By Patrick Markey
While most teens his age spend their free time trying to fathom the latest fashions, Joseph Dwyer is more often tightening up his triple clicks and polishing his rhythm.
Eight years after he started dancing out of Donny Golden’s School of Irish Dance in Bay Ridge, Joseph, who’s 14, now ranks as one of the nation’s top Irish dancers for his age, has placed in the top 10 of international competition and has even danced past the president of the United States.
It all started as a matter of culture. Although he was born in Brooklyn, Joseph’s mother, Prema, is Indian American and his father, Michael, Irish American, with family roots in Galway and Gortymadden. His father thought Irish dancing would be a good way for his children to get in touch with their Celtic heritage. Joseph’s older brother and sister were also for a short while dancers at the Bay Ridge studio.
While admiring the older dancers and their speedy footwork, Joseph soon caught the bug, and started down the path toward championship-level performance.
“Watching the older people dancing and doing their jigs, I couldn’t believe how fast they moved their feet,” he said.
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Now ranked No. 2 in America for the 13-to-15-year-old category, two years ago Joseph placed 11th in the world championships in Dublin. Last month, he danced his way to a 10th place position in the world competition in County Clare.
Joseph is proving a talented find. His teacher, Donny Golden, who also taught former “Riverdance” star Jean Butler, said the Brooklyn teen has great rhythm.
“He’s a bright boy, He has a good eye for what he needs to do and when he needs to do it,” Golden said.
Joseph is one of a four-dancer team – with Golden, Sinead Lawler and 8-year-old Chloe Mullarky – which recently performed at the White House for President Clinton at an exhibition for a PBS production on dance in America.
“It was exciting meeting him. He seems like such a big person when you see him on the television, but he seems so different when you meet him,” Joseph said of his presidential encounter.
Near competition time, Joseph will hit the floor about three times a week, but often it’s hard to juggle dancing and homework schedules, he said. With a career as a doctor or perhaps physical therapist in mind, Joseph is studying at a specialist medical sciences school where his favorite subjects are math and biology. But despite recent growing pains in teenage tendons and the homework hassles, Brooklyn teen plans to keep dancing:
“You come so far and you can’t quit,” he said. “You have to keep going if you have a talent like that.”