In comments that are bound to be controversial, a writer for the British Daily Telegraph newspaper has described the Irish Dance World Championships being held in London this week as “hell.”
In a piece headlined “My idea of hell – 5,000 Irish dancers and me.” Northern Irish-born Sarah Rainey stated that “hell was an apt description of the "airless conference hall ...bursting with shrieking youngsters."
She stated, "The air is thick with the smell of hairspray, perfume and chips" ...and “a piercing Irish jig is being played over and over again.”
She was in the Monarch Suite at the Hilton Metropole Hotel, in west London, where the world championships are being held.
5,000 dancers with 24,000 members of their families and friends are also present.
She describes the dancers “Smiling beneath identikit poodle-curl wigs, held in place by a salon’s worth of hairspray, their faces are made up in Oompa Loompa orange so that each looks unnervingly like a miniature Dolly Parton…complete with stick-on eyelashes and red lips. A hotel worker confides that they’ve had to provide special towels so their linen doesn’t get ruined by fake tan.”
She claimed that “on stage sabotage is not unknown, as some dancers aim kicks perilously close to their rival’s face.”
She states that many of the dance schools teach “performance psychology” to help students prepare for the mental demands of competing. “You don’t know who you’re dancing with before you go up there,” Meg Toland, 13, a junior competitor from South Australia explained to her. “Most of the girls are nice, but some of them… well, you’ve got to watch out.”
She describes a disgruntled guest as she is leaving. “As I head for the door some four hours after I arrived, that same jig is still playing. At the reception desk, a disgruntled guest, suitcase in hand, is battling his way through the throng of tiny dancers. “I came for a quiet city break,” he gasps, wide-eyed, looking longingly at the exit. “What in the world have I got myself into?”
* Originally published April 2014.