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After an all-day downpour that came on Saturday, a sustained period of glorious sunshine greeted Philadelphia Sunday, as the World Irish Dancing Championship came to a close.
The sunshine brought a fitting end to what has been an undeniably successful week.
Sure, not everything went according to plan – some of the announcements of the results fell a good deal behind schedule.
And one unfortunate team in Sunday’s Dance Drama competition were on stage, only find the wrong music being played for their performance.
But for the most part, the World Championships were extremely well organized.
Not at all bad for a first time out: never before has the World Irish Dancing Championships been held outside of Ireland, Scotland or England.
Sunday saw the Mixed Ceile, which was won by a team from Dundalk, Ireland, and the Ladies Senior Ceile, which was won by a team from Boston.
Sunday was also the day for the most theatric competition: the Dance Drama. To describe something as a “spectacle to behold” is a well-worn cliché – but what else can you say about an Irish dancing cow, who was one of the cast members in the Irish dancing version of Cinderella.
And the event brought a much needed lift to Philadelphia. More than 6,000 dancers coming from Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, the U.S, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, Poland, Russia, and South Africa brought with them around 15,000 family members, friends and teachers to the city.
The impact the competition has had on the local economy was significant: it brought an estimated $11 million in revenue into the city, according to the Philadelphia Convention and Business Center.
And a big part of that lift came from "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley, who was a key sponsor of the competition.
More than 30 years after becoming the first American to win the title of World Irish Dancing Champion, Flatley made several appearances at the competition to the delight of his worldwide fans. In 1975, as a 17-year-old, Flatley made history by achieving this highest honor in Irish Dancing.
Certainly, no-one IrishCentral spoke to Sunday had much to complain about – especially the ladies from the Comerford School of Irish Dance, in San Diego, California.
They had found out earlier in the day that they had been recalled – meaning they advanced to the next stage of the completion, and get a medal – in the Senior Ladies Ceile competition.
The ladies posed outside the magnificent Kimmel Center, where the competition is being held, with their medals. They created quite a stir: a group of tourists, who didn’t know quite what to make of these girls in their wigs and costumes, also stopped to take pictures.
“Aren’t these the prettiest girls in the competition?” said Sue Deline, whose daughters Carly (18) and Katie (20) were among the ladies from San Diego blowing kisses to the camera.
For Sue, the highlight of her week was when it was announced that her daughters’ team was to be recalled.
Tehya Baxter, who was also on the Comerford School team, said that her favorite moment of the week was stepping out on stage. “The whole day was just a dream come through,” she said. “I actually started crying when we took our bow on stage.”
Jill McArthur, whose daughter Sarah was on the Marie Moore School, from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, had also been recalled in the Senior Ladies Ceile, was another proud mum taking pictures of her daughter outside the Kimmel Center.
What was her moment of the week? “It’s hard to say,” she replied. “You feel relieved when they finish dancing and it all goes well. I kept knocking the teacher beside me, and saying, ‘If my daughter is as nervous as I am, she’ll never be able to dance!’”
One of the highlights of the week for Jim Mulcahy, from Manchester, Connecticut, was seeing his daughter, Erin, 27, receive her graduation ceremony Saturday night as the Marriott Hotel, after she passed her Irish dance teacher’s exam in Washington D.C.
The exams are notoriously difficult, and can take years to get. “We’ve been going to Feisanna since Erin was five,” said Jim. Erin just loves everything about it.”
“This is amazing,” she said. She herself had danced with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, and had been to many World Championships as a competitor and as a teacher. “In all my time competing, I’ve never achieved this.”
There will undoubtedly be a lot of stiff muscles Monday morning – and perhaps more than a few concerned parents who will gasp when they get this month’s credit card bill. But judging from the screams of joy that greeted the performers Sunday and throughout the week, as well as the hugs from student to teacher, those stiff muscles and depleted wallets will have been worth it.
And no doubt Monday will also see many of this years’ participants practicing (and parents saving) for next year’s World Championships.