Make-up and false lashes banned for child Irish dancers

Practices such as stitching sleeves to a dress have also been outlawed

While make-up and false eye lashes are to be banned for Irish dancers under 10, fake tan and wigs are here to stay.

The Irish Dancing Commission - an Coimisiun le Rinnci Gaelacha - will enforce a new blanket rule for dancers in solo or team competitions from March 1st.

Commission spokeswoman Dearbhla Lennon said she put forward the motion for the ban to "level the playing field" for all dancers.

Ms Lennon, who was a female lead dancer in Lord of the Dance, River Dance and a world medallist Irish dancer, said there was already a rule that stopped beginners and novice grade-level dancers up to age 12 wearing make-up.

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“In stunning well-lit stages a child with a bit of pink blusher looks healthier under the light next to a pale child (with no make-up),” she said.

“Parents want their child to look as good as the next. The new rules are in the interest of preserving our beautiful art form and keeping children as children for as long as possible.”

Ms Lennon said the commission had not seen much use of false eyelashes but it was put in the legislation as a precaution.

The dancing teacher said false tan would not be allowed on children’s faces but on their legs was allowed.

“But there’s no accounting for taste,” she said. “In an ideal world would like to see fake tan not permitted on their legs either but I felt it would be too much to go the whole way in one go.”

Mr Lennon said there had been “very little opposition” from parents to the new rules.

Ms Lennon said it was “unfair” for comparisons to be made between American child beauty pageant shows and Irish dancing competitions.

“You can’t really compare the two. The skill levels are not comparable as Irish dancers work so incredibly hard to interpret intricate rhythms and are so athletic in their movements.”

Ms Lennon said she supported keeping wigs for the sake of convenience for children, parents and teachers.

“I don’t think we’ll see a ban on the wigs anytime soon,” she said. “I remember as a child putting rollers in my hair was uncomfortable. Wigs were much easier.

“To the outside world it all sounds hideous but when you’re involved you do what’s most convenient for you and your child.”

The updated rules have also outlawed “artificial carriage aids” that are used to keep a dancer’s posture “perfect” and keep their arms straight for health and safety reasons.

“People will think of crazy things to do to improve posture,” Ms Lennon said.

“Things like stitch sleeves to the side of the dress. Should the dancer take a fall they wouldn’t be able to save themselves.”

Ms Lennon said the majority of dancers chosen for big productions such as Lord of the Dance were from the organisation.

“So many of our dancers go on to represent out art form on a world stage,” she said. “As a culture and people we should be really proud and support them.”

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty

Rachel Flaherty is an Irish Times journalist