Seventeen Year Old Irish Dancer’s ‘Only In America’ Story

And now, a nice St. Paddy's Day story.

If you haven't already, meet Drew Lovejoy. He's 17. He lives in rural Ohio. He's half black, half Jewish. And he's the best traditional Irish dancer of his age in the world. In February, for the third consecutive year, he placed first in hs age group at the All Irish Dancing Championship, in Dublin. A profile of Lovejoy in today's New York Times (whence I borrowed the above pic) calls his an "only in America story" — a notion which makes me feel rather patriotic.

But Lovejoy's American story is tinged with typically American tragedy. From the Times:

In the dance world, his unusual background was a plus … But it has served him less well here in his hometown, where a rural stretch of road bisects sweeping pastures dotted with aging barns. He moved here when he was 9, after his mother married Donald Goldberg, a Greenville resident she met at a nearby synagogue. (She had parted with Drew’s biological father, Terrance Lovejoy, when Drew was still a baby, though she remains on good terms with him, and says he sometimes rides to Drew’s competitions with her husband.)

It was not easy. Drew was a dancer, unusual for boys here, and black in a mostly white town. Bullying eventually prompted his mother to pull him out of school and start him in an online education program. He is still there today.

While most townspeople accept him, with some going out of their way to make him feel comfortable, Drew said he still does not feel entirely at ease. He does not walk the dog after dark.

“I feel like I have to watch my back,” he said, his hands resting flat on the green kitchen tablecloth.

I can't find any recordings of Lovejoy's recent performances, but here you can view a vid shot shortly after his first Dublin championship. (I'd post it to the blog, but the "embed" function's been disabled.)