Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy

Gunbarrel dancer heading to nationals


March 24, 2017

Photo by Katie Child of ktChild PhotoDesign Niwot High Shool sophomore Gabe Hultquist will be competing in the national Irish Dance event in New Orleans this summer.

Gabe Hultquist, a 15-year-old sophomore at Niwot High School, is becoming yet another successful Irish dancer out of the Moriarty-Moffitt School of Irish Dance in Longmont.

In competitions, Gabe said he typically goes hard shoe in the first round, soft shoe in the second, and hard shoe in the final round. The different styles are judged mostly on the height of jumps, with form keeping the knees as straight as possible and the arms down to the sides.

“I like my third round the best because I get to dance alone,” Gabe said. “The hard shoe is great, I love the rhythm in it because it has metal and wood on the tips and heels. So you can make rhythm with your feet, and my feet can move fast so it’s fun.”

To train, Gabe runs a lot of sprints and long distance. There is even a drill that requires constant movement for one hour, not an easy task.

“Irish dance is definitely a high-endurance sport,” Gabe’s mother Terry said. “Gabe has a lot of natural ability and we found out that he’s good at it. He has a great sense of musicality and rhythm, he picked it up really quickly. He went from being a beginner to champion level.”

Terry and Gabe’s dad Steve have an older daughter who did Irish dance as well. Megan competed for several years, while Rachel did other sports along with dancing.

“They’re proud of me. (Megan) was actually surprised how quickly I got the hang of it,” Gabe said. “They support me and come to my competitions when they can.”

The family has Irish heritage, which plays a factor in how much they enjoy the competitions. Terry said that traveling for competitions is a big part of the sport.

“There’s a lot of time spent driving or keeping yourself busy while your kids are in dance class,” Terry said. “He competes approximately once a month locally, regionally, the national and even the worlds.”

They’ve been to Scotland and Canada, all over the west region, and are set to head to nationals in New Orleans this July. A high score there could send Gabe to the world competition.

“It’s been one of my favorite aspects of dancing, being able to travel,” Gabe said. “It’s especially nice that my parents are willing to do that and support me in it. When you’re traveling for these, it’s a lot of adrenaline and a lot of work all put into one competition, and I like it.”

Terry said that regardless of the cost of time or money, she would do it again because of what she’s seen her children learn and do.

“You end up doing a lot of traveling but it’s an amazing opportunity,” Terry said. “One of the things I think dancing does for kids is that it gives them so much confidence. To be able to compete on stage in front judges — all by yourself — it takes a lot of poise and a lot of courage.

“Although it is a big time and financial commitment, I would not miss out on this for the world. I get to watch my son dance, watch him compete, and share in the experience along with him. I get special time with my son, and that is a gift. Watching Gabe dance is a blast. I am very proud of him.”

The idea of commitment also echoes with Gabe, who overcame an injury to his meniscus and ACL last summer.

“I think this is definitely improving my sense of commitment, teamwork and leadership,” Gabe said. “Because all of the sports I’ve played I’ve usually been a leader. All of the training takes time. I think that helps a lot.”

Gabe is also a wide receiver and cornerback in football, but didn’t play last season. He pitches in baseball, is a goalkeeper in soccer and plays basketball and goes skiing. He has taken a few years off here and there from some of these sports.

In the world of Irish dance — in his age group which includes dancers as old as 17 — Gabe is ranked 30th in the world, 14th in the nation and fifth in the west region.

He hasn’t decided on where he’ll go to college, but he said he will probably play sports if he gets the opportunity.

“It’s a lot to balance, schoolwork and all of these sports,” Terry said. “It takes a lot of time management skills, hard work and discipline. I think dancing really teaches the kids a lot about work ethic and commitment. Those are things our family feels strongly about.

“It also teaches them about friendship. They all really support each other. Competition can be very discouraging at times, it can be stressful. The kids all come alongside each other.”


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