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UI freshman hung up Irish dancing shoes

BY SETH ROBERTS | AUGUST 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Taylor Best is only 18 years old, but she's already retired.

Up until a few days ago, the University of Iowa freshman was one of the brightest stars in the world of Irish step dancing.

She finished as high as fourth at annual national championship events and recorded a No. 19 spot at the 2010 World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

At least for the time being, though, the native of Norfolk, Mass., has put away her dancing shoes.
"I really just wanted to focus on settling into school and not having to be in training, because that takes up all of my time," she said. "It took a lot of work. It was difficult enough to balance in high school … to think about doing it in college would be even more of a challenge."

And while she said she considers herself retired, she was quick to add it's just "for now."

Best began Irish dancing around her fifth birthday, when her grandmother gave her a recording of the London production of Riverdance.

"I was absolutely hooked — I watched it every day," she said and laughed. "We have numerous home videos of me prancing around, thinking I'm doing what they're doing on TV."

She took her first formal class shortly thereafter, and by her eighth birthday, she had given up such activities as ballet and horseback riding in order to master the intricate kicks and turns of Irish step dancing.

And while she quickly ran out of space for her trophies — she said her mother, Tedde Best, started using some of them as candy dishes — Best said her biggest accomplishment took place away from the dance floor.

"When I left my dance school this past weekend, all the little girls wrote adorable messages about how they looked up to me, and how I had been a role model to them, and how they wanted to be just like me," she said. "That was like, 'I've left a mark, and I've made a difference.' "

Best moved to Minneapolis with her family in 2008 and began classes with Cormac O'Shea, who performed in the Riverdance production that drew Best to the sport in the first place.

O'Shea called her the most successful dancer he has ever taught and also spoke at length about the ease with which she taught younger students.

"It's immeasurable, really, the impact that she had on the class," he said. "She has left a legacy of hard work and self-belief for those kids who are still training behind her. She would be a great teacher, will be a great teacher, and has been thus far already, even at her young age."

And while Tedde Best said she thinks her daughter's "retirement" came at the right time because of the rigors of college, she said she doubts Taylor will be able to stay away from step dancing.

"In my heart of hearts, I'm hoping she will somehow fit in her love for dance — whether it's participating here at school, whether it's teaching, or whether it's just joining a club with other Irish dancers," she said. "I hope that someday, there will be an avenue here where she'll be able to express her skill.

"I know that during St. Patrick's Day, I know there's somebody that's going to want to Irish dance," she said and laughed.


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