Hidden Talents: The Champion Irish Dancer
Written by Bwog Staff
In Hidden Talents, Bwog exposes your classmates as the weird and glorious wunderkinder they truly are. Hannah Goldstein profiles Sarah Tully, BC ’13, also known as That Girl Who Beat You at the Irish Dance World Championships. And if you know anyone with a hidden talent, let us know at [email protected]!
Sarah Tully leads a double life. The first Sarah Tully is a laid-back, easygoing Barnard sophomore who leads “Consent is Sexy” workshops and majors (tentatively) in linguistics. The second is a team captain, a dance teacher, and a rehearsal director. The first jams to Vampire Weekend, Kate Nash, and Modest Mouse. The second jigs to the bagpipe and plays the Irish bodhron drum at a studio in Midtown. One is a Chicagoan, born and raised. The other is (recently – congrats!) an Irish citizen. Since there is little available dance practice space on campus, Sarah Tully’s Irish-dancer alter ego stays, for the most part, hidden from the Columbia population. But what she lacks in visibility here she makes up for in glory on the international stage—Seriously.
It started out in first grade. After falling in love with a performance at Chicago’s annual “Celticfest,” a then seven-year-old Tully began studying at the local branch of the Trinity Dance Academy. Soon she was performing and competing as part of the Academy’s company, even signing on for a three-week tour in Japan. In high school, Tully led her fellow dancers to victory at the World Championship in Scotland, beating the Irish at their own game as captain of the first American team to win the international title. Now Tully is one of the world’s elite Irish dancers in her age group and performs overseas every summer in countries across the world. From her previous trips to Bulgaria, France, Italy, and Belgium, she could probably spend a layover hanging out in the Star Alliance lounge of her choice with all her frequent flier miles.
Once a week, Tully goes to practice at the Broesler Academy in Westwood, New Jersey, for an intense session she likens to “a hybrid of rugby practice and a ballet class.” There she executes drills of 250 sit-ups and practices routines in “hard shoe” and “soft shoe,” both of which are required in competitive settings.
Back at Columbia, though, Tully is just a normal girl. Rather than returning to Ireland for the seventh time, she plans to study abroad in an Arabic-speaking country and polish her language skills. She has undoubtedly checked off an impressive amount of Irish-dance boxes in her years, from a cameo on the “Today” show to a performance with company-mates at the AMNH Whale Room and a dance piece created by a choreographer from Stomp. However the nineteen-year-old Tully draws the line at the ultimate cliché: “I won’t do Riverdance,” she says firmly. In that respect, one might say the jig is up, but something tells us the world has not seen the last of the second Sarah Tully.