CORDOVA — Dancing has been a part of Alyssa Ireland's life for so long that it is hard to believe there was a time that the 3-year-old version of herself didn't love it."Now I teach 2-year-olds, …
CORDOVA — Dancing has been a part of Alyssa Ireland's life for so long that it is hard to believe there was a time that the 3-year-old version of herself didn't love it.
"Now I teach 2-year-olds, and I totally understand," said Ireland, a Cordova High School senior who performs and teaches at ShowStoppers Dance Company in Sumiton.
For Ireland, 5 was the magical age when she was ready to embrace dance. Now there is hardly a day of the week when she is not practicing, performing or preparing for a class.
Her hard work earned her a first place win in her category and second place finish overall in a recent solo competition.
In competitions, Ireland has learned to trust her training but also to be ready to roll with the punches when the unexpected happens.
"If I have a hat or a prop of some kind, it's coming off or I won't have it by the end of the dance. Any costume piece or prop, something bad will happen. They're just not my thing," Ireland said.
To earn a spot on the award-winning competition team, Ireland must be knowledgable in all styles of dance — tap, jazz, ballet, clogging.
Her favorite is hip-hop, which she was introduced to in her second year of dance.
You can't cheat your way through a hip-hop dance, according to Ireland.
"In hip-hop, you have to know the music. If you don't hit the movements with the beats, it throws everything off. You have to connect or it's not the same as all. In tap or clogging, if I'm struggling that day, it's so much easier to cheat. If you don't put it all out there in hip-hop, it doesn't look good usually," she said.
Ireland has been teaching dance since ninth grade, the same year that she transferred from Sumiton Christian to Cordova. Her students range in age from 2 to 13 or 14.
Ireland said that it is helpful, especially for the younger dance students, to have someone teaching the class who could remind them of an older sister.
"I feel like it's so motivating when you see how they dance and all of the hard stuff that they can do," Ireland said.
Teaching has come relatively easy to Ireland; it's learning to balance school, dance, teaching and another part-time job that has posed a challenge.
Juggling multiple responsibilities in high school has made it easier for her to accept that it won't be the focus of her college life.
"I want to keep dancing. I love it so much and feel like it will always be a part of my life, but for me, it's not going to be how I make a living," Ireland said.
Her current plans include attending Bevill State Community College and continuing in a teaching role at ShowStoppers until she transfers to a university, possibly Auburn, to earn a pharmaceutical degree.
"My uncle and my aunt are both pharmacists. I've said since seventh grade that I was going to be a pharmacist, and they say, 'You're going to change your mind by the time you're a senior.' But I haven't yet," Ireland said.