Essex student takes top honors at Irish dance competition

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:44 PM EDT
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ESSEX, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont teen last week took top honors as one of the best Irish step dancers in the world.

A week ago Wednesday, Essex High School senior Anna Hall turned one of her greatest dreams into a reality. The 17-year-old straight ‘A’ student represented Vermont and New England at the World Championships of Irish Dance in Belfast, Ireland.

Alongside the 200 best in the globe, Hall finished the first day of the competition in the top 60. She says making it to the second and final round was a reward in itself. “At that point, I was like, I’m just going to go on stage and do what I know how to do and have fun because I’ll get to dance my set on the world stage,” she said.

Ranking 31st was when it really clicked. “It’s crazy to think in the whole world, I’m 31st. It’s hard to grasp almost,” Hall said. “It was just an amazing moment to know that all my hard work for these 10 years paid off.”

A decade of dance was sparked by a single performance at Essex Elementary School when she was in second grade. The University of Vermont’s premier Irish dance team, Celtic Cast, captivated the then seven-year-old. The fast feet and rigid form were different from any type of dance she’d seen before. “My little self was probably like, I want to be able to do that too because it looks so cool,” she said. “I was totally inspired and begged my mom for dance lessons.”

And over the last two years, the fire in her belly has been burning brighter than ever. At-home learning during COVID gave Hall the opportunity to attend a dance school in Connecticut where she learned from world-class instructors. There, her competition confidence lept to another level. “I was like this year’s the year that I’m going to do it and hear my number called at regionals, too,” Hall said.

Not only did the judges call her name, but they also named her number one in all of New England. “It was the most amazing moment of my whole dance career, probably. Sometimes I still look at it and I’m like, did I really do that?” Hall said.

“I just kept saying, ‘Is this happening right now? Is this happening?’ And her teacher says, ‘Yes, yes, this is happening,” recalled Jess Hall, Anna’s mom.

Every week, when Anna isn’t participating in the dance classes over Zoom, her mom jess drives her 4.5 hours to Connecticut for in-person lessons. “She has just shown an incredible amount of determination and sacrifice and just really goal-oriented mentality, and we couldn’t be more proud of that,” Jess said. “Anna without Irish dance would be like Anna not breathing. I mean, truly, it’s her everything.”

Now, walking in the footsteps of those who inspired her on stage, Hall is forging her own future. “It’s also proven to me that yeah, my future goals are more reachable than I thought they would be,” she said. In the fall, Hall will take her talents to Fairfield University in Connecticut, where she will continue to compete. “Eventually I would love to become a teacher, too, because I can’t imagine dance not being in my life.”

She tried her hand at teaching me a few steps, but it’s safe to say I may have the hair, but I definitely don’t have the moves.

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