CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 3, 2014 – While many children have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads during the holiday season, Lucy Ann Wills is doing the dancing.
This 9-year-old Irish dancer of Millstadt, Illinois, is preparing to take center stage in the traveling tour of “An Irish Christmas” that will stop at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus Nov. 4. Hailing from the heart of Ireland, “An Irish Christmas” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall.
Lucy Ann has been dancing since she was 3 years old, and after taking tap and ballet lessons for one year, she discovered her true passion, Irish dancing.
“She was not quite 4 years old, but from day one she was hooked,” said Christy Wills, Lucy Ann’s mother.
Lucy Ann started dancing at the O’Faoláin Academy of Irish Dance in St. Louis, Missouri, with Jennifer O’Faoláin-Bartley, director and head instructor of the Academy, and she has been dancing there ever since.
“I don’t like to sit there,” said Lucy Ann. “I just want to do a dance all the time.”
According to O’Faoláin-Bartley, Lucy Ann is the youngest dancer from her Academy to tour professionally.
“It is very gratifying as an instructor to witness the growth of a young dancer because I’m so passionate about dance, but I can’t make someone ‘feel’ it. Lucy Ann feels it in her soul, and that makes my job a lot easier,” said O’Faoláin-Bartley.
Lucy Ann recently returned from the international Irish dancing competition, All-Ireland’s, where she received a medal in both the hard shoe round and the soft shoe round.
“This was very exciting for her first time,” said Wills.
According to Wills, the commitment to dance at Lucy Ann’s level is huge for their family. Living an hour away from the dance studio, the Wills family makes the commute five to six days every week, depending how close Lucy Ann is to a major competition.
“Beyond homework and dinner, Lucy Ann is pretty much just dancing. But that is all she wants to do. Lucy looks forward to class every day,” said Wills.
At such a young age, Lucy Ann has committed herself to a life of practicing, traveling and performing, but those who know her understand why she does it.
“It truly is a passion, almost a possession, for Lucy Ann. She willingly commits herself every day,” said O’Faoláin-Bartley. “We push her to do the best that she can, but her drive comes from within. She is fully committed to this art and sport.”
Lucy Ann plans to continue down the road of dance, and eventually make it a career.
“I want to be a dancer in ‘Lord of the Dance’ one day and maybe be a dance teacher too,” said Lucy Ann. “That is all I want to do, just dance forever.”
Tickets may be purchased at the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (573) 651-2265, or by visiting www.RiverCampusEvents.com.