Brant Rankin
2011 Boys under 9 Champion
Western Canada
photo Cheryl Galdert Photography

One of the most exciting events during the All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships each year is the competition for the youngest dancers.  These Irish dancers, primarily from Ireland, North America and the United Kingdom, are boys and girls who are just nine or ten years old, or will turn ten during 2012.  While not yet old enough to qualify for the World Irish Dancing Championships, many of these little ones have been dancing for years at local and regional competitions.

Caitlin Bradley-Tse
2011 Girls under 9 Champion
Western Canada
photo Cheryl Galdert Photography
Read more:

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North American males hope to defend All-Ireland titles in 2012

Adam Sandler shows thanks to Irish schoolchildren
----------------------The North American Irish Dancing Championships, held in July each year, allow for teacher's discretion in registering the youngest dancers in its Under 8 category.  Dancers as young as six years old have started their competitive record at the top of the podium!  Local Irish dancing competitions, called feiseanna, often allow for First Feis or Pre-Beginners at any age.

First Feisers at Dunleavy-Shaffers's New England Autumn Feis 2011
photo Feis America LLC
Except for their teachers, families and a handful of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG) committee members and staff, it is anyone's guess as to which little regional champions will travel - especially from North America - to Ireland for the first major international Irish dancing competition of the year.  

The expense, the time out of school, and the pressure to practice and perform well are good reasons for parents and teachers to keep the little dancers at home this round.  It is easier said than done, however, when a family is making the journey for an older sibling anyways.  In fact, it's likely the youngest has been along for an international competition before he or she was even old enough to qualify.

Simone Loysen
2011 Girls under 9 Champion
Southern Region United States
Photo: Shamrock Photo
Ronan Burke
2011  Boys under 9 Champion
Mid-Atlantic United States
Photo: Shamrock Photo
This year, the Girls under 9 and Boys under 9 competitions will be held on separate stages on Saturday, February 11, 2012, starting at 10:00 am (Irish time).  Both groups begin with the heavy jig and then change into soft shoes to dance the reel.  Approximately fifty percent of all who danced will dance a recall round.

This third round is danced in heavy shoes and for this age group, a traditional set dance is required.  Each dancer will perform St. Patrick's Day, The Blackbird, Job of Journeywork, Garden of Daisies, King of the Fairies, Jockey to the Fair or Three Sea Captains alone on stage for the adjudicators.  Once results are tabulated, all recalled dancers will be presented with awards at a special ceremony that evening with the other competitions for that day.

Eric Crone
2011 Boys under 9 Champion
Western United States
Photo courtesy Tir Conaill
The following 2011 North American Regional Champions under 9 are now of age to compete in the 9-10 category at the All-Ireland Irish Dancing Championships in 2012: 

Southern Region:  Simone Loysen from Culkin and Jude Flurry from Muggivan
Eastern Canada Region: Jaylene Kehoe from McGinley and Connor O'Brien from Goggin-Carroll
Middle America Region: Emma Smith from Trinity and Collin Mountain from Richens/Timm
Mid-Atlantic Region: Bridget Albraldes from Mulvihill-Lynch and Ronan Burke from Shea Jennings 
New England Region:  Jillian Collins from Gilleoghan and Jacob Parkman from Harney 
Western Canada Region: Caitlin Bradley-Tse from Nora Pickett and Brant Rankin from Mattierin

Western U.S. Region:  Katja Behrens from Celtic Steps and Eric Crone from Tir Conaill

(Note: this is not a list of who is scheduled to compete)

Jude Flurry
2011 Boys under 9 Champion
Southern United States
Photo: Shamrock Photo
Safe travels and good luck to all the newest competitors!

Bookmark this page and check back here on Irish Central's Irish dance page for timely updates and news from Dublin starting Saturday, February 11th!