though, his fears were unfounded.

“People thought it was really cool; I didn’t get any negative reactions,” Papados said. Many students said they were impressed by the skill and coordination Papados displayed in his routine.

Alex was incredibly talented,” freshman Jessa Daniels said. “Not many people can actually dance like he can. He definitely does dancing justice.”

Freshman Alex Papados places third at an Irish dance competition. He participates in various contests and puts in 20 hours of practice a week. Photo courtesy Alex Papados.

Papados has been captivated by Irish dance since he saw the Disney channel movie “Luck of the Irish” when he was just four-years-old. His mother signed him up to take lessons at the Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance when he was ten, and he’s continued to dance there since. He goes to dance class for two hours every day and practices for another two hours at home. In his free time, he teaches younger students and uses the money to help pay for his own classes and competitions.

Papados traveled to the National Championship last year and received sixteenth place in the boys division. The three-round competition featured competitors from the United States, as well as Scotland, Ireland and Australia.

“When I’m up on stage, I do get nervous because I want to do well, but I realize I’m doing this for fun and for the love of Irish dancing,” Papados said. “The most rewarding part of dancing is when I’m done doing my few minutes of dancing and simply loving what I’m doing.”

At such a high level, there is a lot of pressure from parents and coaches to continually perform well in competitions, Papados.

“They expect you to do really well, especially because of all the training you’ve done with them,” Papados said. “When you do badly, you feel sorry for your teachers because they’ve spent so long with you and worked so many hours with you. You really don’t know what to say to them.”

Girls generally dominate the Irish dancing scene, and guys dance to a slightly different set of moves. Papados’ dance routines often feature higher jumps and quicker steps than girls’ routines.

“Girls rule the sport,” Papados said. “I get to meet a lot of pretty girls, so it’s alright.”

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    Phillip RizFeb 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I for one never cared for irish dance!