By Maxime Devillaz
Kyle Felice has a chance to become world champion, in a sport that would have many shake their heads unwittingly. The freshman biology major is a competitive Irish dancer who floored his competition in the men’s under-18 Mid-Atlantic Region Irish Dance Championships in Philadelphia on Friday, Nov. 27.
The “Oirechtas”— in Irish dancing terms referring to an annual championship — featured dancers from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The first-place earned him a spot in the world championships that will take place in Glasgow, Scotland in March.
“I beat some very good competition, and I got to wear the blue winner’s sash around all weekend,” Felice said. “But really I immediately started thinking about my next challenge.”
Felice describes the sport as requiring “the exibility, endurance, strength, and drive of all athletes, plus the rhythm, skill, and footwork of talented dancers.” He therefore puts a lot of energy into core and cardio training, and underlines that “I drill my steps a lot.”
Usually, practice is scheduled three times per week, but to bulk before major competitions like Scotland, Felice doubles the hours in the Dorothy-Petri dance studio, which has locations in East Northport, N.Y., and in Belfast, Ireland.
As a Longwood High School graduate, acclimatizing to college life has not been an easy feat.
“I decided to rush a fraternity this semester,” Felice said, “so it’s not uncommon for me to bring my school books or my TKE handbook to practice.”
But Felice finds many sources of inspiration to keep up with the dancing: his teachers, Lisa and Karen Petri, for pushing him to improve every day when hitting the floor; his parents, Jim and Sheila Felice — his mother, as a former competitive Irish dancer herself, specifically for introducing him to the sport at the age of 6; and Shia Labeouf, the American actor, performance artist and director, whose “Just Do It” motivational speech on YouTube has over 8.7 million views.
While there are lots of bene ts with Irish dancing, Felice said, he describes the best to be travelling for competitions throughout the world with friends, and exploring new places.
Other than being given that experience when he flies to Scotland next year to compete in the world championships, Felice expects to “come out of the trip a stronger and better dancer than I am now, regardless of how I do in the competition.”