Friday, February 14, 2014

The Reason Behind the Look -- The Competitive Irish Dancer

I've got so much to say to the author of the article "Why Irish dancing has lost its way and needs to change." If you don't know about it, it's the article that is enraging Irish dancers everywhere.

Rather than spouting out my feelings in a blog post, I'm going to (hopefully) calmly tell Cahir O'Doherty, the author, some of the facts he carelessly didn't check before writing his poorly researched article.

Mr. O'Doherty, you first stated, regarding the Irish dancer's modernized look, "They need costumes and giant wigs and spray tans and extensive wardrobes. We need to hide them beneath multiple layers of pan stick and polyester if they're to stand a chance on the stage on their own."

There are reasons behind everything you mention here. You didn't care to research the "whys" behind the costume (solo dress), the wig, the spray tan -- you just decided to write down your shallow opinions. 

In a competition, dancers get less than a minute to make an impression on the judges while they are dancing. Traditional athletes, as in basketball players or footballers, etc., get hours of game time to make an impression of their talent. 

We don't have that luxury.

That's why we have to make every second count.

We spend money on solo dresses that, first, represent ourselves. The solo dress is a reflection of the dancer wearing it -- their personality, their style, their interests. The dress also needs to draw the eye of the judge to the dancer. We're fighting for the spot light -- that opportunity to be seen! That's one reason why glitter and stones are so popular right now. They add flash and attract the eye of the judge to our outfit, and ultimately to ourselves. 

It's a tactic.

There's so much truth in this picture:

And another thing!

Who are you to say what we spend our money on??? That's none of your business!

*calm down*

Back to the points:

Irish dancers wear wigs as a symbol of our traditional roots in old Ireland. Irish girls would curl their hair before they went dancing. We do the same thing. It's important to keep tradition when your activity is rooted in a folk dance. 

And there's this indisputable fact:

Who can argue with that???

O'Doherty then mentions spray tans. Here's my question for him:

Have you ever seen a bodybuilder?

They're pretty tan aren't they? Why would they tan their bodies?

Think about it...

There's an important similarity between bodybuilders and Irish dancers, believe it or not. Each tans their bodies to enhance the visual muscular definition. Muscle definition can be more easily seen on darker skin than fair skin. This is why Irish dancers tan their legs. We are athletes, muscle strength is essential and the adjudicators look for strong legs while judging. Irish dancing is all about legs. We've got to make them look good!

Woo! Look at that!

Ultimately, Mr. O'Doherty, we look this way because it has the power to make us feel invisible. When you look good, you feel good, you dance good.

I hope all my readers take this next quote lightly. Being a strong, technically savvy dancer is what gets us trophies, but looking good can't hurt.

I love how modern Irish dancers look. It makes sense, the way we dress, if you think about the overall goal of wanting to shine on stage. 

I hope with all the backlash Cahir O'Doherty has received, he'll think twice before he messes with Irish dancers again.


If you want to hear an NPR (National Public Radio) piece on competitive Irish dance, click here. You'll love it.

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