In June, the New York Times published a gallery featuring Irish dancers at the World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfast.
Some of the photos accurately depicted the image of an offstage dancer before/after she competed. The tan lines, overly made-up faces, outrageous wigs — it’s all captured and presented to the world.
Now, the misery on the dancers’ faces — that, to me, is inaccurate. As a former child dancer myself, I know that most Irish dancers’ gut instinct is to smile like a maniac when a camera is near. The world championships can be stressful, I’m sure, but also joyous days for dancers who get to see their friends who’ve traveled from across the globe to be present. I’m interested in learning how and why photographer Kenneth O’Halloran instructed the dancers to pose the way they did.
Friday, the New York Times’ 6th Floor Blog published the article, “What’s up with those Irish Dancing Costumes?”
The Times reporter went to Dr. John Cullinane, known historian of Irish dance costumes and respected dance master.
He addresses the costumes, tans and wigs — which, we all admit, can be a little out of control — and the makeup. For some reason, Irish dancers are targeted for wearing lots of colorful eye shadow. Other dancers get away with wearing “stage makeup.”
Cullinane explains that Irish dancers, too, use stage makeup:
“Competitions are held in huge auditoriums, on stages that measure about 40 feet wide, and the lighting required to light those stages is tremendous. Irish dancers, like all performers, get made up. So there’s nothing unusual about making up the dancers. But the extent to which it’s done is surprising, particularly with the young children.
We do have competitions in which children at the early ages are not allowed to wear makeup and must wear simple dresses. We try to control it, but it is a very parent-driven thing.”
So, now that one issue’s cleared up, can anyone explain to me why the Times is suddenly interested in likening Irish dancing to “Toddlers in Tiaras”? There is a HUGE difference here: Irish dancers have talent.