Ireland’s champion step-dancer: black son of a Baptist father and Jewish mother

Who knew?

A remarkable and surprising story:

For those feeling down about the United States and its place in the world, meet Drew Lovejoy, a 17-year-old from rural Ohio. His background could not be more American. His father is black and Baptist from Georgia and his mother is white and Jewish from Iowa. But his fame is international after winning the all-Ireland dancing championship in Dublin for a third straight year.

Drew is the first to admit that this is a lot to take in, so he sometimes hides part of his biography for the sake of convenience. As in 2010, when he became the first person of color to win the world championship for Irish dancing — the highest honor in that small and close-knit world — and a group of male dancers in their 70s, all of them Irish, offered their congratulations.

“They said, ‘We never thought it would happen, but we’re thrilled that it did,’ ” said Drew’s mother, Andee Goldberg. She added, “They don’t even know he’s Jewish. That hasn’t been broached. I think it would be too overwhelming.”

On a recent Wednesday, Drew, dressed in an orange polo shirt and jeans, was eating grapes and holding a tiny, shaking dog named Belle while his mother talked about his accomplishments. Ribbons and trophies adorned his sea green bedroom, the rewards of dozens of competitions since he started dancing at the age of 6.

Neither mother nor son can remember a time Drew wasn’t dancing, or the reason that he started. Drew thought it might have had to do with his mother getting tired of Disney movies and playing Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly videos for him. She also took him to musicals and theater performances.

But when he went to a friend’s Irish dance competition in Indianapolis, and saw the girls and boys leaping and skipping, dancing that was part tap, part ballet set to very happy music, he was hooked.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, right,’ ” his mother said, shaking her head. “You’re biracial and you’re a Jew. We thought you had to be Irish and Catholic.”

Read more.

And: you can see Drew in action, at a fundraiser for an overseas trip, below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw__R3cBX58

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