The competitive Irish dancing season for 2017 is now in its summer recess. I suspect however, that dancers all over the UK will be back treading the boards long before members of parliament have returned from their prosecco hols in Val d’Isere.
The beginning of the dancing autumn season will follow quickly on the heels of dancers returning from their Costa fortnight. The enthusiastic dancer is keen to take up where they left off just before the recess.
The Emerald Championships is probably the last feis in the An Comhdháil calendar and this is probably the reason why dancers flock here in order to be part of the last Irish dancing ‘summer wine’.
The ‘Emerald’ continues to grow in popularity over its 11 years lifetime and it’s so nice to hear Scottish and Irish accents in the leafy glades of Surrey.
Once again I met many dancers whom I photographed soon after they had emerged from nursery school, and are now competing in senior age groups. I was lucky to capture their first uncertain and faltering steps all those years ago and now it’s wonderful to see them performing as confident championship dancers in their mid-teens.
In particular I remember a young toddler, Alice Boyer, who exuded confidence in her early steps and I felt that surely this girl would reach the top. And guess what! This same girl, who went on to be possibly the most prolific An Comhdháil championship winner in the UK, decided to attend the ‘Emerald’ to make her final bow.
Alice now plans to continue her interest as a teacher and I have no doubt that she will make an impact on the landscape of podiums here and across the Irish Sea.
The Walkers Cup is a feature of An Comhdháilfeiseanna that entices the youngest to get up there on stage in front of a daunting audience. And once again there were the youngest kids of three to five years old, who plucked up the courage to get up on that stage with the hand-clapping encouragement of a mainly parental/family audience.
Personally, I was pleased to see a boy winner on this occasion. Young boys are usually more reticent than girls in front of an audience.
A special feature of the programme was the inclusion of a series of perpetual cups from which income was raised in aid of a charity that supports a rare condition suffered by 1 in 25,000 people and is known as Smith–Magenis Syndrome (SMS), a developmental disorder affecting the body and brain. People with Smith–Magenis syndrome have engaging personalities, but most also have behavioural problems.
A young local sufferer of this rare condition is Vinnie who came along to the feis to present awards to dancers who competed in the VinnieBubs charity cups.
I’m delighted to report that the championships raised a sum of money that was distributed in the form of a cash sum to the SMS charity and purchased a collection of his favourite toys for young Vinnie.
Readers can access info about Vinnie’s condition and progress on www.facebook. com/vinniebubs.
Organiser Tanya told me that she was delighted to have had the support of her school of dancers and their parents, and also teacher friends who helped to run the feis. She said it was essential also to have the support of her own family members as they are involved in the days and weeks leading up to the event.
She added that ‘No one knows what goes into a feis unless you are there in the thick of it, planning and organising all the things that lead up to the weekend, then setting up and clearing away afterwards. There is also the constant help required during the entire weekend to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible’.
For more photos from The Emerald Championships, pick up your copy of this week’s The Irish World.
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