TLC Gets Its Irish Up (on Its Toes) With 'The Big Jig'

Today's cuppa: Irish afternoon tea


On Tuesday, Oct. 9, TLC -- which previously aired the film "Jig" in January and the special "Strictly Irish Dancing" in June -- sticks its toe into Irish step dancing once again with "The Big Jig," a special that follows five American dancers preparing to compete in the 2012 World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

While many people have seen Irish dancing showcased in the show "Riverdance," this is the competitive version, a grueling athletic endeavor dressed up with -- for the girls -- curly wigs, makeup and elaborate costumes. Parents shell out thousands of dollars, and dancers endure hundreds of practice hours, in search of a perfect few minutes onstage in front of the judges.

Gary-Healy-Mullane-Healy-Godley-The-Big-Jig-TLC.jpgHere are the dancers, as profiled by TLC:

·       Grace, 10, from Elmhurst, Ill. Grace is known as the "Energizer Bunny" to her friends, is a regional champion and rising star -- when she's focused. Her coach Gary Healy (above, with dancers in his studio) believes she can bring it, but worries her erratic energy may ruin her chances.

·       Julia, 11, from Rochester, N.Y. Julia channels Rocky Balboa in her training regime,complete with raw eggs and pushups. Her confidence, however, was shaken by a foot injury; and a minor sprain days before the Championships could throw her off her game.

·       Emily, 10, from Rochester, N.Y. Emily is Julia's younger sister and her biggest rival. Emily is a three-time national champion but has never been to a world-level competition. When her mother's attention is torn between the sisters' overlapping performances, Emily's nerves start to show.

·       Marina (at top, at right), 12, from New Lenox, Ill. Marina competes not only for herself, but her family name, heading into her first World competition. As the niece of Michael "Lord of the Dance" Flatley, Marina feels pressure from peers and family to be a winner.

·       Julia (at top, at left), 12, from Long Island, N.Y. Julia is a former World Champion and renowned for her immaculate footwork. At her last championship, however, a broken foot sabotaged her performance. Julia wants nothing more than to stand at the top of the podium once more.

Here's a preview: