Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Irish Dancing and Costumes

It's Tuesday. For the past seven years, Tuesdays have been associated with one thing for me: Irish Dancing. Like many, I was awed by Riverdance, so when, before the start of my second year of University, I decided to find an activity to get in shape, I though of Irish Dancing.

At first, I thought I would only do it for fun and never be serious enough about it to need a costume (after all, I was 20, I wasn't really going to compete seriously? After all, I had no chance of going to the Worlds one day, so what was the point?...)

But then, I learnt that adults could compete. And I started to compete with the teens. And to this day, I compete with 15 year olds who think I'm 17 (which is, like, Great!). So what If it's taken me all of this time to make it to Novice, I have fun doing it! (I should mention that for almost half of the seven years, I couldn't attend my dance classes: there where a couple of semesters when school was on the same night as dance, then there was the semester I had to stop to let my tendinitis heal, and of course, last year I was pregnant, which was followed by mommy separation anxiety, etc.)

But enough about my story as a dancer, I know what you really want to know and see are the costumes!

My first Feis - Albany, 2003

When you first start competing, the costume you wear is either your school's dress (and my school doesn't have one), or a green skirt with a white blouse (cape/shawl is optional).

You can also wear a black top with your green skirt. This is the costume you must wear for the Beginner and Advance Beginner categories.

This picture, taken last year, is of me getting ready to dance my Light Jig, the dance I hate the most. It was on that day that I finally managed to place and move up this dance, my last Advance Beginner dance, into Novice. Oh yeah! After years of placing 12th out of 13, I got a second place (out of 6). I was going around saying "The pregnant lady beat four 12 year olds!" (well, yes, because I was three month pregnant, and the oldest age group for Advance Beginner is 12 & Over - whereas it is 15 & Over for Novice).

OK, I know, enough already. You want costumes!

Toe Stand - School Recital, February 2007

This is a variation on the green skirt. It was made by some of my classmates for our School Recital back in 2007. The skirt is a wrap-around (I always make mine full circle), and the design was painted on the front part.

You might have noticed a few things I haven't mentioned by now. First, the traditional foot wear is Poodle Socks, but black tights are acceptable too (and slimming).

Second, there are two types of shoes: Ghillies, also called Soft Shoe, and Hard Shoe, which are similar to tap shoe, but with fiberglass tips and heels (makes it a lot harder to make noise with them, but, as the front taps are filed off, we are able to stand on our toes).

Lastly, what is with the curly hair? It is a wig. It is the fashion in Irish Dancing that dancers (girls) wear their hair in curls. This has led to the use of ringlet wigs. Mine is just a bun cover bought for 15$ in a Hair Salon supply store, but wigs can get very big and expensive. I have even seen girls stuff a pair of socks under their wig to make the top seem bigger and fuller.

My first dress - Ville-Marie Feis, 2004

This was my first attempt at a dress. I used Irish Threads Dance Dress Pattern to make it. It was far from stellar (just look at how the hem of the skirt is rolling inwards), but mistakes let you learn, and then you make something way better:

My first Solo Dress

I am so proud of this dress. I made it for my School Recital back in 2005, and as per my habit, I did it at the last minute, which in this case means I started it eight days before said Recital. I don't know if you can see it, but it takes forever (well, 12 hours really) to cut all the quilted design parts. I remember I was making one skirt panel a night, after coming home from work, and I practically had a nervous breakdown when I ran out of needles (because the little buggers tend to break when you are satin stitching over sequins). But my Sweetheart was kind enough to ask what he could do to help and he actually went to the store to buy me more needles. (I love you honey!)

Now in this picture, the skirt panels are starting to curl, but that is because it was taken last year, and I haven't properly stored it. It is always on a hanger, when I should have kept it lying flat. I'll know for the next one! But see how nice it looked when it was new:

Réal Morel Residence, St. Patrick 2005

So what is my next dress going to be? I'm thinking about it. A lot. And I change my mind often. Last year, I was interviewed by Irish Dancing Magazine about making your own dress and I had presented this as my next dress:

And by the way, this is the interview as it appeared in the August 2008 edition of IDM:

But now... Well I've had an inspiration for a Peacock Dress... (who, me?)

For some reason, the colours are all wrong now. The light turquoise should be more of a Teal Blue, the green should be darker and the purple redder, but you still get the idea.

My next Feis is in December, and it will be my first since August 2008, so expect to read more about my new dress in the coming month.


  1. Ahhhhh là je veux vraiment voir ça ET danser :D

  2. Les cours sont le mardi au Lawn Bowling Club de Verdun et ma prof accepte de nouveaux élèves n'importe quand.

  3. Et c'est combien ?

    Moins de 100 pour un certains nombre de cours je pourrais peut-être me le permettre :p

  4. Nice posts! I also read some of postings. I really learned a lot of things.we can find lots of informations online.thanks you for sharing

  5. You are very welcome, and thank you for the nice comment.

  6. You are a huge inspiration to me when it comes to Irish dancing. I'm 16 and started Irish dance when I was 15. I guess you are never too old to start. :D

    1. Me, really? Wow. I have been dancing 9 years now (whenever my school schedule let me, or I wasn't in physio for my ankle, or as currently, pregnant) and I am still in novice, but I do it for fun! That is the only real reason to dance!