At twenty-one, instead of being an emerging artist, Michaela Marie Hinds is nearing retirement. Her career hasn’t been cut short – in fact she has had a long and full career in the field of Irish dance, starting at age three and competing at the international level for more than a decade. A dancer for the Butler Fearon O’Connor School of Irish Dance, with locations in Brampton, Ontario, and California, Hinds studied with one of the largest teaching teams worldwide, including her idol and renowned teacher Rose Fearon. Hinds is a twelve-time Eastern Canadian Champion, ten-time North American Champion, four-time Great Britain Champion, two-time All Scotland Champion, four-time All Ireland Champion and an extraordinary six-time World Champion, seizing the title from 2009 through 2012 and again in 2015 and 2016.
How did you get started in dance?
My mother, Cathy Hinds, had danced when she was young. So when I started walking she put me into my first dance class. I was only 3 and a half and I haven’t look back since.
What about dance interests you most?
The passion I have for it. It is the best feeling in the world to have something you love so much. Dance has been apart of my life for seventeen years and has helped me overcome some hard times. It is something I can do anywhere and it makes me so happy. I feel it’s important to have a passion that you can also count on to make you feel better.
What stands out about the way you dance?
When people have asked me what makes me different from the other dancers, I never really know how to answer them. We do this exercise with one of our dance teachers, Brian Grant, in which we decide on a colour and an animal we think we resemble when we dance. I’m always a red lion. I tend to be powerful yet graceful. I try to compete against myself and no one else — I think that makes me different.
Every dancer is unique in their own way and I believe that my collaboration and relationship with my dance teacher Rose Fearon has helped to create a style that different and beautiful.
How would you describe the physical and mental challenges of Irish dance?
Irish dancing is a demanding sport. We train for hours not only in the studio, learning the steps for competition days, perfecting choreography and aspiring to be foot perfect, but in the gym as well, particularly through cross training, to build up strength and endurance.
On any given competition day, we perform three dances which determine our rank out of 150 to 200 girls. We begin with a hard shoe dance, performed by three individual competitors on stage and consisting of pounding into the ground, as well as moving and springing across the floor. We then do a soft shoe, which is very light, high on our toes, with lots of lift.
When the tabulation for these first two rounds is complete, about half of the competitors are recalled to perform the third dance, a set dance, performed alone, in hard shoes. This is my favourite one, as you can really show off what you do best. Once this third dance is finished, we sit and wait for the final results.
With multiple dances and lots of time between rounds, Irish dancing can be not only physically but mentally exhausting. The time leading up to a big competition is also very nerve-racking and stressful. This is why I’m so thankful to have a team behind me that is motivating, inspiring and supportive. I would never be able to do this without them.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve had in dance?
If you want something bad enough, you have to be willing to put in the hard work: sweat and tears. I have not always been at the top of my dancing game, and I have had some set backs, but I try never to let that bring me down. Instead, it made me work ten times harder for the next competition. Nothing in life comes easy. But winning a championship makes all the hard work, everything you did or had to give up, worth it.
Will you miss performing? Why is an Irish dancer’s career so short?
I will miss performing in competition because it has been my life since I could walk. But I am looking forward to being a teacher of future champions. The career of Irish dancers can be long or short; mine has been a long journey and, I know in my heart, it’s time to hang up my shoes.
The 2017 World Irish Dancing Championships (Oireachtas rince na cruinne 2017) will be held April 9-16 in Dublin, Ireland.