Sophiedancing herwaytothetop oftheworld
WHEN a nine-year-old Sophie Reilly took her first class in Irish dancing in Scoil Aongusa little did she know that six years later, she would be ranked fourth in the world, and take her first international title in North America!
And to round up an already successful year, the Greenhills TY student is now appearing on the cover of Irish Dancing Magazine’s latest edition, with a four-page feature inside.
“It’s so funny, because the last Drogheda person to appear on the cover was my dance teacher David Moore, and now I’m there,” says the softly spoken girl from Hillview, Drogheda.
“David was the first person to give me a lesson, and he said to me right from the start that I had good rhythm and could naturally pick up the beat of the music, so he was a great encouragement to me to continue.”
It’s clear her teacher is very proud of Sophie.
“What Sophie has managed to achieve, against all odds and in such a short time span is truly, rare and wonderful,” David tells the Drogheda Independent. “She is a real treasure. A wonderful example to her peers and a great asset to any class. I am proud and honoured that she is a part of mine and believe she deserves every accolade that comes her way. Like every, Champion, Sophie, was a beginner who simply never gave up!”
Sophie’s first Feis was just a year after her first lesson, and even on her debut, she managed to win both her classes.
“I remember it well, as it was on May 19th, 2013, and I was only 10 and very excited to be dancing,” she says. “I had a black leotard and orange skirt, and it was the first time I danced in a wig, which was odd, but it was only years later I realised how hard it was to win both grades at your first competition,” she explains.
The list of competitions and titles that Sophie has won in the meantime would fill the rest of this page, but some of her most memorable are placing third in the u14s at the World Championships in 2017, first place in the Ulster Regionals last year and then taking her first International title at the North American National Championships in the u15s in Orlando just a few weeks ago.
“It’s an amazing feeling standing on a podium at a world championship, and there’s just such an electric atmosphere, and a camaraderie amongst the dancers, despite what people might think!” she says.
“I have made so many friends for life, and it’s definitely worth all the hard work.”
And hard work there is! Sophie dances almost every day and like an athlete, gets up at 6am to do two hours before school.
“You really have to trust your teachers and believe in yourself that you can do it too.”
Sophie has great support at home too, and Sophie’s proud mum Bernie accompanies her daughter to 90% of her competition, with Dad Michael and his mum Nana Breda massive fans!
“We are all so proud of her and we know how hard she works,” says Bernie, a wellknown teacher in St Joseph’s primary school.
“No one else in the family dances, but she has five brothers – Alex (27), Adam (24), Jack (22), Sam (20) and Josh (18) who have made banners and everything for her over the years.”
It’s not just moral support that comes from Sophie’s parents, of course, as the world of competitive Irish dancing is an expensive one. “Yes, there’s the dresses, the wigs, the travel, it really is not a cheap pastime,” says Bernie. “But really the first dress you buy is the most expensive and after that, you have a starting point to keep upgrading.”
Sophie is still dancing her way to the top of her game, but what about the future?
“To keep dancing forever and do shows like David (who was principal dancer in Riverdance), and also go on to teach,” explains Sophie, who is still just 15. “Touch wood I’ve never had an injury, and I just can’t imagine my life without Irish dancing in it.”
“You really have to trust your teachers and believe in yourself that you can do it”
Drogheda’s Sophie Reilly on the cover of Irish Dancing Magazine