Sisters are world champs in Irish dance

Alexandra and Courtney Hastings have put their hearts—and soft shoes—on the line many times after more than a decade of Irish dance training. Thanks to their hard work, they can now call themselves world champs.

The sisters, along their team of six other students from the Harney Academy, took home first-place honors at the 43rd World Irish Dancing Championships in March. Thousands of competitors from around the world gather every year for the championships, an eight-day-long competition that was held in Boston this year. Dancers need to place in the top of their regional and national competitions before they get the opportunity to face the World Championship judges.

“Worlds is the top of the top,” said Courtney, a first-year business major with a concentration in accounting. “Every Irish dancer in the world wants to win this competition.”

Despite this physically intensive competition, the Hastings sisters aren’t packing away their shoes just yet. After the Boston Marathon bombings, they joined forces with other local college Irish dance groups to raise money for the Richard Family Fund, in memory of one of the victims, 8-year-old Martin Richard. The show will be held at Hancock Hall at the Back Bay Events Center this Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

The Hastings come from a long line of Northeastern alumni; nine of their relatives proudly call Northeastern their alma mater. Alexandra and Courtney have paved their own way, becoming standouts in the Northeastern University Dance Company’s Irish dance group.

As the oldest of the Hastings sisters, Alexandra was first to bring up the idea of Irish dancing to their mother. “I went to see Riverdance when I was 5 years old and wanted to do it myself,” said the third-year nursing major. “At first my mom was against it, but eventually she gave in and put me in an Irish dance class. I’ve been dancing ever since.”

Courtney was quick to follow suit. After watching her sister practice day after day, she started Irish dance at the age of 4. “Our dance school quickly became a family,” Courtney said. “Our coaches taught us everything in life, from how to give a handshake to classroom etiquette.”

Over the course of their dancing careers, both girls have competed in more than two dozen national and regional contests, including traveling to Ireland, which is a popular venue for international competition.

“In high school, there were a few months where I was in Ireland for 18 to 20 days,” Alexandra said. “It was a lot of time but it was all worth it.”

In addition to their coaches, the Hastings sisters praised their grandparents for being instrumental to their dancing success. Their grandparents helped finance their classes and competitions, drove them back and forth to practices, and even built a dance studio in the Hastings’ basement with floor-to-ceiling mirrors so that Alexandra and Courtney could practice at home.

At competitions, the sisters could always count on seeing their grandparents’ supportive faces in the crowd. Unfortunately, their grandmother passed away before they won the World Championships.

“It was our nana’s dream to see us win Worlds,” they said. “We did this for her.”