I arrived in Killarney on St Patrick’s Day and not surprisingly there was music and ceili dancing in every pub, and that was before the real dancers had arrived in town for the world championships.
It felt so good to be back in Killarney, a town that is most deservedly described as the home of Irish dancing. And the place was absolutely buzzing.
Even before the eight days of dancing had kicked off on 19 March the town was swollen to capacity with an international intake of tourists who crammed the streets, pubs and restaurants and who were enjoying a holiday around the St Patrick’s Day festivities, the 1916 uprising centenary and the Easter time break. Accommodation was difficult to come by even before the dancing multitude had arrived to swell the tourist population by another 25,000 people approximately.
This was the third year that the Killarney Convention Centre at the Gleneagle Hotel has hosted the Comhdhail world championships in Irish dancing and once again it welcomed a bigger crowd than ever before. A total of 5,000 dancers took part and they were accompanied by an entourage of about 20,000 family members, friends, teachers, supporters and other spectators. Competitors from America, Scotland, England,
Europe and from all over Ireland came to compete for a world title in the championships which ran from March 19 to 26. In total, forty three competitions took place over the eight day championships.
The youngest dancer in the competitions was nine years old and the oldest was twenty five. Matthew Donohoe, Chairperson of An Comhdháil said “We are delighted to return to Killarney again this year. Our competitors and their families always really enjoy their stay here. For many it has become the annual family holiday.
The economic benefits of these championships are felt right across Killarney’s hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, shops and many other businesses. Studies carried out after last year’s championships calculated that it was worth €12.6 million to the local economy.”
“The An Comhdháil World Irish Dance Championships is the premier event for our organisation. The dancers who compete here have been preparing for many months to showcase their exceptional talent. Our World Championships enjoy a very high standard year on year and we are very proud that we have a record number of entries both in solo and figure dancing this year.”
Once again I had the good fortune to watch every solo dancer and all 400 teams over the full eight days of these championships and the standards reached can best be described as unsurpassed excellence. Coupled with excellent dancing standards the stage management and presentation of the whole event was faultless. The very full timetable was rigidly adhered to.
Dancing started to time each day at precisely 08.00; not a minute before and not a minute after. There were no unexplained interminable delays that audiences experience at many of the major dance events. Just one of the key factors in slick timetabling is the performance of the musicians.
These skillful unsung heroes kept proceedings rolling along apace and could not fit another semi-quaver between the departure of one competitor and the arrival of the next one on stage. I look forward to the 2017 championships. Regretfully it will not be in Killarney.
An Comhdhail however, have secured the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, another world standard venue. From experience of world championships, dating back to the year 2000, I am confident that dancers and audience will not be disappointed with the committee’s choice.