Reel, slip, jig and kick

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:00
Chugiak dancer headed to national competition

Geoffrey Woods knew he wanted to dance from the time he was 3-years-old. That’s when “Lord of the Dance” came to Anchorage, and while he was too young to attend, he did watch the DVD his parents brought home.

“I tore up countless pairs of shoes dancing to that show,” he said with a laugh.

When “Riverdance” hit town a few years later, he became so excited he practically danced his way to the theater.

He started lessons at the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska soon after, studying with Owen Barrington, a two-time winner of the U.S. Regional and North American Championships who later went on to tour with “Riverdance.”

Woods’ persistence has paid off.

He recently placed second in the Western Region U.S. Irish Dance Competition, which qualified him for the national North American Irish Dance Competition in Montreal in July.

Irish dance, Woods said, is similar to figure skating or hip-hop dance.

“A big part is keeping your rhythm in time to the music.”

It’s also intricately paced and physically demanding. Woods compared it to a cardio work out.

“I’m pretty exhausted after dancing, and a few times I’ve gotten lightheaded,” he said.

The night before a competition, he follows a set routine to calm his nerves.

“I sit in the theater for a minute and look out at the stage and think out my moves,” he said.

Once he starts dancing the next day, his apprehension dissipates.

“The adrenaline quickly takes over,” he said.

Falling is also a concern, especially during head-high kicks.

Woods has never fallen during competition but did slip and fracture his tailbone four days before a competition in Denver last June.

“I had to sit that one out but still went down and cheered on friends,” he said.

He presently attends practice lessons twice a week on evenings after school and tries to practice twice a week on his own.

“But school and other stuff sometimes gets in the way,” he said.

It also involves almost constant training. When readying for a competition, Woods dances two to three hours a day.

He currently studies under both Noreen Westcott at the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska and master teacher Tony Comerford, who runs a studio down in California.

Woods has his eye on the national championship.

“I don’t know if that’s fantasizing,” he said. “If I make the top 10, I’d be really happy.”

He’s also working toward his Irish dance instructor certification and hopes to one day open his own studio.

In the meantime, he keeps more than 40 dance trophies over his dresser and around his bedroom.

“Every morning when I wake up, they’re the first thing that I see,” he said. “It makes me strive to obtain more.”

Woods will perform with the Irish Dance Academy of Alaska at “Celtic Rendezvous” at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 2 at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 569-2566.

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