For two-time regional champion, Irish dancing is a family tradition.


FORT WALTON BEACH — AJ Brainerd, a 14-year-old teen, has been practicing Irish dance for about six years. His mom, until recently, was one of the directors at the Carpenter Academy of Irish Dance in Fort Walton Beach.


Earlier this month, AJ traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Southern Regional Oireachtas competition. He arrived home a champion with a trophy to match.


In April, he will be heading to the world’s competition in Dublin, Ireland. Last year, he took 13th place, but is hoping to place higher this coming year.


While he said he is excited to dance in the world competition, he said he also wants to see the sights. AJ said the most challenging aspect of Irish dancing is learning and perfecting new moves for his routine.


"I have to like push my limits if I want to like be able to make it through my dance without like dying," AJ said.


The three agreed Irish dancing is very competitive.


"It’s kinda sport and performance wrapped into one," said Ashley Breihan, director of the academy in FWB.


AJ hopes to continue his Irish dancing career for years to come. Someday, he would like to teach Irish dancing and perform in Riverdance.


"I would be very proud of AJ being in Riverdance, said his mom, Cindy Brainerd. " I think I would cry like a baby."