Curren Griffin sounded nervous — like he was chewing on his lip or fidgeting in a chair. The 16-year-old Sarasota High School student consistently takes audiences by storm as he skips and clicks his heels at Irish dance competitions, but talking on the phone to a reporter doesn’t appear to come as naturally.
The teenager cleared his throat into the receiver, preparing to dish the scoop on his life. An Irish dancer and member of the SHS junior-varsity, high- school football team, it seems he doesn’t have much down time — but he’s not complaining.
“I have a busy schedule,” Griffin said. “During the year, toward regionals, I get up at 5:45 a.m. I go to school and have practice for three hours after school, do homework, dance for two hours and get home around 9 or 10 at night. I usually get weekends off from football, but I have dance practice on Saturday mornings.”
Six years ago, Griffin’s sister, Taylor, got him interested in Irish dance. Griffin’s football coaches agreed it would help him with his footwork and agility. Griffin is the starting safety on the Junior Varsity football team, which aids in strengthening his muscles for dancing. He dances to better his endurance during football games. On the field, Griffin practices running and weightlifting, which enable him to heighten his jumps and hit the ground harder on stage. Either way, Griffin gives it all he’s got.
“Football is physically and mentally demanding, but when dancing, I have to focus more on endurance and mind games,” Griffin said. “It’s harder to breathe. Even though each dance is only one minute and 30 seconds, you’re going all out the whole time, and there’s a point where you reach a wall and you can’t breathe or feel your legs.”
His dancing attire, a vest, button-down and pants, differs from his football uniform of pads and a helmet, but Griffin is just thankful he’s not forking over $2,000 for handmade, one-of-a-kind dresses like female Irish dancers are required to wear.
Griffin competed for the fourth time at the National Championships of Irish Dance July 3 through July 7, in Nashville, Tenn. He placed 16 out of approximately 30 male dancers in his age group and kept watch on the judges to learn what moves they favored, if his routine needed to be modified and, if so, how to do it.
“It was exciting,” Griffin said. “It’s fun because you get to meet a lot of new people, look at everyone else’s steps and see amazing dancers.”
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