The luck of the Irish was with junior Brian Perry-Carrera when he became a winner at the World Irish Dance Championships last week.
Perry-Carrera took his age division at the championship in Dublin, which featured at least 5,000 performers from around the world. The newly-crowned over-21 world champion has been involved with Irish Dancing for most of his life. He said he had participated in the World Irish Dance Championships in the past, but had never placed higher than third before last week.
He explained he began dancing early, attending lessons when he was only four years old. His mother had danced for nearly 20 years, and she set it up so he and his sister could try it out.
“It just stuck," Perry-Carrera said. "I’ve been doing it ever since."
The competitive aspect was captivating for the California native. He kept dancing through high school and continued after matriculating at the University. He travels to the Toronto studio of the Butler Fearon O’Connor School of Irish Dance on the weekends to practice.
Perry-Carrera noted that competing is a six-day-a-week, nearly year-round commitment. Irish Dance can be physically demanding, so he uses programs like CrossFit to stay in shape.
Most people do not know what Irish Dance is beyond having heard of Riverdance or Lord of the Dance performances, he said. Those shows are similar to what he does—but the championship judges look for fine technical details.
“You’re evaluated on your posture and keeping your body straight and your arms in,” Perry-Carrera said.
The weeklong program is split into three rounds. In the first, participants—divided into age and gender categories—perform a routine with their hard Irish Dance shoes. In the second round, male participants use a capezio-type shoe with a heel to launch into a routine with high jumps into the air.
A portion of the dancers in the first two rounds are asked to perform a solo piece. Perry-Carrera was the final performer for his age division.
“I was trying to stay in the zone, not worry too much about that it was my last time on stage, last time doing this dance,” he said. “It felt really good onstage. I knew whatever the outcome would be, I couldn’t complain too much.”
With consistently strong performances across all three rounds, Perry-Carrera took first place.
“There’s no prize money,” he said. “It’s really for the pride and glory.”
This was Perry-Carrera’s final competition—he is moving on from dancing regularly. However, he plans to remain involved and will take a test to become a certified Irish Dance instructor next semester.
Perry-Carrera is majoring in economics with a finance concentration and a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He also leads the Duke Irish Dance club, and he wants to give the club more attention with his newfound free time.
“It will be a part of my life, and I’m sure I’m not going to hang up the shoes entirely,” he said.