Since Riverdance, Irish dance has experienced a surge of popularity and has moved leap years from where Irish dance was in the 1980s and earlier. As dresses lost knotwork and became increasingly “blinged-out”, there has been a huge debate about whether this is the right direction for Irish dance.
I’ve always loved this debate. It’s the kind of argument that makes for great research papers and dissertations. There are so many levels and angles in it: traditional vs. modern, what is traditional?, increasing costs, the beauty pageant aspect, the fun part of getting dolled up. It’s an Irish dance scholar’s paradise.It’s also a debate that’s not going to get resolved any time soon and one that’s been inherent in Irish dancing since the very beginning. The contrast dynamic between traditional and modern is what makes Irish dancing so interesting and a truly living art form.
Up until now, the powers that be have pretty much let the Irish dance market decide how traditional Irish dance is, both in terms of steps and costumes. There have been rules about tanning, make up and toe stands, but very little in terms of actual dress design. However, the Mid-America region has taken a stance and actually defined what is “traditional Gaelic attire”, at least for the U8 crowd. From the 2011 Mid-America Oireachtas syllabus, here are the rules for U8 costumes (both for boys and girls):
I think the goal of this is to limit the cost and craziness of Irish dance at a young age. It seems like it’s along the same lines as the make up and tanning rules – you can go crazy when you’re old enough, but lets keep it simple for the younger ages.
Celtic Solo has starting making dresses specifically for the younger age groups. Check out some of the designs here. Still very cute and fashion forward, but more simple.
Personally, I think it’s a fine rule for the U8s. While some of the cutest dresses are made for that age group, it’s silly to have parents shelling out $1000 for a dress that they’ll grow out of in a year and for a dance form that they might not even like in a year! However, I’m curious as to why they didn’t just make the ruling that dancers have to wear school dresses. This essentially makes parents get a new dress just for the Oireachtas. Of course, there are dancers that don’t have school dresses, so I guess this evens the playing field. If you’re worried about politics coming from school dresses, this evens it out as well. Still, I feel like the U8 category is the last place you need to really worry about politics…
One person did raise a great point though! What about kilts… No plaid on a kilt? Can’t get more traditional than that on a boy!
I would really not like to see this rule get applied to all age groups. I think the Irish dance market will dictate when enough is enough and recently we have seen more and more traditional elements popping up. I’d say that dresses today are far more “traditional” than they were in 2007 when I got my last solo dress. The ability to do what you want with costumes, within reason, is a selling point for Irish dance. We already have a very rigid dance form. Let’s not make it more rigid by defining the designs that people can wear.
Let me know what you think! Let’s have a conversation on the rule and get some interesting (civil) discussion going!
What do you think? Do you think Irish dance dress designs should be regulated? Only for certain age groups?
Stay Fashionable, Feisers!