Chicagoan Orla Godley, at 21-years-old, was crowned World Champion of Irish dancing for the third time in her life at this year’s 50th World Irish Dancing Championships!
The dancing championships concluded in Belfast, Northern Ireland, following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Godley competed in the Ladies 21 to 23-years-old category, where she competed against and beat more than 120 dancers from around the globe for the first-place world title. She previously won the World Championship title in 2014 and again in 2018.
To compete at the world’s most prestigious Irish dancing competition, dancers must first qualify by a achieving a high placement at their regional Oireachtas or National Championships. Godley qualified for the global competition by winning both the regional and national title.
“Dancing competitively used to terrify me. The thought of merely getting on stage in front of a host of judges and an audience would bring me to tears so winning a world championship title never seemed like a reality when I was a kid – let alone doing it three times,” Godley said. “Through the years, I’ve grown to love every part of competitions, both the small local ones and the ones where you’re on the world’s stage.”
Since she was a toddler, Godley began Irish dancing. Her Irish roots stem from her father who is originally from County Kerry and her grandfather from County Limerick.
She continues to train at Mullane Godley Irish Dance Academy in Edison Park, where she’s taught by her brother, John, who also achieved his own World Champion title more than a decade ago. The school was founded by her mother, uncles, and aunt more than 35 years ago. The dancing school prides itself on a unique philosophy that all dancers – regardless of level or experience – are given the same amount of time, attention and care as a world-champion dancer would receive.
In the wake of her third world title, Godley, a Loyola University-Chicago junior, says she’s going to return to focusing on schoolwork. Whether she attempts a fourth championship title remains to be seen but she has remained steadfast in her commitment to train up-and-coming young dancers who are interested in the sport.
“I want to continue to serve as a role model for the thousands of women across the globe who are interested in Irish dance, be it competitively or just recreationally,” said Godley. “The best part of Irish dancing isn’t world championships; it’s celebrating our rich culture and heritage and sharing it with millions of people across the world. That’s what this is about. That’s what I’ll continue to do.”