Some 3,000 Irish dancers are set to compete at the All-Ireland Dance Championships at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. The eight-day competition will included dancers from eight to 20 years old from all over the world.
The All-Ireland Dancing Championships was established in 1932 and this year's competition sees a return to steps that can be traced to dance masters of the 19th century. History and Irish cultural roots are at the center of the competition.
This is certainly true for Tara (12) and her mother Jane Coelho from New York.
“We have been here for a week," Coelho told the Belfast Telegraph . "Tara is interested in Irish dancing because of her Irish roots. She used to watch the “Lord Of The Dance” video and imitate all the moves, so we took her to a class and she has been doing it ever since."
The 12-year-old said "It is fun to be able to dress up and put on the make-up. I won't get behind at school being here as they have given me some work to take with me."
An expensive and time-consuming hobby, this level of Irish dance often becomes a family with children and their parents flying in from as far a field as Russia for the event. Irish dancing can be very costly too with dresses costing at least $1,600 and wigs over $150, as well as makeup and jewels.
Many also feel that the curls and tiaras involved in the modern world of Irish dance is a little over the top but Alison Quigley, who has her own dance school, maintains it’s only a costume, like any other in an on stage performance.
She says “You can say that you don't agree with the wigs, the make-up and dresses, but it is a costume, it is a stage. You wouldn't go down the street wearing them.
"The younger ones and beginners at the school aren't allowed to wear make-up. They are only allowed wigs. The little ones are still very simply dressed and it is all about them doing their one-two-threes and winning a medal at the end.”
Three million people in the world are descended from one Irish High King