For USC Irish dance competitor, ‘practice makes perfect’

Grace Condon, who is a junior at A.C. Flora High, will be competing in the upcoming World Irish Dancing Championships.
Grace Condon, who is a junior at A.C. Flora High, will be competing in the upcoming World Irish Dancing Championships.

Saint Patrick’s Day was a week ago, but Irish dancer and University of South Carolina sophomore MaryKate Koschnitzki hopes the luck of the Irish continues for her next month.

The Greenville native will travel to Dublin, Ireland, to compete in the 47th World Irish Dancing Championships from April 9-16.

“It’s kind of like the Olympics for Irish dance,” Koschnitzki said of the competition. “So it’s like all of the top dancers from across the world.

“This will be my first time in Ireland. I’m very excited.”

Koschnitzki has been dancing with the Lynn O’Grady Quinlan Connick Academy for 11 years. She travels to Charlotte, North Carolina twice a week for rehearsals and practices once a week at Blue Moon Ballroom in West Columbia.

Koschnitzki has qualified for the World Irish Dancing Championships four times, and last competed in it in Boston, Massachusetts in 2013. The competition features hundreds of dancers from around the world, who had to place in the top 10 percent at a regional competition to qualify. Koschnitzki qualified by placing second at regionals in Baltimore, Maryland.

Owner of the Lynn O’Grady Quinlan Connick Academy, Sandra Connick, has been Koschnitzki’s lifelong coach and is impressed with the growth she’s made since she started dancing at age eight.

“She made her way up through the highest level of dance,” Connick said. “That commitment is what we see from our highest level of dancers. She’s committed to dance and she does a lot of practicing on her own.”

During competitions, Koschnitzki performs a solo routine with two other dancers on stage. She wears a $2,500 custom-fit lace dress with a full skirt, hard or soft-toed Irish dance shoes, a full face of makeup, self-tanner and a tightly-curled wig.

“It’s definitely fallen off a couple times,” Koschnitzki said of the wig. “There’s a comb in the front and the back and it will definitely come undone if you don’t put enough bobby pins in it.”

Along with Koschnitzki, Columbia native Grace Condon will be competing in the upcoming World Championships. Condon, who is a junior at A.C. Flora High, is relatively new to the Irish dance scene, having only been dancing for six years. She and Koschnitzki are friends and regularly practice together.

“They both have pushed each other along competitively,” Grace’s mother, Holly Condon said. “They don’t compete against each other because of their age differences, but they push and motivate each other.”

Like Koschnitzki, Condon has experience dancing on the world stage before. She went to Glasglow, Scotland last year for the All Scotlands Championships, where she placed 26th.

At this year’s competition, both of the dancers hope to “recall,” or place in the top 50. They’ve been taking special fitness classes and workshops to work towards that goal.

“I’ve been working more on stamina and keeping up the endurance to not look completely dead at the end,” Koschnitzki said. “Trying to practice more is kind of hard with a college schedule. Sometimes you just have to make time for it.”

“Stamina is one of the main components,” Connick said. “Stretching is another main component, just following certain exercise retains for movement and acceleration. Pretty much what makes you good – practice makes perfect.”

Koschnitzki and Condon also performed at several local events for Saint Patrick’s Day, including Main Street Public House, Delaney’s Music Pub and Eatery, nursing homes, private supper clubs and parades. The Saturday after Saint Patrick’s Day, Condon said her daughter performed in 14 shows.

“We recently performed at the dying of the fountain in Five Points,” Koschnitzki said. “We were there for there for the announcing of the lineups of the bands that performed at the Saint Patrick’s Day Five Points event.”

As a USC student majoring in exercise science, Koschnitzki aspires to be a physical therapist. Upon graduation, she plans to attend medical school for physical therapy and will use her experiences from Irish dancing to help achieve her career goals.

“If I was hired to be a physical therapist for a show, that would be great,” Koschnitzki said. “I don’t think my body can handle dancing forever, but some people do make a career out of it.”