This is what they don't see.
Let's start at the beginning. They don't see you, the small child, three or four years old, still learning basic language skills and motor coordination, taking your first literal steps as a dancer. They don't see you growing up with dance as a part of your life, doing schoolwork in the car on the long ride to and from the studio, sacrificing football and other social activities to focus on this art form.
They don't see the competitions. The feiseanna. The months and months of drilling for two minutes of stage time. The tears when a random onstage collision dashes any hope of a callback. The endless comparisons against your peers, the little voice in your ear whispering that you're not good enough, the knowledge -- as you get older, approaching adulthood -- that the scary real world is coming soon, and you have to make some hard choices about your future.
They don't see this entire crucible that forges a top-level competition dancer. And this is just the foundation for what comes next.
They don't see the auditions to get into a professional dance show. The sudden awkwardness of having to use your arms, whole body, and face. The learning curve of picking up Michael Flatley's art form atop Irish dancing. Evolving, like a butterfly emerging out of its chrysalis, from a dancer performing for a few minutes in front of a panel of judges to a dancer performing for *hours* in front of an arena of thousands.
They don't see the eat-travel-show cycle that becomes your life. They don't see the intense drilling sessions. The constant physical fitness required to perform in eight or nine numbers per night. No one holds your hand any more; the dance captains are there to help, but you're expected to look after yourself as a working professional. That intense work ethic, inculcated since the age of three or four, pays off now. You are one of the elite few who not only stayed with Irish dancing, but have the right mix of technical prowess and showmanship to qualify for the highest rung of the industry: being a dancer in a Michael Flatley show.
You get to tour the world. Visit places that most people only dream of seeing. Forge friendships that last a lifetime. And, most importantly, have thousands and thousands of people up on their feet every night -- screaming, crying tears of joy, uplifted by *your* work. It is the ultimate validation of the journey.
You don't do this because you want it easy; you do it *because* it is hard. You do it because when the general public comes to see Lord of the Dance, they're paying a premium ticket price to see the biggest-selling dance show in the world, performed by the tip of the spear of the Irish dancing world: the absolute best of the best, doing things that no other show could physically perform night after night, let alone pull off with the kind of *dash* you're capable of.
You do this because that *passion* is deep inside you.
You do this because you didn't come here to finish second.
You make it look so easy.
And that's the greatest triumph of all.