First-year Augustana student and longtime Irish-dance competitor Samantha Meyers is headed this spring to the World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland—an event that traditionally sees attendance topping 10,000. She is on her way to Glasgow because of her first-place performance in November’s Mid-America Oireachtas (pronounced “or-OCK-tus”), in Schaumburg, Illinois.
“I’ve won competitions before,” Meyers said, “but this past one was the biggest one.”
A native of Elmhurst, Illinois, Meyers has been practicing and performing Irish dance since she was six, and competing since she was eight. She has competed in the World Irish Dancing Championships since 2013—first in Boston, and then Montreal, London, Scotland and Ireland.
From the start, she liked the athleticism of the form. “It’s all about using your legs, which is pretty unique in dance. No arms, just legs.”
In the Oireachtas, said Meyers, “You do two rounds, and you have to dance with one other girl onstage…. You know what music will be played ahead of time, so everything’s choreographed and worked on for a long time. And then you have to vie for the judges’ attention.… And obviously, when you’re good, they can tell. So if you place in the top half of dancers after those two rounds, you come back for a third, and that’s danced by yourself.”
Meyers’ talent and hard work has brought her uncommon success—yet balancing academics and other activity is not uncommon among Augustana students, who tend to be busy.
Meyers’ November victory was aided by a specific training regimen she developed during her first fall at Augustana. She uses the Carriage House dance studio near Westerlin Residence Center, which is ideal, since she lives in Westerlin.
“I usually practice for about two hours at a time, working out every last detail of the dance” she said. “And two days a week, I usually do a double practice of another hour. I go to the gym a couple times a week, so I generally use AugiePlex.” (AugiePlex is the student-only fitness center located in Westerlin, a facility with equipment for cardio and weight training, plus a dance/exercise studio.)
How does she balance practice, coursework and social activities? Meyers’ talent and hard work has brought her uncommon success—yet balancing academics and other activity is not uncommon among Augustana students, who tend to be busy.
“I’ve found that the best thing for me is to practice in the mornings, because I’d rather get up early and get it done than sleep in and not maximize my time,” she said. “And I honestly think that helps me manage my schoolwork better than when I don’t dance.
“I noticed that, when after this last competition I had some time off, I was much less productive knowing I had all this time on my hands! So I guess knowing that I had a busy schedule, and that I had to get things done, helped me a lot.”
Meyers is planning to major in biology. She also plans to keep dancing, as her college schedule allows. As for her March 30 trip to Scotland, she is aiming for another big success.
“It’s a feeling I can’t even describe,” she said about emerging victorious after a challenging event. “You just think about all the hours that you’ve put into it, all of the stress and hard work, and it all comes together on that day.”