The largest ever installment of the Northern American Irish Dancing Championships kicked into life Saturday morning in Orlando,with the Ladies Under 20 and Under 19 categories opening, while the Girls Under 15s competitions began earlier in the morning.

Disneyworld has temporarily gone green this weekend, with nothing but Irish dancers, jigs and reels to be seen around Disneyworld’s Dolphin Resort, where the competition is being held.

Last night marked the official opening of the event, with the Irish Dancing Teachers Association of America culminating their annual convention with a drinks reception, but today is all about the dancing.

The diversity of nations at the event is staggering and immediately evident. Dancers have travelled from Australia and Mexico - not to mention a whole host of other countries - to take part in the event. Dancers of all complexions, all accents and all origins compete in an event that could put the United Nations to shame for its internationality; all come together for the sake of Irish dancing.

Competitors dance freely around the hotel, with the hotel’s lobby having been converted into a practice floor for the many dancers who’ve come for the event. Competitors, parents and spectators mix freely around the hotel. If you wanted to escape the event, it would be nigh on impossible.

Nerves are in the air too. Even at round one apprehensive faces and even more apprehensive parents failed to hold their poker faces and let their anxiety show. More, though, were cheerful, excited at the chance to compete in such a wonderful event and on such a wonderful stage.

The panel of judges, specially drawn for their extensive experience in Irish dancing, watched on as the first of the competitors took the stage.

“It’s gut wrenching to watch,” said one parent as she watched her daughter take the stage “but this is what it’s all about I guess!!, while another less fearful mother delighted as her daughter broke into her routine which she had been practicing every day for months. will be posting updates from the event every few hours as the first results begin to come in.

Kaitlin Halpin Denogla (New Jersey) and Kaitlin Alexander Peter Smith (New Jersey) preparing for Round 2 of the Girls' U19 competition.