Cued by a fiddle, Ashley VanHandel started the jig: A stomp, kick, shuffle of feet and another stomp.
Her red ringlets bounced as she kicked and moved across the floor, her feet in a fast-paced rhythm with the melody. After a few minutes, the music ended and she took a bow.
The rigorous footwork of Irish stepdancing was on display Saturday at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, where hundreds of dancers showed off their technique and choreography to a panel of judges at the annual Feile Samhain competition. Students of all ages from 32 dance academies from up and down the West Coast competed. The event continues today.
Though brief, the 16-year-old Camas girl’s complicated routine was perfected from four-days-a-week practices and stamina training. “I did my best,” VanHandel said afterward.
Irish stepdancing is rich in cultural tradition, but still has progressive influences. Women and girl performers wore elaborate wigs with tight ringlets, a tradition from Ireland, when women would curl their hair after church for dancing, said event organizer Lauren Mueller.