Irish dancing: go back to basics for our kids’ sake

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Irish Dance. Photo copyright John Benson CC2

Irish dancing needs to ditch all the showbiz hype, get back to its roots and let children enjoy their heritage without being put under needless pressure.

That’s the verdict of Ireland Calling readers following the recent controversy over make-up, wigs, fake tans and expensive costumes.

Irish dancers. Photo Copyright - John Benson CC2 Image Ireland Calling

Ogham, the mysterious language of the trees The Origins of the Ogham alphabet are still a mystery for many historians, but it is primarily thought to be an early form of the Irish written Language. Bealtaine Fire

The Irish Dancing Association recently banned the use of make-up and false eyelashes for the under-10s.

The move led to a widespread debate with many of our readers saying the whole culture around Irish dancing needs to change because it has become too commercialised and strayed too far away from its roots.

Many parents say they can no longer send their children to Irish dance classes because the dresses and all the extras have become too expensive. They also complain that children are under too much pressure to look glamorous and an age when they hardly know what the word means.

Many people want to get back to basics when Irish dancing was both enjoyable and affordable.

Cindy Farrell said: “I wish it could be more about the dance and not about the costumes. I have 2 granddaughters who dance but do not do many feshes because the cost of the costumes. They are proud of their heritage but cannot afford to continue.

“One just made it to prizewinner but that is where it will have to end. I just wish the costumes were simpler so anyone who wants can participate. Simple beauty!”

Anne Kelly Devereux said: “I danced without all the props. It’s gone ridiculous. It’s enough to turn anyone off it. Let’s go back to the good old fashioned non-commercial way, and not this false Hollywood farce.

“Irish dance is beautiful, it’s an art and doesn’t need all the stupid extras, I detest seeing those wigs. It actually makes me angry, let children be children.”

Excessive pressure amounts to ‘child abuse’

Some readers blamed the parents and competition organisers, and some went so far as to say that putting children under so much pressure amounted to child abuse.

Helena Doheny Nolan said: “Let’s concentrate on the skill and natural looking. Children in a lot of this make-up and ridiculous wigs is the parents’ fault !!!! Shame!”

Kathy Wagle said: “I think requiring little girls to wear make-up and the ‘adult’ clothing (seen in our child pageants here in the States) is child abuse. Our children lose their innocence too fast in this world as it is, without parents and teachers pushing them down that road. Bravo for those parents who stood up to this ridiculous trend. Let children be children, naturally beautiful.

Anne Connolly Finnegan said: “I think it all looks ridiculous now. Even the dresses are so stiff and false looking. Then the wigs. There’s nothing nicer than natural hair. I used to love watching but now it’s so false.”

Danielle Cowart Jenkins said: “In the years Meg and Sarah danced we had to get them “spray tans” before the competitions. It was ridiculous. They would actually be marked down for having the Irish white legs God gave them.”

The Irish dancing authorities have so far made no comment about changing the approach to costumes, but the ban on make-up and false eye-lashes for the under-10s will be seen by many as a step in the right direction.

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