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Your Take

Your Take – 2011 Mid-America Oireachtas U8 Solo Dress Requirements

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!



11 thoughts on “Your Take – 2011 Mid-America Oireachtas U8 Solo Dress Requirements

  1. I think That is a great idea. Why stop at U8’s? Isn’t it that U10 & under there is a no make-up & tans? I like the no toes for the U12s. My U6er has a very simple but lovely solo dress. It is black with a silver & Red sequeined puff/layers skirt. There is a little silver & red applicate at the kneck & on the sleeves & we just added 4 buttons down the front. It’s perfect for her and her age group. I try to tell new ID parents that when it comes to solo dresses, less is more!!!

    Posted by Karen TD | September 25, 2011, 9:37 pm
  2. I agree with all of it apart from no rhinestones.I dont think animal print or lowered necklines should be used in any age group and I really wish they would enforce the skirt length rule.I wish the embroidery were more tradtional as some dresses ive seen just dont seem irish at all.

    Posted by anita | September 25, 2011, 10:38 pm
  3. I think the dresses at all ages has gotten out of hand. I have often said the should be black or dark color skirt and top with a cape that reflects the school’s colors or design. This should be about the dancing not the expensive (very expensive) dress.

    Posted by jbradak2010 | September 25, 2011, 11:09 pm
  4. I think it’s a good idea, and I’d agree that I’d take it up to the U10 category – match the make-up rules and let the little ones be little ones.

    I’m not sure I’d restrict design features much further than that, though. It has the potential to both strongly impact the resale market and impede an area of self-expression for the dancers in a format where these ISN’T much. ID has already moved beyond the realm of Folk Dance in its steps AND it’s costume. That’s part of what makes it a living, evolving artform.

    Posted by Holly (@BriarRose101) | September 26, 2011, 12:31 am
  5. I think it’s a good idea in theory because it is ridiculous for parents to pay $1,000+ for a dress that won’t fit their daughter in a year. That being said, the rule needs to be announced much further in advance. By now, most girls already have their dresses for the Oireachtas ordered, if not shipped and completely paid for. What are those dancers supposed to do now? I’m from the Mid-America region and hadn’t heard anything about this until I read your post. Maybe if the rule had been more publicized earlier girls could’ve had time to prepare an appropriate outift, but I think it’s ridiculous to expect people to change their plans now. Maybe I’m just not aware of these things because I’m not U8, but none of the U8s I know had heard of this either…

    As for the older dancers, I think they should be allowed to choose their costumes – within reason, of course. Obviously the rules about low-cut necklines and skirt length should still be inforced, but other than that, why not let a girl express herself? Like others have said, we already have a very rigid dance form, and our costuming is one of the few ways that we can show our personality onstage.

    I completely understand wanting to keep costuming reasonable for girls who are still, for the most part, just getting started with Irish dance, but why not let the older girls have their fun?

    Posted by Megan | September 27, 2011, 2:51 am
    • I disagree with some aspects of this new rule and other parts i don’t. I think getting dolled up is part of the fun and making the little ones separate from the older ones is a little unfair. I am U15 and in the midamerican region, my dress for oireachtas is red alligator print and i think it is expressive of myself and as a dancer i think it would not be fair to say to the little ones that they are not allowed to express themselves. Though i think that neckline and length should be regulated.

      Posted by Mara | October 24, 2011, 1:21 am
  6. I agree that the costume aspect is part of what makes ID a living art form. The rigidity of the dance is strictly contrasted by the unique and individual costumes, which is fascinating, especially to an outsider.

    I’m another vote to extend these rules to U10. I also don’t think it would be unreasonable to require some celtic influence in older age groups — that would ensure that these were IRISH dance dresses, and not just sparkly show pieces or pageant gowns with sleeves.

    As for length and make-up and tan! These rules should be more strongly enforced!

    Posted by Tara | September 27, 2011, 4:05 am
  7. No Jewelry? They have got to be kidding. I have had my ears pierced since I was 5 years old and would be devastated if I had to remove my earrings for a dance competition. Why not just limit jewelry to stud earrings?

    Posted by Lizzy | September 28, 2011, 1:14 am
  8. absolutely ridiculous. those little girls work hard to get to the oireachtas at such a young age why on earth would they limit them like this.

    Posted by Emily | September 28, 2011, 4:55 pm
  9. Honestly, I I don’t really mind this rule, though I guess I might if I was actually a U8 dancer. Thing is, we were notified of this rule a while ago. So a girl I know who competed in the Nationals in July had to order a dress that was completely un-sparkly and wear it at NANs- and I think it gave her an edge! While all the other girls were blinged out, she had a very distinctive dark green dress with light green embroidery, and no glitter! She was easy to pick out of the crowd and very easy to remember. She ended up with 16th place, which was great! So honestly, I think this rule worked to her advantage.

    Posted by Michaela | November 17, 2011, 9:01 pm
  10. As an Irish dance mom- I love it! My daughter is 7 this year and a first grader- a baby! She is competing in Novice this year and one first place away from a solo dress (per her school rules). She REALLY wants to be selected to go to Oireachras this year for a U8 solo. So I think a dress purchase is in the cards for us this year. Her school’s dress maker is creating lovely, appropriate solo dresses that will work for the Oireachras rules, but that the kids are super excited about. She can happily wear that dress for 2 years and then look forward to sparkles. I think it paces the excitement for these little ones in a very positive way- and lots of fun can still be had.

    Posted by Carrie Lucke | March 3, 2013, 5:31 pm

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