SOMETHING MORE THAN A MEDAL

I think every girl and boy goes through a phase when they want to solve a
mystery or at least become involved in a big adventure--something bigger than
themselves.

When my 9-year-old daughter watched the Riverdance tape my brother Bob
gave her for Christmas in 1998, she wanted to do that too. So it was goodbye
ballet and tap and 'fáilte' to Irish dance. Irish dancing consumed us for many
years and now this daughter teaches Irish dance in Ireland.

We had to drive almost 100 miles round trip to Irish dance classes in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The classes were usually 1 ½ hours long and sometimes
held 3 times a week during St. Patrick’s Day preparations and rehearsals for
the huge
Milwaukee Irish Fest held in August every year. While she practiced, I
would proof legal briefs for my attorney husband and nose around a bit watching
how parents and parents and dancers and dancers and teachers and parents and
teachers and dancers interacted with one another. What I observed was
somewhat disturbing.  There was an 'in crowd' and the 'out crowd' to which I
most definitely belonged!

A few of the girls read
Nancy Drew books  during breaks and it reminded me of
how every boy and girl goes through a phase when they desperately want to
solve a mystery, or at least become involved in a big adventure. Mostly, they
just want SOMETHING TO HAPPEN! Something that is bigger than they are.
Something more interesting.  I remembered my own addiction to Nancy Drew
and the thrilling genre of the girl detective. These girls are smart and brave.
They interpret the clues, tail the bad guys and solve the mystery before any
one else catches on. 'Anyone else' is, of course, the adults.

After the first year of Irish dance lessons, we began going to 'feiseanna,' Irish
dance competitions. They were very exciting. Intrigue was every where:  wild
eyed mothers, judges who were not allowed to smile or greet anyone as they
walked around like robots, nervous dancers running frantically from stage to
stage, and bored siblings dragged along for the ride.  I re-activated my 13-year-
old brain and noticed how some of the dancers were totally invisible to the
others. Basically ignored. Little diva types walked around with real 'attitude'
like they were better than everyone else in their glittering solo dresses. And
there was a RESULTS BOARD, the place where dancers learn how they have
placed after each competition. Results boards are like big front page newspaper
headlines for everyone to see.

I slowly began to see some possibilities beyond the actual dancing part of going
to feiseanna: SOLVING MYSTERIES AT THEM!  Liffey Rivers began to take
form. She would be an Irish Dancer-Girl Detective and she would be amazing.
Someone for dancers to think about other than themselves. Liffey would suffer
through the dancing part just like they did, desperate for her first solo dress,
and then greedily want even more success. But most importantly, Liffey would
find ADVENTURE! The kind of adventures found in Nancy Drew books.

Something BIGGER than a competition medal!  
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