Dancing their way around the world

Posted 5/1/10

They look alike, finish each other’s sentences and simultaneously execute blindingly fast dance steps with incredible precision. Kathleen and Erin …

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Dancing their way around the world


They look alike, finish each other’s sentences and simultaneously execute blindingly fast dance steps with incredible precision.

Kathleen and Erin Hayes, 16-year-old twins from Highlands Ranch, have spent nearly their entire lives mastering the art of Irish step dancing. It requires patience, endurance and toughness. It takes long hours and unwavering dedication to reach the top of the world rankings, and both girls have done just that.

Dressed in brightly colored outfits and donning massive, curly wigs, the girls have taken Irish step dancing to new levels. They consistently place in the top 10 at state and regional competitions, and Kathleen and Erin earned their right as No. 1 and No. 5 in the western United States, respectively, last November. More recently, they traveled to Glasgow, Scotland, for the World Championships of Irish Dancing, where Kathleen placed 14th.

It all started when their parents took them to an Irish festival at the old Stapleton Airport when they were just 3 years old. They sat at the front of a performance stage, transfixed for hours by a group of girls that were dancing their hearts out. Kathleen and Erin were hooked. And even though they were so young, both girls remember that point in time in vivid detail. Their parents shrugged it off when the pair of adorable toddlers announced their intentions to take up Irish step dancing. But they persisted, and eventually found themselves in one of the only Irish dancing classes in the south metro area.

Despite their successes, few people outside of their small circle of family and friends know about the girls’ talent. When they first see what Kathleen and Erin can do, many are left speechless.

The ThunderRidge High School sophomores have tried other sports, including soccer and tennis, but were left with little time for their real passion and decided not to pursue any other extracurricular sports. The decision has clearly paid off. They are among the elite dancers in the world and have become recognized as a force to be reckoned with.

The Hayes twins have performed in front of massive crowds at a Denver Nuggets basketball game, various festivals throughout Colorado, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and were even featured on a 9News segment this past St. Patrick’s Day.

Their parents still recall the girls’ first competition when they were 6 years old. Kathleen sat happily in the back seat on the way home with a shiny trophy, while Erin sat next to her crying, wishing she had earned a spot on the podium. Erin acknowledges that Kathleen usually walks away with a higher spot, but when considering the fact that Erin finishes close behind in a field of hundreds of competitors, it is something to be proud of.

The ride has not been without its bumps and bruises. Kathleen broke her arm after a fall, and both have suffered numerous strained leg muscles and fractures in their feet. Doctors have advised them to stop dancing to allow the injuries to heal, but they continue to practice, often two hours a day, seven days a week. They have gotten a lot of use out of a dance floor in the basement of their Highlands Ranch home.

Of course, there are some expenses associated with all of the costumes, lessons and international travel. Their father, Tom, said he tried to keep track of the costs last year, but lost track after $20,000. The family vehicles have logged thousands of miles over the years, driving back and forth to competitions in Arizona, California and Illinois.

They enter 15-20 contests every year, but still get nervous before going onstage. They know that one incorrect move can throw off an entire routine. They are judged on style, technique and even looks. The girls must keep their arms straight and upper torso completely still as their legs flail at amazing speeds.

When compared to Irish dancing superstar Michael Flatley, the twins quickly point out that he is more “showy“; they are more technically sound. But still, they would not mind traveling the world with his dance crew. Kathleen and Erin also aspire to one day open their own dance studio to help other girls’ dreams come true.

In spite of the injuries, the grueling hours of practice and the enormous expenses, the 16-year-olds know they must enjoy it while they can.

“We only have so many years to do this,” Erin said.


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