Irish Dancing with John Egan – Leinster Championships
Once again we got the call to bring our cameras to the CRDM Leinster Championships. Our destination was the Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and as we sailed out of Pembroke en route to Rosslare, the sleet and wintry wind reminded us of the return sea crossing 12 months earlier for the same event, when Storm Angus caused the cancellation of Irish Ferries and confined us for an extra 24 hours in Rosslare.
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On our return sailing from Rosslare on this occasion, although assisted by a strong eastward swell, we were reassured by the calm and soothing voice of Captain Gerard Byrne that the crossing would be uneventful. And indeed the paper bags were redundant.
Even in the past 12 months CRDM (Cumann Rince Dea Mheasa) is a dance body that has grown in membership and also in terms of the number of local and regional championships. In 2017 its regional calendar has been enhanced by the Southern Championships held in Waterford, and next year the inaugural Munster Championships will be held at Killarney Racecourse in February.
From its humble beginnings in 2002 when it was founded by just eight teachers from Dublin and Meath, it has expanded to all parts of Ireland, and has garnered strong followings in the UK, in mainland Europe and elsewhere in the world. Last year the Leinster Championships attracted almost a thousand competitors putting a degree of strain on the planned timetable.
Although the same number travelled to Ashbourne this year, on this occasion the timetable was tweaked to start much earlier on Day 1 and the problem was solved.
When competitor numbers approach 1,000 it puts an event on a numerical par with national or regional oireachtais numbers of the Big Two bodies of Irish dancing. But it should be borne in mind that the smaller organisations such as CRDM are more age-inclusive at their big events by bringing in all age groups from the very youngest upwards.
I favour this inclusivity approach because (a) it is manageable, (b) it increases the stakeholders base (dancers and parents), (d) it encourages continued participation along the path of dancer development, (e) it provides the extra revenue needed to stage these events, which of necessity are held at expensive venues with the kind of essential facilities that are not available in a local school or a games arena.
It should be pointed out however, that including the very young dancers brings with it a degree of management and responsibility that increases the stage workload of supervising staff. This can involve just giving assurance to tearful 4-year olds who are up there on stage in front of an adult auditorium for the first time in their lives.
Or simply queuing up several cohorts of three dancers and giving them the ‘hand clap signal’ to start their routine.
This requires an input from a ‘supervisor’ to be present on each of three dancing stages who are sometimes tasked to communicate identification info to the adjudicator.
For example, I witnessed teacher and event organiser Sonya Sargeant of the Doyle- Halpin School gently cajoling the ‘next three’ into their dance positions. I have been privy to the feedback of participants at this event, not only of competitors and their parents but also of adjudicators who were fiercely complimentary of the improving standards that they had witnessed.
Organiser Sonya told me, ‘Our school [Doyle-Halpin] is very much family-based from grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters helping out. With this type of school backup it allows us to cover all sections, from teachers area to admissions desk, security and generally speaking, everyone being well looked after. Should any queries arise we always have someone to help.+17
Our school has seven qualified teachers and two, who have set up their own schools, still come back to help out at the Leinsters’.
Hopefully all who attended enjoyed the event as much as FeisPix did. There are thousands of pics on view at www.feispix.com.
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The Cardinal Wiseman School, home to the Coventry Celtic Championships, must surely be the national centre of gravity for feiseanna.