you're reading...
In Depth, Uncategorized

In Depth – World Irish Dance Association

In this section, I’ll go more in depth into a topic in Irish Dance that might be a little under the radar or less understood. Let me know if there’s anything you would like to learn more about.

In Depth – World Irish Dance Association

The World Irish Dance Association (WIDA) is one of the newer Irish Dance organizations. It is based in Europe and has been steadily growing since its founding. It was founded with open mind for new joiners in an area largely untouched by Irish Dance previously. As its membership grows, its standard of dancing and events keep growing as well.


First and foremost, because this is a blog with a large focus on fashion, I’ll go into what I could see of WIDA fashions!

The dress styles are largely similar to CLRG costumes, but you see a much wider array. Here are some of the rules regarding costumes:

Under 15:
Beginner: polo shirt and green skirt (or very simple costume for non-WIDA dancers). No hair pieces.
Primary and Intermediate: beginner outfit or school costume
Open: solo dress allowed

15 and up:
No specific rules. Use your own judgement as to how fancy you want your costume to be.

No rules regarding tights or poodle socks, but rhinestones socks are not allowed. Preferably no hard shoe buckles. Wigs are common.

No make-up or tanner under 12.

At the most recent Worlds, modern dresses were mixed with older style dresses. It seems that the cupcake and soft skirt looks are most popular and the 4 panel look over a soft skirt is also popular. The dancers on the podium seem to, by and large, have dresses in the styles of current CLRG styles. This was especially true in the younger age groups. Maybe not the styles that just came out at the CLRG 2011 Worlds, but certainly styles within the past year.

There were also many more simpler or more traditional dresses than seen at the CLRG Worlds. Many three panels that resemble many CLRG class costumes. There were also several simple top and a soft skirt combo. Bun wigs were also very popular. However, unlike the CLRG worlds, these bun wigs featured slick back hair and tight ringlets in the wig. Rhinestone headbands were popular with the dancers that had full wigs, but fabric tiaras (without rhinestones) were also popular.

I noticed that dancers in the oldest age group, over 30, still proudly rocked their poodle socks! I also noticed less tanning than I saw at the CLRG Worlds.


From their website, WIDA was founded to “promote and develop Irish Dancing for today’s business arena. Based in mainland Europe, W.I.D.A. organises workshops, competitions and examinations to aid in the promotion of an interest and the development of a standard in Irish Dancing.”

WIDA is primarily a European organization with a strong following in Germany and central Europe. It is expanding in Eastern Europe as well as Ireland and the UK.

Though starting in Europe, the organization has been expanding overseas. There is now one Canadian school and three schools in the USA.


WIDA partners with NAIDF (North American Irish Dance Federation) and CRDM. These organizations are all open platform organizations. So, any feis or major event hosted by these organizations is open to dancers of all organizations. While this makes judging different styles a little more challenging, it also allows for a greater exchange of ideas and increased dancing development.

As a side note, I know that CLRG does not allow their dancers to dance at open platform feisenna. Just a head’s up in case an CLRG dancers were thinking about dancing at one!

Dance Style

The WIDA dance style closely resembles the CLRG dance style. Toe stands, bicycles, etc. The best WIDA dancers would perform well at CLRG events. Like CLRG, toe stands are prohibited up to Under 12s and only basic steps are allowed in light jig and single jig.

There are, however, specific guidelines for movements in each level which is a bit different from CLRG. For soft shoe:

In beginners competitions: Skips, threes, sevens, hops, jump over / leap, cuts, points, single heels, jump, stamp, toes (at the back, no weight), kick the heel (as in St. Patrick’s Day). Rocks are only allowed in St. Patrick’s Day.
In primary competitions: All beginner moves plus front clicks, through clicks (passing clicks), rocks, quarter turns.
In intermediate and open competitions all movements are allowed.

For hard shoe, dances just have to be level appropriate.

For example, here’s the parade of champions from their latest World Championship. Not quite the same standard, but you can tell that they’re moving in more of a CLRG direction.

Here’s the parade in 2009 to see the progression


There are 5 competitive levels in WIDA: Beginner, primary, intermediate and preliminary and open championships. Dancers advance through the first three grades with a first in a dance.  

There are many local feiseanna throughout Europe. These are all open platform but dancers from WIDA schools get a discount on entry fees.

