Irish Dancing

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Well I have been to my first competition in Irish Dancing for children and young people.  What an interesting scene!  Many =, many people – I would say up to one thousand parents and children were all gathered together in a huge gymnasium of a local college to compete in Irish dancing.  There were many stages set up not in the usual sense of raised stages but rather large wooden floors, down on the level of the spectators.  The youngsters who had gone through many competitions already had their own stage.  SInce this was the first competition my grandson had ever taken part in, of course we were not in that part of the gym.  Most of the children were members of schools and you could see lots of little girls in the same colored dresses.  The proceedings opened with a gentleman singing the Irish, American and Canadian national anthem.  No wonder he was a bit hoarse.  The music in our section was provided  two fiddlers who played  reels, jigs and various other forms of Irish music.  Our fiddlers were young women.  The children sat in a special set of chairs and waited their turns.  They all had large numbers pinned on to their costumes so that the judges could figure out how to mark them.  Well all that sounds quite orderly doesn’t it?  Only the actual competition was orderly.  The children took their turns, the judges assigned them marks and the marks were posted up on a big wall away from the competition area.  But all this can’t give you a sense of the bustle, the crush of young families, the glitter of the girls’ dressed, the sober look of the boys, the drawn out notes of the fiddle, the warming up exercises of the competitors, the baby brothers or sisters asleep in the stroller or learning the steps from big brother or sister.  There were the anxious parents, the happy-go-lucky parents, the watchful teachers, the solemn judges who bowed back at the children when they made “reverence”.  Some of these competitors had come from far away; as far as Vermont or Ontario or even the Maritimes.  They all had to be in the gym by 8:30 at the latest.  The girls dresses range from sober, plain outfits to fancy embroidered bodices with stiff skirts.  All the girls wore white socks and sort of black ballet shoes or hard tap shoes.  The strangest part was the hair and make-up of some of the girls.  Fortunately a good number of the little girls and young ladies had plain chignons but some had the most extraordinary wigs or postiches of curls and ringlets.  Some wore tiaras or jewelled combs.  Some of them looked like miniature Dolly Partons (minus the obvious).  Since the dresses can exhibit tremendous bead work and embroidery, some of the mothers had brought dress that had been outgrown to sell at the meet.  The dresses could sell for $300 to over a thousand dollars.  The girls who were already dressed for their moment on stage often walked around with their dresses hanging down at the waist and some sort of leotard underneath.  I guess all the work on the bodice made it very hot.  The colors of the dresses were brilliant – blues with black or white lace – hot orange with flame tongues in the skirts – my favorite was a sort of cream color with Irish interlacing motifs embroidered on the bodice and skirt.  I didn’t like anything that reminded me of Toddlers and Tiaras and seeing some of the parents pressure the kids was rather cringe worthy. Of course, the parents pay a fortune for these outfits to say nothing of the gas to travel to Montreal.  The racial diversity of the crowd was wonderful.  Oriental, mixed race and other Asian kids pointed their toes, kicked high and crisp and followed the figures of the dance with the best of the red headed and freckled kids who hold this music and dance in their heritage.  The humming, buzzing feel of all these young fathers and mothers, kids and yes, grandmothers was exhilarating.  I don’t like to post pictures of other people’s kids on a public forum but perhaps if their faces don’t show it will not be so bad.  I had strict orders not to make a video in case I “stole” steps from other competitors.  Well, our boy in the beginners section came in second and got a medal for that..  You could see he was not so happy with that result but. . . . his Mum took him to Ottawa today and he won first prize.  Congratulations Samy!  I hope I will enjoy going to many other competitions where you call up the spirit of Riverdance.  (well, his great grandfather was called Patrick, after all) image

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