Young Brockport dancer to hit world stage
05:00 AM, Dec 28, 2013
Molly Kate-Brooks Smock has been following in her sister’s dance steps most of her young life.
Now, at age 10, Molly gets the spotlight. The fifth-grader at Hill Elementary in the Brockport Central School District is heading to the 2014 Irish Dance World Championships, which will be held in London in April.
“We’re still in shock,” Molly’s mom, Nancy Smock, said proudly. “We knew she was good, that she was doing well. This is just icing on the cake.”
Molly started dancing shortly after she was toddling. By age 3, she was already emulating big sister Hayley, who herself started Irish dancing when she was 5.
The girls are 10 years apart in age but very close, their parents said.
“Hayley (now 20) was doing very well, and Molly was tagging along from the start,” said the girls’ father, Chris Smock. “Hayley just fell in love with the sport, worked hard at it, on her own, and Molly was around it a lot. It was just a natural fit for her.”
Hayley, who still dances, competes and helps teach Irish dance, graduated from Brockport High School in 2011 and is a student at The College at Brockport. She can also add the title “mentor.”
“Ever since (Molly) could walk, Hayley has been teaching her,” the girls’ mother said. “She kept grabbing Hayley’s legs. The feet never stopped.”
Molly qualified for the world championships at a regional competition in Philadelphia over Thanksgiving weekend. She takes lessons at Boland School of Irish Dance in Greece.
“I was very excited,” Molly said about qualifying. “When I’m dancing, I feel like I’m in a different world. I feel really great.”
Molly has been competing at the highest level Open Championship since she was 6, her mother said. She reached the world championships in her first year of eligibility, her mother added.
Irish dancing, popularized in the show Riverdance, is intense and physically demanding. Dancers like Molly rehearse thrice weekly, Chris Smock said, and dance nonstop for two minutes. “It’s like a sprint,” he said.
Hayley and Molly both played soccer when they could, their mother said, but the demands of dance meant soccer was out. Five or six days a week are devoted to training, she said, including three days of dance and additional work to “keep your body strong.”
“It takes a kid willing to give up birthday parties and other things, for the love of the dance,” Nancy Smock said. “This is harder than the three sports I played (basketball, soccer and softball, at Spencerport High School). They train all year long, with no break.”
Molly’s teacher at the Boland School, Barbara Boland, said reaching the world championships is the dream of every Irish dancer. Molly has been training with Boland for a year to reach this status.
“She has a very mature and strong work ethic,” Boland said by email. “She sets goals and works very hard to achieve them. In class, she is the first one up on the floor and the last one to leave and really is an inspiration to her classmates.”
Boland’s daughter, Courtney Lussier, also helps teach the Smock sisters.
Molly competes 15 to 20 times a year, her father said, and that means a lot of travel. The family has been to the New York City area, to Canada, Tennessee, and, this past summer, to Michigan, he said. Both Hayley and Molly competed in London a year ago, but not the world championships.
Hayley also has competed in Ireland several times, Chris Smock said, including the 2011 world championships in Dublin.
“Hayley’s work ethic is something that Molly mimicked,” he said. “They work great together. Hayley gets a lot of credit for getting Molly to where she is. She’s her in-house coach. Molly looks up to Hayley, and Hayley looks out for Molly.”
Irish dance is a worldwide phenomenon, with 5,000 to 7,000 international competitors, Nancy Smock said. The sport has organizations in countries as far-ranging as South Africa, Germany, Russia and Japan.
Even with all the demands on her time, Molly excels in her “regular” classroom activities as well, her parents said. She was part of a team that got a “Brockport Best” award earlier this school year for their work on a vegetable garden that is growing beside the Hill School. Molly also is a “safe-school ambassador” who is involved with anti-bullying efforts.
Both Hayley and Molly were extremely close to their maternal grandmother, Patricia Brooks, who died in 2011. Their grandmother encouraged them and made them costumes and crowns, Nancy Smock said.
“Molly wears hearts on her dress for my mother,” Nancy Smock said, a recollection that caused Smock to shed “happy tears.”
Now, it’s Molly’s turn to dance on the world stage.
“This has been a breakout year for her,” her mother said. “We’re all so excited. We’re overwhelmed.”