For beginner to intermediate, in addition to the regular competitions for each dance, there are also premiership. For beginner and primary, the dancers dance reel and light jig. For intermediate, dancers dance reel and either light jig or treble jig. There are also traditional set competitions and occasional treble reel competitions.

The open championships are run the same way as An Coimisiun: soft shoe and set.

There are several major competitions each year. As an Open Platform organization, WIDA dancers can dance at several major events.

1. CRDM’s All-Ireland Competition.

2. WIDA Worlds and Europeans

The first WIDA Worlds were in 2009. WIDA states on their website that to qualify: “Dancers who wish to participate in the World Championships must also take part in the European Championships 2011 and one of the 2010 Qualifying events i.e. British Open, Irish Open, East European and German Open Championships.” The youngest dancers to dance at the Worlds must be ten on January 1st of the year of the championships. Dancers from NAIDF can qualify for the WIDA Worlds at the NAIDF nationals. At the Worlds, there’s a light round, heavy round, traditional set round and a modern set round. The modern set round occurs upon recall in competitions with ten or more dancers. There are also ceili, figure choreography and show choreography competitions.

Here are the results and pictures from this year’s WIDA Worlds.

3. NAIDF’s North American Nationals

4. Regional Oireachtasai (British, Eastern European, Germany, Irish Open Championships)

Adult Dancers

One of the nice things about WIDA is its encouragement for adult dancers. CLRG has gotten better with this throughout the years, but WIDA has really made an effort. This could be partially due to the interestes of different populations of dancers in Europe vs. Ireland/UK/US. It seems there is more interest in adults in Europe, but that could be a function of encouragment in the US. The old egg vs. chicken argument!

Most WIDA feiseanna have a day dedicated to adult dancers. This way they get to compete with peers without feeling like their intruding on a child’s sport.

The oldest beginner and primary level is usually O45, while the oldest intermediate and open level is usually O25 or O30. The oldest level at the 2011 WIDA Worlds was O30.

Teaching and Judging

One of the unique things about WIDA’s approach to qualifying judges and adjudicators is that it’s done through a learning process. From the WIDA website:

A prior knowledge or experience of Irish Dance is not necessary to become a certified W.I.D.A. dance teacher or adjudicator as few people on the European mainland grew up having the opportunity to know about Irelands national dance style.

An examination programme and schedule has been developed to encourage those with an interest in Irish Dance to become certified teachers and adjudicators with W.I.D.A. Candidates will be able to go at their own pace and develop their knowledge and skill without the pressure of deadlines and will be able to be fully certified when they are ready to complete the examination process.

So, as teachers progress with their own dancing, they get qualified further. There are four parts to the teaching exam that can be taken as the teacher reaches those levels. At each level, the teacher must be able to dance and teach the appropriate dances. So, they learn and perfect steps and then teach them, at their level. There is also a set dance music section of the exam, similiar to CLRG’s TCRG exam.

For adjudicators, there’s no exam as they believe that they have proved their qualifications by passing the TCRG exam. There is a two year minimum training period in which the training adjudicator attends at least three events and shadows a trained adjudicator. The trained adjudicator then reports back on the skill of the trainee. At the end of the two years, the candidate is interviewed and then evaluated at one final event before becoming an official adjudicator. I like this approach because I think it encourages true growth and a hands-on approach to learning. It also encourages more of a standard approach to judging as an old judge helps and critiques a new judge.

As the organization is quite new, many judges are from WIDA’s partner organization of CRDM, a more established open platform organization.

 That’s a bit of background on WIDA. I think it’s fun to learn about the different aspects of the Irish Dance community. We are all Irish dancers at the end of the day and all love to dance. Let me know what you think! Did I miss anything/get anything wrong (this is new to me too!)? Remember to keep comments constructive. No need to tear an organization down just because it’s different. 🙂

I got most of my information from the WIDA Website, the WIDA facebook page, Time in Focus Photography that did the photography for the 2011 WIDA Worlds and dance.net members who are apart of the organization. Thanks!


2 thoughts on “In Depth – World Irish Dance Association

  1. wow you did a great job!

    Posted by barby | May 4, 2012, 8:09 pm
  2. Thanks for the info! You really did some research here. It’s nice to see what other organizations are doing.

    Posted by Christy | June 23, 2012, 5:09 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to Feisonista and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 173 other followers

Feisonista on Twitter

Site Meter

%d bloggers like this: