TWO students of Breakthrough Dance Company in Ennis have represented Ireland at the World Dance Cup and earned themselves respectable positions among the top-class finalists, writes Conor Clohessy.
Leilani (14) and Saoirse Kent (12) had been taking contemporary dance classes with Breakthrough for several years before they decided to audition for Team Ireland in 2019 and were on-course to going to Rome for the Dance World Cup in 2020 before Covid restrictions prevented it.
Instead, entries were taken in video format, and the girls entered a total of three categories; Leilani placed 19th in the world in the “lyrical” category, Saoirse earned herself 23rd place in the “contemporary” category, and the sisters combined their efforts to achieve 10th in the world for their contemporary duet entry.
Laura Jane Allis, founder of Breakthrough Dance Company and their dance instructor, said: “The competition scene is relatively new to the school, it wasn’t ever something we had focused on in the past, but the girls approached me, as it was something they really wanted to do.
“It was initiated off their own back, I was just there to guide and coach them, but it was a great experience, and it was lovely working with the girls.”
Laura Jane added that Breakthrough is very proud of the achievement and emphasised that each routine the girls used in the competition was a collaboration between the three of them, rather than Laura Jane telling the competitors what to include.
Leilani and Saoirse’s mother Zara Madden explained that the girls had been working very hard prior to the competition to make their routines unique, blending their prior experience with acrobatics into their contemporary dance and even coming up with a storyline for their duet piece.
The girls had previously competed in Clare’s Got Talent in 2018, reaching the finals with their combined efforts also, but Zara emphasised that both girls have always been active, beginning as competitive gymnasts and playing soccer and camogie as well as dancing.
Leilani even plays camogie for Clare Under-15s, and Saoirse has earned a place on both the Clare and regional soccer teams at her age group.
“I could tell from the standard at the Dance World Cup that some of those competing had dedicated their entire lives to dancing, so we were very happy with the girls. Representing Ireland was huge, and Covid meant that their classes were all online, so none of that was easy.”
The Dance World Cup was moved from Rome to Spain, and then from Spain to Telford in England; a handful of competitors had the chance to perform live, but the Kent girls had no such comfort.
Zara continued that the process of delivering a high-quality video submission was tedious at best, hours upon hours being spent in the studio by Laura Jane Allis, Leilani and Saoirse recording two- or three-minute clips of their routine.
Zara continued that although her daughters did receive recognition for their achievement, they missed out on a lot of the celebrations for the competition, such as carrying the Irish flag at the festival beforehand.
“The Dance World Cup had over 120,000 competitors from 62 countries, and through their website we could watch the finals. We spent the first little while watching the other dancers thinking,
‘Oh my God, these dancers are amazing’, and at that point Leilani and Saoirse just didn’t want to come last! But they held their own.”