Orient teen heads to Ireland for dance competition

 
 Robert Livingston, of Orient, will compete in the World Irish Dancing Competition in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 29. Livingston, a Bishop Ready High School senior, has been dancing since he was 6-years-old. This is the third time he has competed in this event.

A local boy will head to Ireland this month to put his dancing skills to the test.

"I was kind of alright at it when I first started," said Orient resident and Bishop Ready High School senior Robert Livingston.

On March 24, after 12 years of practicing to become better than ‘alright,’ Livingston will be hopping a plane to Belfast, Northern Ireland to compete in the 38th annual Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, or the World Irish Dancing Competition. He will put his skills up against 4,000 other Irish dancers.

"I don’t want to be a downer, but I don’t think I’m going to win it all," he said. "My goal is to get recalled. The recall weeds out the top half from the second half, and if you are in the top, you’ll get to dance again and get placed."

This trip marks the third time Livingston has qualified for the World Irish Dancing Competition. The first trip was to Glasgow, Scotland in 2002, and the second time was in 2004, which was also in Belfast Northern Ireland. In the first two competitions, he was not recalled.

"I guess I sucked," he laughed. "But hopefully the third time is a charm."

While the nation was introduced to Irish step dancing in 1994 through the show "Riverdance," Livingston was introduced to it by his older sister Elizabeth, who is also a past World Qualifier.

"I would go to her competitions and see her winning and think, ‘Hey, this looks cool.’"

In addition to step dancing, he has been on the Bishop Ready track and field team since he was a freshman and was a wide receiver/half-back on their football team. He said dancing helps his play on the football field as well as on the track.

"I think they all feed off each other. When you’re dancing, you are constantly on your toes, which helps with the hurdles. I can tell a difference when I’m on the field because from dancing, my leg strength is strong compared to the rest of my body," Livingston remarked.

Since the Silver Knights made such a push in the Division V Ohio High School Athletic Association football tournament, the schedule interfered with his dancing.

"We made it all the way to the state semi-finals, so I didn’t have a lot of time to go to practice. My dad, god bless him, built a practice studio in our basement."

However, before the season ended, over Thanksgiving break, Livingston went to Chicago to compete in the Midwest Championship for Irish Dancing. The top three dancers cashed in their ticket to the World Irish Dancing Competition.

"I went there on a limb and just got lucky that day," he said. "I guess my natural talent just shined higher somehow."

He placed second at his level, which is the Open Championship Level, the highest of all Feis levels. (A feis is an organized step dancing competition. It also mean ‘festival’ in Irish.)

Now that track and field season has started so close to the World Irish Dancing Competition, he is not worried about their schedules conflicting.

"My track coach is Irish so he appreciates what I am doing," Livingston said. "He knows I’ll have to put dancing ahead of track at least until worlds."

He will be accompanied by his father, uncle and younger brother during his trip to Belfast.

"These trips can get pretty expensive," Livingston remarked. "I received a grant from a teacher’s association with the Midwest Competition and the Richens/Timm Academy (where he trains) is covering some travel expenses, but it’s my parents who are putting forth the rest of the money. They are being very generous."

Livingston will be putting on his dancing shoes and hitting the stage at the Waterfront Theater on March 29.

"I’ll start getting nervous when the plane lands," he said. "And I’ll probably be getting extremely nervous before I perform and won’t want to talk to anyone. But I am going to try and be focused and stay chilled about the whole thing."

After the World Competition is over, he plans to focus on track and when he graduates in June, he wants to shift that focus on getting into a dance troupe, such as "Riverdance" or "Lord of the Dance."

"I plan on going to college, after trying out for those shows, but you can do that pretty much whenever you want. That’s not really the case with dancing. I feel like such an old man sometimes after long and crazy practices, but hopefully it will pay off."

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