A new social networking Web site for Irish dancers and musicians is proving to be a big hit on the Internet.
Diddlyi.com, the creation of two brothers from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, went live in April 2007.
Since then, it has attracted over 250,000 visitors. And Paul McAvinchey, the site’s co-founder, expects a million more over the next year, from Irish dancing and music enthusiasts all over the world.
The site is essentially like MySpace or Facebook, except dedicated to Irish dancing and music. Like other social networking sites, users can share videos, music, photos and create groups.
But there is also a practical aspect to the Diddlyi. “It can really help those who are serious about improving their Irish dancing,” says Shane McAvinchey, a dancing instructor and Paul’s younger brother.
“When members post videos of themselves practicing on their kitchen floor, others can offer tips and suggestions on how to improve their skills and techniques.”
Diddlyi also contains an events page, which features various upcoming shows, festivals and workshops around the world.
Shane previously toured with "Riverdance," and today, he runs Irish dancing schools in Germany, Poland and Russia. Paul comes from a media and computer background, but had also spent some time touring with "Riverdance," selling merchandise.
After the 2007 World Dancing Championship, which were held in Belfast, the two began talking about a project that could combine both their backgrounds and talents: Shane, whose life has been consumed with Irish dancing from the age of 6, and who had built up a global network of dancing contacts; and Paul, who by that stage was running his own web design business in Dublin.
As such, says Paul, “The project arose quite naturally from what Shane and I were doing with our lives.”
Both McAvinchey brothers went to Irish dancing lessons as children. “The oldest memory I have of Irish dancing was the noise of Shane clattering around in his hard shoes,” says Paul. “He was constantly dancing. I went for a few lessons but blame my big feet for my lack of success. Shane stuck at it though – and won medals in the regional, All-Ireland and World Championships.”
As a family, in the early 1990s, they would go to Feiseanna (Irish dancing festivals) to support Shane, and could see that Irish dancing was growing rapidly. “[Last] year was my first time at the North American Irish Dancing Championships, which were recently held in Nashville,” explains Paul. “The event was huge – there were around 10,000 people at it - and far away from the Munster Championships we used goes to in Ennis, Co. Clare back in the 90's.”
Paul says that both he and Shane were well aware from their "Riverdance" days that Irish dancing had truly become a global phenomenon. “And when you look at where some of our members are from, it really reminds you of this,” he says. “Although a lot are from places with an established Irish diaspora, such as the U.S. and the U.K., we also have members from China, Austria and Argentina.”
One Russian member, called Sergey, said that he learned Irish dancing from watching Michael Flatley videos – and has uploaded videos on the site of his dancing to show his progress.
Another Diddlyi member, Christine Affenzeller, a 23 year-old student from Linz, Austria, says that the site is especially useful for her, coming from mainland Europe where Irish dancers tend to be more spread out.
“It's not like in Ireland where many dancers live near each other,” she says. “I get to see most of my dancing friends only occasionally, at competitions, camps or workshops, so Diddlyi is great for keeping in touch with everybody. In fact, at every competition I go to these days, I meet dancers I first got to know through the site.”
Because of the fairly young age profile of members of the site, Paul says that the Diddlyi management take web safety very seriously. “When you join Diddlyi you can by default make yourself private,” he explains.
“This means that only the people that you invite as your friends can see you and your photos, videos and other content that you contribute. Our management keep a very public profile that ensures we have effective measures in place to prevent inappropriate content. We encourage every young person who goes on the site to visit other excellent websites like www.webwise.ie
that have some great tips on web safety.”
A slowdown in the popularity of either social networking sites or in Irish dancing or music looks most unlikely at any point soon – in fact, the opposite is the case – and as such, Paul McAvinchey expects the popularity of Diddlyi to increase.
Recently, it achieved quite a feat when "Riverdance" came on board as sponsors.
“It is estimated that there around a quarter of a million Irish dancers, and who knows how many are into Irish music,” says Paul. “We are really looking forward to seeing who we pick up along the way.”