HICKORY FLAT — Abby McCloskey, 11, is a focused performer determined to win in the competitive world of Irish dance.

The Dean Rusk Middle School sixth grader will represent the South and the U.S. in Dublin, Ireland in April to compete in a world competition. She qualified with an impressive solo performance, earning 12th place, at the 2019 Southern Region Oireachtas championships in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

The 11-year-old from Holly Springs has been involved in Irish dance for three years, and she practices at the King O’Sullivan School of Irish Dance. She prefers the dance genre to others “because it’s more competitive,” she said.

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“It’s been crazy. When she first started, she was progressing really, really quick. Everybody pretty much told us, ‘go ahead and plan, it will take you eight years to get to opens,’ and she did it in two. She doesn’t do very well when people say, ‘it’s going to take you this long.’ She’s very stubborn,” said her mother, Amy McCloskley. “So it’s been exciting to watch the whole process.”

Last year, Abby finished the regional competition and the season with 21st place, missing world qualifying by eight spots. When the regional results were announced and she qualified for the world championship, she was able to celebrate with her mother, her coach Jacinta O’Sullivan and her fellow King O’Sullivan dancers and their parents.

“I was excited,” Abby said.

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In an oireachtas, or Irish dance championship, dancers perform together as a team and individually. Solo dancers each perform a hard shoe dance as well as a soft shoe dance, sharing the stage in small groups. The top dancers are selected for an additional recall dance, or a set, and those are performed one at a time.

The solo dance is a more formal event than the team one, and female dancers wear elaborate dresses with long curly wigs, hair pieces and other jewelry.

The 2020 World Irish Dancing Championships are April 5-12 at the Convention Center in Dublin.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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