Tag Archives: irish

The Worlds

There are rules to this, if you can see past the wigs, jigs and high kicks…

The Worlds is the 44th Irish Dancing World Championships. Expect to see wigs, wigs, and more wigs, bling, diamantes, excessive make-up, various shades of orange, tap dancing on the streets, and inappropriate clothing i.e. half-dressed competitors in London’s Hilton Metropole. Big Fat Gypsy meets beauty pageant.

It’s a multi-million pound industry with the organisers, An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, anticipating between 15,000-20,000 visiting the city over Easter 2014.

This is the first time London has played host to the Championships with hopes to build on the spirit of the Olympic legacy. Though, I’ve never seen an Olympian high jumper in big bloomers – now that would be a treat – this is the Olympics of the Irish dancing world.

But hey, Boris Johnson is excited, as the London Mayor described the event as a “vital boost to London’s economy”. The only connection I can see is that the Mayor himself likes a wig.

Wigs and Jigs
Wigs and Jigs

And it’s wigs galore, with more than 5,000 competitors with artificial ringlets in every shade; white blonde, dirty blonde, light brunette, black, and Irish coleens in red, looking like Maureen O’Hara in the Quiet Man. It’s tradition. Keeping with the tradition, when our ancestors danced at the crossroads with luscious locks and streaky tan?

Lost in the razzle dazzle, there is art to this; a mix of balletic and athletic dance, rhythm, lively music, poise, carriage and hard, hard work. To explain, you leap into the air with your arms rigid and stuck to your side like glue, that’s a banned substance I presume, see the rule book for clarity. Strength, co-ordination, twirling, jumping, stamping, hopping. It’s got it all.

It starts with hop two, three, four, five, six, seven, but before you know it, you’re slapping on the fake tan, the crown is buried into your head, more Kirby grips digging into your membrane, you’re high kicking, and dressed like a fairy.

If you think wigs are bad, I’m haunted by the sleepless nights before the evolution of dance, back to the days of the curlers. A very knowledgeable and practical friend of my mother’s used to joke that a wig would have sorted out all our woes. Little did she know, how wise her words were and what a phenomenon the wigs would become.

I’m often asked why? I don’t know. It saved time and hassle, but why? It’s tradition. Did my ancestors really do that? The answers I’ve been looking for are in the Rule Book of Irish Dance. Yes, there are rules and here are some of my favourites, paraphrased below…

4.4.3 Costumes must consist of full front, side and back sections. Cut away styles, without a full skirt backing, are not acceptable. I concur. No Strictly nonsense for my forefathers.

4.4.2 Necklines must be at collarbone level or above. No cleavage allowed; In the Name of the Father, sorry gran. It’s sad in this day and age that we’re having to write this one down.

4.4.4 In order to protect dancers from hazardous objects while competing, costumes may not be decorated with feathers; feathers, what’s next, diamantes will be struck off the list.

Nobody likes a showoff, I heartily agree.

4.4.8: Costumes for both boys and girls should not include representations such as globes, medals or any other symbol of an award having been achieved.
Note: no mention of Facebook then?

4.4.10 Appropriate underwear, covering the midriff, must be worn. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I should say, preserving our heritage.

Where tights are worn, they must be of a denier of not less than 70. M&S do a wonderful range and who wears less than 70 anyway? Shame on those that this has to be a rule.

If you are wearing a body suit, it should not show the contour of the body in detail. It’s Irish dancing, it’s not sexy cha, cha, cha folks. Velvet and lyrca are recommended, really? You have lost me here.

In the make up department, make-up including false lashes is not permitted for dancers, in either solo competitions or team competitions, up to and including Under 10 age group. Aged 11+, slap it on like our ancestors used to do.

Any competitor found using artificial carriage aids will be subject to disqualification, however medical prescription apparatus, proof of which may be required, will be exempt. Oh, whatever will they think of next? Competitors found to be altering their shoes or wearing them on the wrong feet will be treated in the same manner. Know your left and right.

It is also suggested for class costumes, which is a dress representing your dance school, that a lean towards a more traditional style of costume is recommended – not sure how this is really working out.

And to get back to my question, why the wigs? Nothing. I can’t find a rule. So, the Shirley Temple bouncing wigs look set to stay. It is after all the preservation and promotion of Irish Dance, and what says that better than the synthetic fibre of the wigs on show.

Crossroads_1
Toes

For more about the World Championships, check out The Telegraph article

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Cherishing the ladies

Saturday night’s performance by Cherish the Ladies in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall lived long into the night, as in true style, the sessions continued into the early hours of Sunday morning.

Will ye go, lassie, go?, sung by 2,000 Glaswegians; Kathleen Boyle’s almost haunting rendition on the piano; the drumming of the Bodhrán; the step dancing in all its forms; Cathie Ryan’s voice bringing the past into the present; and Joanie Madden’s penetrating flute playing and sharp wit, were just some of the highlights to this most beautiful of evenings.

It was the rawness of talent, where the ladies, and of course, male musicians and dancers too, made the most intricate pieces look seamless as they weaved their way through the concert and into the consciousness.

Memories flooded back and a pride in Celtic music and dance that is sometimes eclipsed by the razzle and dazzle.

The stage was set like any session in the bar; chairs in a half moon looking out to the audience, with the talent taking centre stage, where only the lighting is a feature. The concert had the fluidity and courage to go off script, welcoming talent on stage and making the audience as much a part of the performance as those that they were spectating. There was a Celtic connection.

Returning to the stage to celebrate 20 years since they first played in Glasgow, it was no surprise the show was a sell-out. It was standing room only, but Glasgow’s a small town, so it wasn’t long before we were sitting.

The music carried the audience along, mapping the journey of the emmigrants, and I thought of Mary. From the sad songs to the love songs, to Scotland’s Bard and his Red, Red Rose, the wonderfulness of music and dance weaved in and out.

Mary would have loved this night.

You can’t describe the rhythm of the dancers as they make music with their feet, or the energy they bring, or the poise in their carriages. It’s something you have to see and you have to feel. It is art. But Mary would never have called herself an artist, an Irish woman, an immigrant, a cherished lady.

Storytelling, dancing and music, and I am back in 46B Storrie Street. We’re dancing, there’s an accordion playing, the smell of homemade bread, singing, and Mary. I see her in every song, in every step and in every memory, in all that is good, weaving in and out of every day and in every Celtic connection.

The crowd are on their feet in a standing ovation, clapping and cheering and yes, we are cherishing the ladies.

To watch Cherish the ladies

To find out more go to Cherish the Ladies