Freshman Wragg shines in the spotlight for Irish Dance

Caitlyn Grcich, Managing Editor

Freshman Irish Dancer Nora Wragg

The Mullane Academy of Irish Dance located in the Edison Park neighborhood in Chicago, near Niles, IL has become a second home for one Bishop Noll student for more than half her life. More than an hour drive from Bishop Noll, the time it takes to get there is definitely worth it to freshman Nora Wragg.

Curled hair. Wigs tightly placed and pinned. Dresses fresh off the rack, ready to be worn. Shoes taped so as to not come untied. Wragg feels at home.

“I first became interested in Irish Dance when I saw Riverdance at the age of 2. I loved it so much and always danced around the house and finally my dad asked me if I wanted to start, and being 3 year old me, I said yes”.

For Wragg, Irish dance has become a lifestyle. Wragg has become dedicated to her hobby, spending about 8 hours in a normal week, and when major competitions are coming up, dedicating nearly 20 hours a week, usually about 3-4 hours at a time.

Wragg, along with practicing weekly, also dedicates a great deal of time to physically preparing for her competitions.

“On a regular competition day, I usually wake up around 6am to do my hair. My mom usually curls it with rollers the night before, so the wig looks more natural. I put on my wig and pin it (it hurts really bad), and do my makeup, which is usually very elaborate and bright in order for my face to be seen on stage. I put on my shoes and secure them with tape so they don’t come untied, and do a few warm up steps to get used to them. I usually stretch, and then put on my dress and go to the “check-in”, where you get ready backstage and prepare to do your routine for the judges. After the first round of dancing, I change my shoes and do a second round, and then wait for “recalls”, which is where I see if the judges scored me high enough to do a third round. After the third round, I wait for the final awards, which is when I see what my overall and final place is”.

With the countless hours that Wragg dedicates to Irish Dance, it is no surprise that she has formed many strong bonds with her fellow dancers as well as her instructors. Wragg has said that while she does love the dancing itself, her favorite aspect is the relationships that she has formed over the years.

“For me, the best part of Irish Dance are all my friends. I love them so much and I have become so close to them that they are almost like my family. I once accidentally called my teacher ‘Mom’ and my friend and teammate ‘my cousin’”.

Wragg has competed in numerous competitions all around the United States and all over the country in numerous different places, and has several awards under her belt.

“There are two different categories you can compete in for major competitions, which are team or solo. I am usually in both. My team has won Oireachtas, Nationals twice, and was runner-up at Worlds. For my solo, which is my personal record, I have won many smaller competitions, and have earned places as a top ten dancer in the Region 3 times, placed in the top 30 dancers in North America, as well as top 100 in the World”, while adding, “There are many different competitions throughout the year, but I attend about 10. Out of those 10, 3 of them are major competitions, they are Regionals, also known as Oireachtas (Gaelic word, meaning “gathering”),  Nationals, and Worlds. The Mid-America Oireachtas takes place somewhere in the Midwest. I have competed in Chicago, Michigan, and Minnesota, and am going to Kentucky in November. Nationals can be anywhere in North America, and last year it was in Orlando. Worlds can be anywhere in the world. Last year, my sisters and I traveled to Scotland to compete, and the year before that, we went to Montreal, Canada”.

For Wragg, she does not take her opportunities for granted, especially when Irish Dance is such an expensive and time-consuming hobby.

Wragg, giving a comparison for the monetary cost of Irish Dance said, “A dress price can range anywhere from $500 for a used, older style dress to $3,000 for a new, custom made dress made to fit and designed especially for you. My current dress cost only $1,800 because it was used, and my previous dress was $2,750 because it was shipped from Ireland, new, and custom made to fit me”.

Wragg, who began this journey nearly twelve years ago has also found a way to connect with her Irish culture. Her great-great grandmother on her father’s side was an immigrant from Ireland who came through Ellis Island following her brothers in 1896.

“My ancestors continued to marry other Irish families, so even though they weren’t actually from Ireland, their customs and traditions were passed down through the generations”.

Despite the pressure to do well, Wragg handles the stress very well. Along with Wragg participating in theatre, Irish dance, and other activities, Wragg also took the initiative to establish the Irish Cultural Club, citing Irish Dance as an inspiration to educate others of Irish culture.

“Irish Dance is what sparked the idea of the club. We do other things also such as music, language, and folklore, but the main reason I started the club was because I wanted to teach people to dance”.

For Wragg, the reward is worth the cost of time, effort, and energy.

I don’t think I realized what I was getting myself into, but I’m glad I did it!”