Chin up. Toes squeezed. Feet crossed.
Ella Lechner’s shoes begin to pound the floor to Irish tunes.
Her arms flat at her side, her ankles crisscrossed and pivot as she turns, she leaps to kick her feet above her head.
The 15-year-old Eagle student will perform this routine in Scotland this month to compete in the world championships of Irish dancing. Ella is ranked a top Irish dancer in the United States.
“I want to be the best dancer I can be,” said the Idaho Fine Arts Academy freshman. “I know there is still time to improve.”
Ella has dedicated her life to Irish dancing. She started dancing lessons when she was 5. She wanted to keep up with her older sister, who had done it before her.
“This is my passion,” she said.
Ella undergoes a rigorous daily training schedule. She practices six days a week at home. She exercises at the gym weekly and goes to monthly physical therapy appointments to stay flexible. She is on a no-sugar diet and no fast food allowed.
No pedicures, skiing or using the trampoline.
Being an Irish dancer includes purchasing a dress, wig, makeup, multiple shoes, socks, spray tans and travel expenses.
All of her commitment is for six minutes on stage. Ella owns 126 competition medals.
“Ella has natural talent,” said Maria, Ella’s mother. “This is my daughter’s passion and we 100 percent support her.”
Ella is enrolled at Celtic Steps, a dance studio in Colorado where she travels for practice once a month. She uses FaceTime to communicate with her coaches during the week.
“To be the best, you have to be trained by the best,” she said.
Ella qualified for the world championships through the North American Irish dancing championships in New Orleans in July. She was in a large ballroom on an elevated stage, with the eyes of seven judges and an audience.
Ella ranks third in the western United States and 15th across the nation in her age category. This will be Ella’s second time competing at the world championships.
“This is my life,” she said. “I’ve come so far and ready to put in my best.”
Ella owns a 4.0 grade-point average as she juggles dance with schoolwork. She would like to be a physical therapist and teach Irish dancing after high school.