Brooklyn has its very own Lady of the Dance!
Marine Park resident Lisa Murphy is ranked the sixth best Irish step dancer in North America and will compete in the world championships, held in Dublin from April 17 through the 24th.
“It’s a thrill to compete because the level of dancing is extremely high,” Murphy said. “Only the best get to go.”
The 22-year-old Murphy, who is one of 12 dancers in her age group from the Eastern United States heading to Dublin, has already proved she can go toe-to-toe with the best step dancers on Earth. Last year, she jigged her way through five rounds to place 39th out of about 150 dancers at the World Irish Dance Championships in Scotland (yes, Scotland). This year, her teacher Maureen O’Malley-Byrnes predicts she can step it up to a whole new level at the contest — known as a feis in Gaelic.
“I’m expecting great things from her this year,” O’Malley-Byrnes said. “She’s been at the top of her game all year long.”
Murphy got into Irish dancing for the same reason that most kids try out newactivities: all her friends were doing it. At 8, she enrolled in the O’Malley Irish Dance Academy — conveniently located across the street from Murphy’s Stuart street home. But Murphy quickly realized that she wanted dance class to be much more than a socializing session.
“Most of my friends eventually quit the Academy but I wanted to keep going,” Murphy said. “I wanted to learn new steps and take on harder routines.”
It was evident from the beginning that Murphy was a cut above many of the Academy’s 150 students.
“I knew from early on that she has great rhythm, terrific timing and beautiful form,” O’Malley-Byrnes said. “She can handle any routine you throw at her, no matter how complicated.”
Murphy is known for peppering her routine with modern moves, including a step-dance version of the moonwalk that she plans to showcase at the world championships.
Since March 1, Murphy and her fellow Academy students have been doing St. Paddy’s Day gigs almost every night, including a show at Borough Hall for Borough President Markowitz. With her physical prep work coming along, all that’s left for her to do is put together her traditional Irish dance costume — an ornate affair of sequenced dresses and hair curls that rival Shirley Temple’s.
“Dressing is one of the most expensive parts of Irish dancing,” Murphy said. “But I’m getting a new dress for the competition — black and hot pink.”
Murphy’s not sure if she wants to make her passion into her profession, despite all her work and accolades. She’ll graduate from St. Joseph’s college on Clinton Avenue in Clinton Hill with a Bachelor’s in mathematics and plans on getting her Master’s.
“I’m torn between dance and mathematics,” Murphy said. “But we’ll see what the future holds.”