Irish dance has evolved remarkably in the past century, but the extent to which dance competitions have become bigger and bigger with the passing of time is no more evident than in these incredible old videos released by British Pathé.
In a video entitled "Irish Dance. A feature of a most successful aeridheacht at the Depot," we are able to take a look back at a feis in 1930. In the clip we see an adjudicator sitting right in front of the competitor as she dances, while a fiddle player, sitting just to his left, provides the tunes.
This is far more intimate setting than many of today’s competitions. The short film shows a range of dancers meeting with the judge before coming to a girl who must as been crowned champion, given the remarkable number of medals hanging from her dress.
Although these videos are mostly black and white, it’s easy to see the dresses sported by these girls aren’t quite as vibrant, glitzy or as glamorous as today's dresses. The dresses worn by the dancers in this clip reflect the normal style of dress at the time.
This next clip is from 1932. We’re again on a stage with judges keeping a watchful eye on the footwork of the competitors, watched and cheered by large crowds.
No matter the changes, the talent remains exactly the same, as can be seen by these All-Ireland performances by some of 1926’s best young dancers.
With almost half a million subscribers and over 100 million total views, British Pathé is a treasure trove of 85,000 films, now considered to be the finest newsreel archive in the world.
Pathé news clips were shown in cinemas before the main movie. They were at the forefront of the development of video journalism and covered everything from wars and political crises to unusual hobbies and the lives of ordinary people.
Each month Pathé promotes a particular topic within their archive footage. This past April was dedicated to Ireland, St. Patrick's Day, and people with Irish roots.