Most University students see April as a daunting time of the year filled with deadlines, but Kayleigh Carter had more than just exams on her mind.
With the 2019 Irish Dance World championships round the corner, Canterbury Christ Church University student Kayleigh had to decide between the library and dance class.
The Film, Radio and Television student had her very first Irish Dance lesson at the McManigan Academy when she was only six, and hasn’t looked back since.
She has performed and competed all across the UK, but after 15 years it was finally her chance to dance at the World Championships for the first time as a solo dancer.
After qualifying in November at the Kent Championships, Kayleigh knew she had gruelling months of hard work ahead as she put her everything into training.
“I had to increase the classes I usually do and have more private lessons leading up to the competition.
“The classes got more intense and we had to do a lot of strengthening and conditioning to keep ourselves in shape.
“I also went to gym classes twice a week and practised at home every day I didn’t have class.”
Juggling university with dance
Kayleigh has had to sacrifice a lot for her dancing addiction.
“Moving away for University wasn’t an option for me as I wouldn’t of been able to attend dance classes. It’s a shame but dancing comes first, so I commute.
Juggling dance and University is a big struggle for me, but I always try to make sure I’m always planning in advance so that I have time to study and practise.
One of the biggest issues with it is sacrificing my social time as I don’t always have time to see friends or go out but I just have to remind myself that it will all be worth it in the end.”
Getting to the Worlds
The world championships is the biggest Irish dancing competition of the year and hundreds of dancers travelled to the INEC Centre in Killarney in hopes of winning.
The weekend long event took place from the 25th to the 28th of April.
Kayleigh competed along with four other girls from her dance school- McManigan Academy of Irish Dance.
“It’s nice going to competitions with others from your dance school as it’s a lot less intimidating when you have a group of friends there.
We spend so much time together at class that we have become a family over the years.”
It’s not just the steps that take practicing either, getting ready to get up of stage is a talent of its own.
Irish Dancer’s are often known for their glamorous dresses and hair- as well as the tan and makeup!
Kayleigh tells the Canterbury hub: “I started getting ready about 5 hours before I was due to dance.
“Well, actually getting ready starts the night before when I have to apply layers and layers of tan, but on the day I have to do my makeup and put my wig on.
When I took my wig off at the end of the day, I had about 70 hair grips keeping it all in place.”
It’s not all glitz and glam though…
Kayleigh says: “I often have blisters, cuts and bruises everywhere when I’m training for a competition.
Two days before worlds I actually lost a toenail.”
Dance teacher Kirsty, who has had her own success in shows like Riverdance, says “We’re all so proud of Kayleigh she deserves it.
She has worked so hard for so long and it has finally paid off.”
Despite the years of training and hours of getting ready, the Canterbury Hub asked Kayleigh whether it was all worth it in the end…
“Definitely. Coming third was the most surreal moment of my life, it felt like everything I’d ever worked for was all worth it for those moments, all the good moments and the bad times in my dancing career had all paid off.
There is no feeling like lifting that globe on the podium.
And it was also so lovely to share those moments with my dance teacher and family as they are also the ones that helped me get there.
“Dancing has been a huge part of my life like such a young age so now I’m getting older it’s a lot harder to imagine life without it. Whenever I have a bad day I know that once I get to class I can forget about everything and nothing else in the world would matter”
Kayleigh is heading into her final year of her course in September, as well as planning to compete in as many competitions as she can.
“It will get a lot hard to juggle next year when the course gets more intense but I love a challenge so I’m looking forward to it.
I’m really enjoying my course and I’m excited to see what the next year has in store both dance and uni-wise.”
But when it comes to after Uni, Kayleigh had her mind pretty set.
“I hope to make a career out of dancing once I stop competing in a few years. I would love to be able to pass my passion on to younger generations and become a teacher in the future.
I can’t imagine a time when Irish Dance won’t be in my life, so to have my own school would just be the dream.”
Read more from The Canterbury Hub: