One day when Bri Doherty, an Oakland Park teenager, was in ballet classes as a young girl, her ballet teacher had to ask her to concentrate on her ballet because she was toying around, practicing Irish dance instead. She originally found an interest in Irish dance because her father, an Irishman from Northern Ireland, would play Lord of the Dance music for her. At that time, little did he know that playing a little Irish music would create a desire inside of her to Irish dance that couldn’t be stopped.
With the Irish blood coursing strongly through her veins and calling to her, at 8 years old, she made the decision to quit ballet. She chose, instead, to focus on Irish dance full time, a decision that would later allow her to learn from the best and showcase her talent. Today Bri is an exceptional world-qualifying Irish dancer. In 2022 she qualified for worlds again at a competition in Orlando, taking the world of Irish dance by storm for the 6th time in her young life.
Bri’s skills didn’t develop on their own – she learned from the best of the best. Bri attends Drake Irish Dance in Florida, a prestigious Irish dance school located in Coral Springs. Drake Irish Dance is owned and directed by the world-famous Dublin, Ireland native, Karl Drake (ADCRG).
Karl Drake is an elite Irish dance instructor and adjudicator. He is certified by An Coimisiún Le Rinci Gaelacha – the Commission of Irish Dancing and the largest governing body of Irish dancing worldwide.
Drake Irish Dance School is extremely well-known in the Irish Dance community, and it has locations across the Southern U.S. in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and three locations in Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Naples, and Sarasota). Karl Drake’s dance studios have been so successful in producing world-qualifying dancers that his dance schools are a global sensation, with additional locations in Mexico and China.
Bri’s teacher, Chrissy Deacy (TCRG), is a great teacher according to Bri’s father. When Bri first transferred to Drake Irish Dance, Chrissy took Bri under her wing and has been a phenomenal teacher ever since.
In addition to having great teachers on staff, Drake Irish Dance Schools – Fort Lauderdale also brings in world reknowned dancers like Kelly Hendry. Hendry is a world-champion Irish dancer, former lead dancer for Riverdance and choreographer. During Hendry’s recent visit she helped the dancers master a complex choreography for their feises (Gaelic art and culture festival) and dance competitions.
Bri isn’t your average dancer. She has qualified for worlds 6 times and qualified for nationals 7 times. She has reached the top 10 in nationals twice and regionals three times.
Bri’s father, Mickey, describes her as “humble,” “dedicated,” and “talented.” As a freshman with honors classes at school, she gracefully follows a rigorous routine. She has to go to school all day, train for dance several nights a week, and keep up with her homework on top of that. Mickey says, “to have that kind of a mindset while you’re going nonstop, several nights a week, between physical exercise and competition, you have to be dedicated. If you’re not dedicated, you’re wasting your time, because this sport is hard work!”
Bri is a tough competitor who works hard for the things she’s accomplished. She has worked through injuries and more to get where she is today. Her resilience and success provide other Oakland Park teenagers with the example that they can accomplish anything they desire, so long as they set their minds to it and put in the hard work.
Despite such hard work, Bri is so talented that she makes it look easy. Bri loves Irish dance because it is so different from ballet, tap, and any other kind of dance. She explains that it’s more complicated because it requires a lot of skillful footwork. The complexity of the dancing, combined with the stage presence required, is what makes it so appealing to Bri.
Bri works hard, but dance is fun for her, too. She says her favorite thing about dance is the friends she has made. “We all have some sort of connection that we can bond over. Going to the competitions together and hanging out before we compete is what makes it fun.”
At just 14 years old, Bri, the little Irish storm from Oakland Park, gives wise advice to future dancers: “Just be yourself, do what you love doing, be passionate about it, and keep working hard!”
Cassidy Webb is a Texas native and South Florida transplant. She grew up just outside of Dallas, TX, and moved to South Florida four years ago. She now considers Fort Lauderdale her home.
Cassidy is the project manager at a small digital marketing company and she enjoys freelance writing on the side. In her free time, you can catch her exploring local parks or taking long walks through the neighborhood with her dog, Bella.