4,500 Irish dancers compete in championship


Seventeen years after the 1994 Eurovision song contest, the global impact of Riverdance was evident for all to see today at the opening of the World Irish Dancing Championships in Dublin.

Officially called 'Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne', for the 4,500 dancers competing in the City West Hotel over seven days, it is known somewhat more affectionately and rather more simply as 'The Worlds'.

Now in its 41st year, 'The Worlds' is a fitting nickname for an event which truly is a global one. Whether you are watching the action in one of the three performance areas or buying anything from handbags to musical instruments in the adjoining stalls, you are just as likely to hear English and American accents as you are Irish.

When 12 year old Hannah McNeill from Boston, Massachusetts was asked how exactly she came to Irish dancing she simply replied "I watched Riverdance".

It was a common reply from many youngsters, often said in an 'isn't that obvious' type of way, which perhaps reveals the true reach the world tours, led by Michael Flatley, had in spreading Irish culture.

Sean McDonnchadha, chairman of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, while opening the championships today, said that over 30 countries had active registered Irish dancers.

The quality of dancing on show even attracted foreign spectators to the Citywest Hotel for the week. Laura Majko and Katie Cannon from Kent and London respectively are dancers themselves and said they wanted to see how the best in the world performed.

"It's been brilliant, the dancers here are the best, so it's well worth coming over for" said Katie.

It is the first time in 15 years that 'The Worlds' have come to Dublin with past championships being held as far afield as Glasgow in Scotland and Philadelphia in the United States.

While the competition was officially opened today by President Mary McAleese, the dancing commenced yesterday and will run until Saturday.

Dancers are competing in 24 age groups (12 boys, 12 girls) from ten year olds up to seniors. There are also seven categories for céilí dancing as well as six categories for sixteen hand figure choreographies and two categories for dance dramas. All three performance areas being used are in the Citywest Hotel in Dublin.