caleb

12-year-old Caleb Hawryliw getting in one more practice before leaving for the World Irish Dancing Championships. (David Shield, CBC)

Twelve-year-old Caleb Hawryliw will soon be competing against dozens of the world's best Irish dancers. But he's not worried.

"They're really good," he said. "But I think I'm really good, too."

Hawryliw is the youngest dancer from the Saskatoon area to ever attend the World Irish Dancing Championships. He's been performing since he was just four years old, and says Irish dancing is in his blood.

"It's exciting that my feet move that fast," he said. "I don't even have to think while they move."

The young dancer got his start thanks to his mother, who's been performing for years.

"He was really a hyperactive wild child," said Jeanette Hawryliw. "I was taking Irish dancing classes for recreation, and they had a younger kids' class, and I just thought, what better thing to have him do than jumping around for a couple of hours."

Caleb qualified for the World Championships at the western Canadian qualifiers in November. His school, Blakey School of Irish Dance, will be the only Saskatchewan school at the competition.

While Jeanette is proud of her son, and excited about his chances, she admits to being a little worried.

"I'm absolutely terrified for him, because he's not used to competing against so many other kids in his category, and there's 80 other boys," she said. "I don't want his little heart to be broken, but at the same time, I know he's worked really hard and he's going to do his absolute best."  

Tough training

Competition at the World Championships is intense. Hundreds of dancers gather together every year to compete.

And, not surprisingly, training is intense as well. For the past few weeks, Hawryliw and his team have been practising for hours every day.

"It's basically like the Olympics," said coach Luanne Schlosser. "We've got select best dancers from across the world, and they're competing for select few spots on the podium there, so the level of competition is intense."

Schlosser says her young student has done very well in competition

"He's been very eager to learn new material. He's very gifted in terms of his rhythmic capability. He's got a natural sense of timing, and that's one thing that's very hard to teach dancers."

Hawryliw and four other dancers from the team leave for London this week. The Championships run April 13-20.