An Irish dancer rehearses her movesPaul Faith/PA
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For the first time since its inception, the World Irish Dancing Championships will be held in the U.S. The event will take place in Philadelphia from April 5 through 12.
This year marks only the third time that the Irish Dancing Commission has chosen a location outside of Ireland or the U.K. to host the championships.
The decision to hold the Championships in Philadelphia is an important step in continuing the Commissions mission of fostering community and cultural pride through Irish dance, music and art. The Championships will take place at the Kimmel Center as well as the Marriott Downtown Philadelphia Hotel.
Irish dance has had a resurgence of popularity in the past decade, due in no small part to the worldwide phenomenon "Riverdance."
However, few people outside of the competitive dance world fully appreciate the combination of grace and athleticism required of each dancer.
Every level of their presentation is taken into account during scoring, from the design of an outfit to the height and precision of each leap. In fact, the garb donned by female dancers is directly related to their level of dance.
Younger women typically wear their hair in curls, however as they get older they may begin wearing a full wig and elaborate costumes with their own logo, these costumes often weigh several pounds and can cost thousands of dollars. The gentleman have it a little easier (at least when it comes to the costumes) required only to wear a dress shirt and slacks.
When it comes to the actual dancing, precision is, again, key. Soft and hard shoe dances including ceili dances, which can include anywhere from two to eight dancers, jigs (which have several variations), reels and hornpipes, to name a few. Dancers need to be well-versed in each dance and more often than not are usually quite expert. The 2009 championships will feature, among others, Ceili Dance, Dance Drama and Figure Dance.
Known formally as the Oireachtas Rince Nu Cruinne, the championships is considered the most prestigious of all the Feis Competitions. The commission is currently expecting a record turnout to this year’s event, as the new location grants access to several dancers who had previously been unable to make the trip.
Over 5,000 competitors are expected to be in attendance at the Championships. Accompanying these champs will be their teachers, family members and friends - a crowd estimated around 12,000.
Competitors are expected from Ireland, England, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Europe and Australia.
Tickets are still available to the “Heaven or Hell” party, which takes place April 6 at the Marriott, as well as the Graham Award Ceremony and Graduation Dinner on April 11.
The Graham Award Ceremony will focus on the volunteers who have dedicated their life to Irish dance, as well as congratulating the newest members, dancers and adjudicators.