Beverly Hunt O’Connor juggles a full-time sales career, family and a dance studio. A mom of two boys, ages 12 and 15, the Edgewater resident works in medical sales and teaches Irish step dancing evenings and weekends at the Hunt School of Irish Dance, which she owns with her sister. She also travels to national and international competitions with her students. We recently caught up with O’Connor to learn about her passion for Irish dance and how she manages to balance her busy life.
Q: Why did you get involved in Irish dance and how did you come to own a dance school?
At the age of 4, I was introduced to Irish dancing by my mother, who came over from Ireland at the age of 14. My brother, sister and I all started [dancing] at a local Irish dance school on Long Island. We competed across the country, regionally, nationally and in Ireland at the World Championships. Irish dance was my life. I made friends, traveled and learned many life skills.
When I graduated college I knew I wanted to teach. I wanted to make a difference in children’s lives and felt that Irish dance was the way I could leave a lasting impression because of the experiences I had.
Q: Do you still dance?
I danced competitively from the age of 4 to the age of 23. I then began teaching with my brother in New York. Once you teach, you do not compete. When I moved to Maryland with my husband in early 2000, I began the Hunt School Maryland location, and my sister joined me a couple of years later. So, yes, I still can dance, but I only teach. I do not perform. I now leave that to my students.
Q: How do you juggle your work life and family life?
Some days I don’t know how I do it, honestly, but I think it’s just my personality. I truly enjoy both my sales career as well as my dance school. Seeing the faces of the students I teach each week makes it all worth it.
Without the support of my husband, I could never do what I love. We truly work together to raise our boys. After 22 years of marriage, we still have days that we need to juggle more than we would like. I think that my own boys see how much I love to teach, and they truly support me as well. I also believe in shutting it all down and enjoying family vacations and holidays. After any of our big competitions, I usually take a week off from dance to regroup at home and get everyone back on the same page.
Q: Sounds like there is a fair bit of competition and travel in your life. How do you juggle that?
Irish dance has become a lot more competitive over the last 20 years. This has played a large part in the amount of travel I do. But what I always keep in mind is that it’s not all about the winning and competition. It’s about the life lessons and the friendships. This is what carries students through life and prepares them for what is to come.
The juggling of family, work and dance can be stressful, but I always make sure I do my best to take family time and family vacations. In addition, I have a great group of girlfriends. They keep me sane as well!
Q: Do your boys dance or did they at one time? If they don’t dance, what are their passions?
My boys do not dance. My older son, Sean, tried it at one time but figured out quickly it’s harder than it looks. I was OK with this since it is very hard to coach your own children. Both my boys play baseball and soccer and travel a lot with both. I do my best to attend as many events as possible, but this is where my support group comes in. From my husband to my family to my friends, I always have someone who is willing to cheer for my boys when I am not there.
Q: What do you like best about what you do?
When people ask me why I teach, I always use the example of having a beginner who comes to me at the age of 5, crying because [she] doesn’t want to leave [her] mom’s side and then one year later [she] is up on stage performing. This makes it all worthwhile. I have seen many of my students grow into wonderful young men and women and go off to college. Many choose teaching as a career and get their license to teach Irish dance. Many come back to assist teaching younger students. There is nothing like this feeling of knowing you made a difference in the world by influencing these young students. The lessons they learn at dance will be with them for a lifetime.
Q: What is most challenging about what you do?
Time and keeping it real and not about the competition. Working with parents to make sure they understand the true value of Irish dance and not just getting a trophy at a competition.