Penelope O’Meara finds joy in a unique style of dance


Penelope O'Meara

Penelope O’Meara posing with her dance trophy in her dance costume

Freshman Penelope O’Meara is not the average dancer.

Although her preferred sport is dance, it is a rather uncommon style of dance—Irish dancing.

Penelope has been Irish dancing for about eight years, and her decision to do so stemmed from her having to choose between two sports.

“I started [dancing] because I didn’t want to play soccer,” Penelope said, “and eventually it just stuck with me. My mom was definitely the person who pushed me to start it, but I actually enjoyed it, and now it is more of me just wanting to continue with it.”

Although Penelope was originally participating just to get out of another sport, she is grateful for the number of friends and memories she has made over the years through dance.

Friendships are the biggest factor in her staying with Irish dancing; she has made friends from all ages and all backgrounds.

“While at school, I’m mainly just friends with other kids my age,” Penelope said. “At dance, the ages range from like ten to twenty-year-olds, so I have a lot of different friends of different ages, which is really nice. I have a whole other group of friends that I hang out with at my dance. I feel like there are just a bunch of different kinds of people that I have grown to know.”

Although it was not the coolest location, I still have a bunch of fun memories from that competition.

— Penelope O'Meara

Being the only member of her family that Irish dances, Penelope has been able to make friends of her own and create memories that are even more personal.

Creating everlasting memories is another reason why she chose to continue with dance. Whether it be simply having fun on stage or ziplining, Penelope is always able to recollect on her time spent in dance.

“Because of Irish dance, I was able to go to my big regional competition and zipline in caves in Kentucky,” Penelope said. “Although it was not the coolest location, I still have a bunch of fun memories from that competition.”

Aside from the memories, Penelope adores competing. 

Getting dressed up, watching other dances, and impressing the judges are all aspects of competitions she can always look forward to.

“Irish dance competitions are very similar to regular dance competitions,” Penelope said. “You go there, you dress up and look way over the top, and then you go and dance. The judges that are watching you determine whether you are good or not because you are competing against around twenty other girls. Eventually, you get your results back and then start moving up levels.”

Similar to more common dance competitions, Irish dancing has several levels, which each competitor must compete in order to move up.

Penelope is currently in the preliminary level, with only one more obstacle to beat: The Championships.

“I have won my competition several times,” Penelope said. “I am pretty high up because there is only one more level above me, which is championships. I am at the preliminary level. For now, I am happy with staying in the preliminary championship because the competition is not that hard, and I know open championships will be a lot more work and a lot more time.”

Already putting hours of effort and work into Irish dancing, Penelope is content with her rankings right now, because she knows that the higher up you are, the harder you have to work.

Although she loves her sport, she finds herself not wanting to spend the rest of her life pouring into dance. Penelope plans to stay in dance for high school and then see where college takes her.

“I will probably continue just through high school,” Penelope said. “Maybe [I’ll continue] into college, but I definitely do not see myself continuing it through my entire life.”

While creating friendships, making fun memories, and doing what she loves, Penelope has also learned numerous life lessons through this sport—something she is incredibly grateful for.

“I have learned to lose,” Penelope said. “That is one of the biggest things about dance—you lose a lot because of how hard it is to make it to top three. I have also learned to really work hard to get to places because you can’t get very far in levels without putting in additional work outside of practice.”