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Women, Sport, and Film - Spring 2005
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Stepping Out of Bounds: A Tale of Irish Dance

Jenna Higgins

Jenna Higgins
Amy Campell
Women, Sports, and Film

Stepping Outside the Bounds: A Tale of Irish Dance

When I had been selected to make a movie dealing with sports, women, and the hardships that go along with the two, I decided to do a movie on something not really recognized as a sport even though it has just as much training and physical demands dance, more specifically, the world of Irish Step Dancing.

It is the year 2010, the stage is set. Our protagonist Fionna McHugh (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a poor Navajo girl living on a reservation in New Mexico with her two mothers: one mother, Kiwi (portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg), is African American and the other mother, Adrianna (played by Julianne Moore), is an Irish women who has come to America with little more than a penny. Fionna grows up hearing the tales of the Irish Dancers from her mother's home country. Fionna has never seen Irish Dancers before on the reservation until one day, when she was 14, her high school was selected to hold a feis . Fionna and her mothers ran up and stare, enthralled with the Irish Dancers. The next day, Fionna went into Albuquerque to the local Irish Dance School, run by Maureen Ford (played by Miranda Richardson). Fionna has an interview Maureen Ford, who seems very impressed with her enthusiasm. She asks to meet the parents of Fionna before she can officially let her in the school. Fionna, having run into no problems till now with her parents, agrees. The next day Fionna introduces her mothers to Maureen. Maureen is horrified. She begins to tell Fionna that there is suddenly no room for her in the class something has come up, all the while sneering at Kiwi. Adrianna is appalled. She and Kiwi begin to viciously attack Maureen. It is only after Adrianna and Kiwi explain their love for each other and their daughter that Maureen finally, grudgingly allows Fionna into the class.

Fionna begins to attend classes for hours on end, every day after school and on the weekends. Fionna soon discovers she has a knack for dance! Her skill soars above all the other long-devoted students in the classes. The other girls and boys in the classes begin to tease Fionna and make fun of her ruthlessly. They call her a lesbian, tell her that her mothers are 'dykes' and she will never become a champion dancer. Fionna, upset with all the remarks about her and her family, begins to develop an eating disorder an over eating disorder. She begins to falter in going to her dance classes and is rapidly putting on weight. To make things worse for Fionna, she has begun to realize that she has had a crush on another one of the girls in her class Juliette Baraby (portrayed by Kate Winslet). Fionna already has had enough hateful remarks before anyone knowing about her sexuality, she cannot bear to reveal her secret to anyone except her mothers.

Maureen, who has now developed a devotion and admiration for Fionna, comes to Fionna's house to try and get Fionna to come back to dance. After much coaxing from Maureen, Kiwi, and Adrianna, Fionna agrees to go to her first feis in about two months. The next two months we see flashes and various shots of Fionna working constantly in the gym lifting weights, running the tread mill, doing countless crunches, and dancing non-stop. Things start to look up for Fionna. Even Juliette and she begin to date before the feis. Fionna's only worry now was placing in the feis because mostly, no one except Maureen, her mothers, and Juliette thought she could. The day of the feis came. Fionna was up against girls from not only Albuquerque, but all of New Mexico, various other states and even some girls from Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom!! To almost everybody's disbelief the poor little homosexual Navajo girl placed first place out of 150 girls.

After her initial success Fionna continued to soar, heedless to the nasty remarks said behind her back. She moved from feis to feis throughout the country, always killing the other competitors and taking home the trophy. Her life seems pretty good, pretty uncomplicated, that is, until Ryan Conner (played by Ewan McGregor) enters the picture. He is a judge that Fionna encounters at the Pennsylvania Hershey feis. Ryan takes an eager interest in Fionna and seeks her out after her competition. Fionna is utterly enamored with Ryan. They continue to become better acquainted over the next month or so through email and phone calls until one day, Fionna's world fell apart. It was right before Fionna was to head off for the National Irish Dance Competition in Chicago. Juliette stormed up to her and asked her what was up with her and Ryan. Caught in the cross fire, Fionna doesn't know what to do. She ends up falling on the ground and crying; Juliette walks away. Fionna was in a daze for hours. She hadn't even known that she liked men before Ryan! Heck, she didn't know if she actually did like him! He gave her that funny feeling inside... oh she was so confused! The day of Nationals arrives. As Fionna is competing she notices Juliet standing sneering in the corner- Fionna never saw the much heavier girl slam into her and knock her off the stage.

Hours later, Fionna with the help of Ryan limped over to the scores. She couldn't believe it. She had placed second. She was going to the World Championships in Ireland!! Only one problem her ankle was swollen to the size fo a cocnut!! Worlds were only two weeks away. This time, even Maureen didn't think that Fionna had enough time to let her ankle heal and place in the Worlds. Fionna had been through too much to let that happen to her now. Fionna trained like nothing else for the two weeks until it was time for the Worlds. Fionna walked on stage and saw her mothers, Maureen, Ryan Conner, and unbelievably Juliette, all smiling and cheering for her. Fionna danced her best. [dramatic music] The scores were up. The mothers and Juliette race ahead of Fionna, Ryan and Maureen. Fionna is helped over to the scores by Ryan and Maureen (she has damaged her ankle more during her competition). Her eyes almost pop out of her head. She had won. She had won her competition for Worlds. She was the new 18 and under Irish Step Dancing World Champion. Fionna breaks down into tears and as the end of the movie approaches we see Fionna and her entourage help Fionna to the stage to claim her trophy. As Fionna smiles out into the wild crowd she looks down and sees her mothers crying, Maureen and Ryan cheering like mad, and Juliette who mouths to her 'he's actually pretty cute' and smiles. Fionna was never happier.

When I was looking at the prompt I didn't just want to choose one topic so I decided on many race, class, sexuality, and eating disorders. I feel that these topics should be covered in a more connecting basis, not just one by one as is often done in these sports movies.

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