I don’t remember exactly where I was 20 years ago. In 1994 I was in high school, fighting to learn English and apply to BYU. Everything is a blur. But one night that year, during the Eurovision show held in Dublin, the world met Michael Flatly, the Celtic Tiger. And Riverdance was born.

Years later, I’m not an Irish dancer myself, but three times a week my daughters practice under two wonderful teachers who toured the world with Michael Flatley. My children can claim a little bit of Irish from their paternal grandma’s side, but that Irish is pretty diluted among the other cultures our family comes from: Palestinian, Argentine, Puerto Rican, Texan, Yugoslavian, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon. We have it all but Italian, which we still love because we’re Argentines, right?

Irish dancing doesn’t belong only to the Irish anymore. It belongs to the world. It’s an art form that speaks to people from all cultures, religions and countries. Watch the video of the original Riverdance performance. I dare you not to feel anything. Last December, my daughters’ studio held a Christmas show like nothing I ever witnessed. They recreated the original Riverdance number. I was mesmerized by those dancers, and my older daughter was one of them! Even my son the soccer player (just turned the wise age of thirteen) said that he loved it, that he wished he could do what those dancers were doing.

The life of an Irish dancer who competes is a life of sacrifice and discipline. My eleven-year-old arrives home at almost ten every night. She leaves for school at 7. She’s always excited and inspired by her teachers, by the other dancers, and the Lord of the Dance himself.

My champion daughter, fighting for a place in the Dublin world cup. It wasn’t meant to be, but like she said, “There’s always next year!” and she was back on the practicing floor the same day.

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Yamile Saied Mendez

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine-American, Picture Book, Middle Grade, and Young Adult author.

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