Think you could pull off both the delicate footwork and thunderous stomps of Irish dancing? It is an athletic and artistic challenge, but
12-year-old Alicia Sambrook loves it. She’s been hooked ever since she went to watch the world famous Irish dance-troupe Riverdance when they toured Hong Kong five years ago.
Immediately after, she joined the city’s Echoes of Erin School of Irish Dance, where she trains between three and six times a week, as part of the school’s Celtic Bauhinia troupe. This summer, if all goes to plan, the Renaissance College student will take her passion for dance to the city of Limerick in Ireland for the week-long Fusion Dance Festival this summer. There, she’ll train, dance, and live with a group of like-minded performers.
Alicia’s hoping to win a scholarship worth 50 per cent of the course fee, but she’s up against nine other scholarship hopefuls. Victory depends on whose 30-second audition video gets the most views on Facebook.
“I think that they’re all very good,” she says of the other candidates. “Their dance styles are quite different than mine ... they made more taps, and I did more upper body movements.” The young dancer is hoping more viewers will “like” and share her video before the competition closes this evening.
Alicia was born in Britain, but she’s lived in Hong Kong for seven years, and her video entry aptly reflects her new home. It shows her dancing in a red dress against a backdrop of red lanterns and the city’s unmistakable tower blocks and mountains.
The clip opens with an ominous rumble of thunder before Alicia begins a bold dance of swooping arms and tapping feet, finishing with a dramatic jump to the ground. Her creative moves fuse Irish tapping with ballet techniques, like pointed toes and graceful arms.
Irish dancing is known for its rapid leg and foot movements, with the arms usually held still by the dancer’s sides. The style is closely linked to tap dancing, as it often involves wearing hard shoes that make a lot of noise on the ground.
Modern choreography applies the traditional Irish dance techniques to popular songs. The other entrants used a range of music from Meghan Trainor to Game of Thrones to Major Lazer, but Alicia went with Phantom of the Opera.
“I liked the music,” she explains, simply. “I thought it would be quite fitting with the somewhat epic background and dance. I thought that the music was very beautiful. I choreographed the dance myself and enjoyed the opportunity to express my individuality.”
Aside from the Fusion festival, Alicia’s summer will involve a three-week “tour” of workshops accompanied by her dad, Frank. They’ll arrive in Dublin in July to take part in a summer school at the famous Riverdance college, followed by a short break in Connemara and then finally Limerick.
She hopes to turn her hobby into a career, and has already tasted the life of a professional dancer through performing at Clockenflap and appearing in a production of A Bug’s Life at HKCC.
The Fusion competition is more than just a shot at a scholarship – “It’s a good opportunity to find my place in the world of Irish dancing,” she says. “The Fusion DanceFest is different from traditional Irish dancing because they try to bring a more modern influence into it and mix it with other dance genres. They bring Irish dancing to the streets.”
She adds, “The competition also gives me the opportunity to spread the word about Irish dancing in this part of the world, some people may never have heard about it before. By sharing the video we spread the word!”
Check out Alicia's video here. The competition closes at 7.43pm tonight.