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BY DAN MORAN

The Lake County News-Sun

January 1, 2011

 

 

 

 LIBERTYVILLE — It wasn’t just watching his older siblings participate in Irish dancing that made Ian Schwartz want to follow in their footsteps. It was also the places he got to go when he watched them. “It just looked like a lot of fun — being able to go around the whole United States and dance,” the Hawthorn Middle School North sixth grader said. “They went to places like Nashville and Washington, D.C. One time they went to Disney World, and it was like, ‘Hey, free ticket.’”

His own adventures in Irish dance began six years ago when he was a kindergartener, and a milepost was reached late last month when Schwartz took home the gold at the Mid-America Irish Dance Championships in Chicago.

By finishing at the head of a field of 16 competitors, Schwartz, who studies at Chicago’s Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, qualified to represent the U.S. in April’s 2011 World Irish Dance Championships in Dublin, Ireland.

His mother, Jill, said it was always a matter of time before Ian would join his sister Lindsay and brother Tyler in Irish dance. “It was really a family thing,” she said. “Lindsay, who’s 22 now, started when she was young and she really got into it, and then Tyler joined her, and Ian grew up watching everybody do their thing. He would say, ‘I want to dance,’ and we’d say, ‘Wait a while.’”

His lessons began in the American Legion Hall on Milwaukee Avenue with the Anam Mor Irish Dance School, and he moved on to Trinity to focus on the all-boys classes offered there. “They play a lot of soccer and run around — and, oh, by the way, they dance,” his mom said with a laugh.

The lessons are now a two- to three-day commitment each week, driving to Trinity facilities in Western Springs and in the Irish American Heritage Center on Chicago’s North Side. Ian also takes team-choreography lessons closer to home at Oak Grove School in Lake Bluff.

The hard work culminated with the Mid-America championships on Thanksgiving weekend. Ian’s mother said her son had a special motivation for the event — Tyler recently suffered a broken pelvis during a dance competition.

“He told me, ‘Since Tyler can’t dance, I’m doing this for Tyler,’” she said. “I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but he was really focused about that.”

“I was just hoping to do my best and make my brother proud,” Ian said. “When I got up there, I saw him and said, ‘I can do this.’”

In the end, Ian’s first-place finish represented a jump from placing sixth in 2009. His Trinity instructor, Joe Smith, said in a statement that “Ian has really started to mature as a truly talented and competitive dancer. He is learning what it means to have self-discipline, and this victory has truly given him the confidence to dream bigger about what he can accomplish through Irish dance.”

While his family makes travel plans for the world championships on April 17-23, Ian will have time to think about bringing home some more gold. “I’m excited, and I’m also a little nervous,” he said. “I think, ‘What if I fall?’ or ‘What if I break a leg?’ But I have lots of time to practice.”

  © Copyright 2010 Sun-Times Media, LLC

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