Nursing major, world competitor in Irish Dance
- By Megan Morley Thomas
Zack Warshaw is a happy camper. ("If I'm not busy, I'm angry," he says.) After recently placing second in the senior men category at the New England Regional Irish Dance Championship, he's now practicing for the World Irish Dance Championships (his fifth time). He's also juggling his nursing major and rotations, as well as a part-time job as a cardiology technician at Fletcher Allen Health Center. Throw in the fact that Warshaw started the UVM Celtic Cats dance club which now has 30 dancers, attends a weekly class at his dance school in Montreal, and is preparing for his upcoming semester abroad to Australia and one realizes that Zack Warshaw must be downright blissed out.
What about homework? "That's what 3 a.m. is for."
Warshaw has been dancing since he was three, and was introduced to Celtic dance when he was six or seven by his mother. Warshaw recalls: "I remember exactly what she said when she showed me this old VHS tape that had "Riverdance" on it — she said 'you're going to love this — their feet move so fast you somtimes can't even see them.'"
- Zack performing on behalf of the Celtic Cats dance group (YouTube)
- Warshaw's mother may have introduced him to Irish dance, but says his father, David Warshaw, department chair of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics in the College of Medicine, passed on his dancing abilities. ("You should see him at a wedding," says his son.)
- In a sport where 25 is considered old, Warshaw feels that he hit the competition scene pretty late. Still, he placed second at New England regionals and third at British Nationals this year.
With no local Irish dance school at the time, Warshaw stockpiled videos and taught himself the dances. Eventually he partnered with the Short School in Montreal — and an instructor who was competition certified by the An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha — the division of the Irish government that regulates this official artform of Ireland.
"At the time I think my parents thought it was my hobby. I don't think that they realized that by 2008 they'd be shoveling me to Belfast Ireland for World Irish Dance Championships," he says.
"The way I was raised — it was not an option to not go to college."
Warshaw cedes that with a schedule like his, everything on his plate takes a bit of a hit."You talk to the top five dancers at the Worlds, and they're not in school. They don't do anything else [but dance]. For me, I spend 3/4 days a week in the studio for shorter amounts of time, but at the same time I'm getting an education for myself. I'll have a job wherever I want to go, whatever I want to do."
Don't be fooled by the wanderlust in that statement — Warshaw knows exactly what he wants to do. "My ideal is to graduate nursing school, go back to grad school to become a nurse practitioner. I'd love to do emergency or primary care where I can do standard office hours so I could start my own school and teach evenings." He'd also like to tour with "Riverdance" for a time after graduation. And judge someday. The list goes on.
"I'm going to have to keep my hands in it until the day I die," he says. "There are some judges we joke about who are in their 80s and we're just waiting for them to keel over and I'm just praying that's me."