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Irish dancer returns from international competition

Layla Giles (courtesy photo)

Irish dancer returns from international competition

By Kaila Mellos

A Scripps Ranch High School Junior got the experience of a lifetime this March as she flew to Glasgow, Scotland, to show off her talent. Layla Giles, 16, has been Irish dancing for the past 12 years of her life and made it to the World Irish Dance Championships – Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne 2024, where she competed.

“I have been dancing for 12 years, and it’s just always been something that I’ve loved,” Giles said. “I’ve tried many other sports, but I’ve always just wanted to Irish dance. It’s always been my main hobby.”

Giles has been training hard for most of her life, as she has dreamed of making it to the big league from an early age. She dreams of one day performing with the Irish performance group that hosts Riverdance and being part of the professional group.

“It’s a very active sport. It’s very competitive, and I would consider it more of a sport than an art sometimes because it takes a lot of effort and training to do what we do,” Giles said. “It’s amazing to see all these dancers do it so effortlessly, and I look up to that.”

Outside of school, she trains up to six days a week for several hours daily at Clan Rince School of Irish Dance.

“It’s not easy, but after school, I have dance practice for about two to three hours, and then I study afterward,” Giles said. “It has gotten (easier), though, because this is something that I love to do,
so I make sure to make time for that and not get too behind in school.”

The hours of practice can pay off for those who are dedicated and competing in the sport. There are multiple heats before a dancer can qualify for Worlds, which Giles did. First, there are regionals that usually take place in November, then on to compete in nationals for those who advance, and that usually happens during the summer. If dancers are lucky enough to be a part of the one percent that make the qualifications, they advance to the Worlds that occur in March.

“It’s always been my dream to World qualify and I just can’t believe it’s a reality right now,” Giles said. “Ever since I was four years old, I saw the girls on Riverdance and how dedicated they were to this art and sport. I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do, and I wanted that to be me. I’m thrilled and grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to get this far.”

Giles was not the only one from her studio to qualify to make it to Worlds this year, and was happy to see so many people from America representing Irish dance.

“I was one of three girls from our studio in San Diego, but there were many other girls all over in the States to also represent America,” Giles said. “The competition was just unreal, and there were so many amazing dancers from all over the world. It was really cool to see all these different countries come together and do a hobby that we all love to do.”

Overall, the challenge was as competitive as Giles had thought. But she was beyond proud of herself to make it as far as she did in the qualifications.

“It’s just amazing to see the dancing on stage,” Giles said. “You have to have the posture and the look. You have to smile throughout your dancing and make it seem like you’re having fun, even when you’re out of breath. The entire thing is just a blast, especially at the level we are dancing at.”

After the competition was over and done with, Giles placed 65th overall in the world in her category. This experience has only made her want to train harder to get to Worlds again and compete for a higher title.

“After seeing how amazing of an opportunity this is, I realized that I want it again and to experience it all over again,” Giles said.

The most exciting piece of it all for Giles is that the Riverdance Summer School program in Boston has accepted her to train this July to further her dream.

“I’m actually going to the Riverdance summer school in Boston now that I’ve met the qualifications,” Giles said. “I’m just going to train for Worlds again, and I’m going to train for, hopefully, the day I’ll be able to go on to Riverdance, like my dream that I had when I was four years old.”

Layla Giles leaps in full costume. (courtesy photo)