Aisling McCarron is one of the dancers to watch at this month’s Hong Kong International Irish Dance Premierships. Carlos Magno meets the 10-year-old DBer.
Made popular around the world by high-energy shows like Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and Celtic Tiger, Irish dance recruits legions of new fans each year. It takes a tremendous amount of strength and focus to perform properly, let alone compete at an international level.
Having just turned 10, Aisling McCarron has done precisely that, on a number of occasions, around the world (Shanghai, Taiwan and England). Eyes are now on her to impress at the fourth Hong Kong International Irish Dance Premierships, on April 2 at the Discovery Bay Auberge Hotel, where she is set to compete against young dancers from Australia, Doha, Israel, Japan, Taiwan and the UK.
A natural talent
Aisling moved to Hong Kong with her family in 2010, when she was four years old. Her talent for Irish dance was discovered when she was playing near the family’s houseboat in DB Marina. “I did something with my feet when I was dancing and Daddy liked it,” Aisling says. “He started saying things about Irish dance.”
In 2011, Aisling’s father, Ireland-born Ciaran, took the family to a local St Patrick’s Day ball, where they met Kathryn Barton, one of the evening’s performers and head instructor at the O’Connor-Barton Irish Dance School. Kathryn holds classes in DB (and across Hong Kong) and Aisling immediately enrolled.
Natural talent and dedication saw Aisling, then aged six, excel in class. “Aisling showed promise from the very start,” Kathryn says. “She is hardworking, determined and dedicated in class, gaining confidence all the time. She is a great team player, helping others and a real character. In my opinion if Aisling continues to work hard she could compete at the highest level.”
“Turning out your toes, lifting your head, keeping your body nice and straight – there’s a lot of discipline to it,” says Aisling’s mother Gillian, a Brit with an Irish father. Aisling finds getting her posture right the most difficult – she loves the fast-paced moves, the camaraderie and, of course, the costumes.
After the Hong Kong International Irish Dance Premierships, her third since she took up Irish dance, Aisling hopes to qualify for the European Oireachtas in Austria this November. If she performs well there, she’ll be heading to the World Irish Dancing Championships in Ireland, in April, 2017.
Many DB kids take lessons twice a week through the O’Connor Barton Irish Dance School, with added sessions on weekends as competition time draws near. It’s clear that Aisling, who attends Discovery Bay International School, where she enjoys playing netball and singing in the school choir, has a lot on her plate.
“We’re just going to have to work very hard,” says Gillian. “And try to get homework done,” Aisling adds, all smiles.
• O’Connor-Barton Irish Dance School, visit www.oconnor-bartonid.com