For Vivienne 'Vivi' Andersen, the hard work of Irish step dancing has been well worth the payoff.
'When I'm dancing, I feel like I'm sort of flying,' Vivi, 11, said.
Just a year after becoming eligible to compete internationally, Vivi is one of 10 local soloists from the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance chosen to represent the United States at the 2016 World Irish Dance Championships in March in Glasgow, Scotland.
It's not necessarily what she set out to accomplish when she started dancing four years ago. Back then, it was just something she saw her sister, Genevieve, doing, and decided to try.
'I thought it looked cool,' Vivi said.
Genevieve, 13, retired from dancing last year. Little brother Olin, 8, danced, too. He pursued Irish stepping for about a year when he was 4, but gave it up to follow other interests.
Only Vivi is still at it, first learning the steps that would let her soar and now refining her technique, doing planks and plyometrics to help keep her torso still while her feet sail across the stage.
She practices 10 or 12 hours a week when she's not swimming the backstroke or playing mid-field for the Tosa Kickers or otherwise navigating fifth grade at Wauwatosa STEM, a Tosa charter school focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
There hasn't been much time for soccer and swimming this winter; prepping for worlds has taken up much of her time outside of school.
But, Vivi said, 'In a way, dancing sort of helps with school, because now I use my time more wisely; right when I get home I do my homework because I know I have dance in an hour or so.'
Besides, she said, it's all worth it to be able to swing and cut and click, a hard-shoe-style of Irish dancing akin to tap dancing, except louder — a technique rivaled only, perhaps, by soft shoe, her favorite.
'Soft shoe is the sort of thing where I feel like I'm most flying,' Vivi said. 'It's all about squeezing your toes and your legs and making it pretty and being turned out with arched feet, but also being explosive and jumping really high, sort of like ballet but faster. And you have to be very quiet. But what I like most about dancing, besides what it feels like, is performing at nursing homes because I like making people smile.'
Of course, getting the chance to travel abroad isn't bad either.
'I've never been out of the U.S. before. We're even going early just be in Scotland,' Vivi said.
It's all part of Kara and Aaron Andersen's attempt to keep things normal for their daughter, despite the potential pressure of the competition.
'We try to keep her feet on the ground, for sure,' Kara Andersen said. 'And her teachers do a great job of focusing on the journey and that, on any given day, anything can happen and you just have to remember your joy and cultivate your friendships. It's not about the result.'