The Ulster Championships of Irish dance organisation Cumann Rince Dea Mheasa (CRDM) meaning Organisation of Goodwill in Irish Dancing, were held recently in the beautiful Antrim town of Carrickfergus on Belfast Lough.
The event was organised and hosted by teachers Ruth McCalmont-Long, Marti Shields and June McCalmont of the Royal Tara Dance Academy. This renowned local dance academy which holds classes in Carrickfergus and Larne, was formed as a festival dance school over 40 years ago by June McCalmont, a distinguished and accomplished champion dancer of her time.
Now in its fifth year the championships continue to grow in size and to attract dancers from all over Ireland, and from England, Scotland and the Isle of Man, and is an indication of the growing popularity of CRDM, a relatively new dance organisation.
The Carrickfergus leisure centre has much to commend it for large Irish dancing events such as this. Its tiered amphitheatre, with professional staff on-hand to assist in all aspects of the event, an excellent cafeteria and proximity to the town’s bars, restaurants and hotels make it an ideal venue for the championships.+10
It is my experience of several decades of reporting on Irish dance events that dancers and their families do not dally at a lacklustre urban location once they have had their turn on stage and the trophies and medals have been presented.
Carrick however, presents them with a scenic tourist backdrop that many will want to explore and relax in soon after the dancing finishes.
Apart from local sightseeing, many others like myself, stay on for the public holiday in order to take in a drive along the Causeway Coast of Antrim and Down, famed for its outstanding natural beauty.
And speaking of areas of outstanding natural beauty, the next major dance event in the CRDM calendar is the All Ireland Championships which will take place over four days from Thursday 23 June in Killarney.
To all visiting dancers I would say ‘if you liked Carrickfergus then you are bound to enjoy Killarney’.
Dance tourism is a growing feature of Irish dancing and I would thoroughly commend Carrickfergus to dancers who have not had the pleasure of coming here to compete in the Ulster Championships.
It will also provide you with an opportunity, especially in the breakfast dining room, to wallow in the lovely accents of three Celtic capitals – Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh.
There were also folk from Douglas, the Celtic capital of Isle of Man. Their vowels however, have been honed and homogenised by scouse and Lancashire influences and you would be forgiven for thinking they were English.