They danced to victory!
Director of BSD dance troupe from Swords, Nikki Fitzpatrick talks to Ken Phelan about the local young dancers that won Ireland's Got Talent.
Swords dance troupe BSD, a talented group of young dancers from Fingal, thrilled the nation recently when they became overall winners of TV's Ireland's Got Talent, ending months of gruelling rehearsals and achieving their much-deserved moment of fame.
BSD, a 39-strong group of dancers aged nine to seventeen, hail from Back Street Dance Studio in Swords, which trains young dancers from all over Fingal.
The studio first opened its doors in 2006 after Director Nikki Fitzpatrick, from River Valley, sat down with her parents at the kitchen table and decided to fulfil her life-long dream of running her own dance studio.
Despite initially going through some tough times, Nikki's studio grew from just a small hall in a local community centre to a purpose-built 5,000 sq ft studio in Airside Retail Park, teaching a range of dance styles, from toddler to teen.
After the shock of Nikki's mum passing away, who had been co-director, the loss affected the entire studio. Choreographers Aimee Fitzpatrick (Nikki's sister) and Niamh Carroll decided that entering Ireland's Got Talent would be the ideal way to bring new focus and drive, and, following in-house auditions, put together a winning crew.
With the younger dancers keen to impress their elders, and the older ones taking them under their wing, a winning combination was found that would pave the way to them competing in front of a national audience and ultimately taking home top prize.
Here, speaking after the Ireland's Got Talent final, held in the Helix earlier this month, a still euphoric Nikki explains what happened on the big night, and how proud she is of her immensely talented girls: 'It was incredible. I don't even have words to describe it really. I think for us, we're still trying to get over getting the Golden Buzzer, and then to get through to the semi-final and to go on and win the competition.
'We got to the point where we got to the final and said 'we've got to win this now!'
'Aimee and Niamh were both in my first ever class over fifteen years ago, so it's a huge achievement for them.
'They went from being students in my own class to being dancers and competing the same way these BSD kids are, doing shows and then training to be dance teachers and choreographers.
'This is their first big achievement, so I'm absolutely thrilled and I'm delighted for them as much as I am for the kids.
'Everyone thinks it's just the couple of weeks that you see on the show, but the show started back in November for us. That's how long these kids have been training.
'Obviously they were training from September, October for the actual initial auditions, and once we got the Golden Buzzer it was like, okay, we're straight through to the semi-finals now. So they've been working on their semi-final piece since November.
'From Christmas time, they had to start working on a final piece, because we never knew what way our semi-final piece was going to fall, whether it was going to fall a week beforehand or if it was going to fall the night before the final, so the kids had to be prepared. Thankfully we had that week to kind of strip things back and clean things up and make a few changes and stuff.'
The atmosphere on the night of the final was simply 'electric', Nikki says, adding that the support the act received, outside of family and friends, was 'absolutely incredible.'
There was some negative feeling over the win from some members of the public, she says, but at the end of the day, the public voted, and it was clear who the winners should be.
Nikki says that although the first audition, when BSD were given the 'Golden Buzzer', was 'incredible', the semi-final was quite nerve-wrecking. The choreographers had taken a huge risk by changing the style of dance they had originally auditioned with, and with background video segments not reflecting the change, the judges were left confused as to why they hadn't stuck with the original style.
Despite the slight glitch, however, Nikki says that 'any dancer' who had a performance background was 'blown away' by the performance, which she says was full of meaning.
The theme of the performance was 'individual struggles' and mental health, which, although it may not have been fully appreciated by the judges, went down very well with the audience.
Although the group were disappointed that the video had not reflected the night's performance, it still paid off, as the public voted overwhelmingly in their favour.
'Once we got through the semi-final on that Sunday, it was Monday morning, straight back into the studio. The girls sat down, and they literally just stripped everything back, and they pretty much learned an entire new routine in three or four days.
'It was hours on end, and it's not just what they do in the studio, it was rehearsals with the creative directors, being on stage and dress rehearsals. So it's not just what goes on inside our studio, it's everything else that goes on past that. There was other stuff they were doing with schools, shopping centres and all of that, so it's been really hectic.'
Back Street Dance Studio, Nikki says, has always been involved in competitions, but after her mum passed away, the school just didn't have the heart to put so much commitment into performances.
It was not, she says, just that she and her sister had lost their mum, but that she had lost her business partner, and the entire studio had lost their co-director. The school slowly recouped, regained their confidence, until eventually it led them to competing in the show, BSD's first performance since Nikki's mum passed away.
Nikki had been 'incredibly nervous' on the night of the first audition. It was hard, she says, to get things back to normal after something so heartbreaking had happened, but she had faith in the girls, and says that when they performed their first piece, she was 'absolutely floored'.
It was just a build up of everything, she says, but the girls 'danced their hearts out.' The girls, Nikki says, got the 'Golden Buzzer' simply because they wanted it so badly.
'The Golden Buzzer was something we never expected. You don't expect it, because you feel like they're saving it for something else. Obviously you're going out there to fight for it, but I think the main thing in the kids' heads was just to get through.
'They just wanted the four yes', and to impress the judges, so when Jason pressed the Golden Buzzer it just blew their minds. It was just to watch their reactions, and to hear them and see the emotion from all the hard work that they'd put in. It was just amazing.'
Over the last couple of months, BSD have trained around the clock, seven days a week, in preparation for the semi-final and final, Nikki says.
Now, with their hard work having paid off, their success has opened all sorts of opportunities. With a group of the studio's dancers having already performed in LA last October, the future for both the studio and the girls seems full of promise.
But there are other, perhaps more important things to dancing, Nikki says, and explains how her eyes have been opened to the influence being a part of Back Street Dance Studio has had on the girls' lives: 'I think for children of that vulnerable age between 13, 14, 15, 16, I think it's such a difficult age.
'There's a lot of pressure on teenagers. Social media can be very beneficial, it can also be very damaging, and it's just trying to give kids somewhere to be able to focus, somewhere to be able to come and be themselves and have some fun.
'We've learned so much about our dancers in the last couple of months by just watching their interviews. We're not prompting them on what to say, they're just saying it, and it's very touching.
'We've been upset ourselves looking at them and thinking oh my God, I didn't realise that we made such an impact on an individual's life, but we did.'