Dancers’ dresses!

Dancers’ dresses!

Apologies if this has been done before but I haven’t seen any reference to it.
Is it just me or do you think that the preponderance of long, curly hair pieces (often unsuitably auburn), heavy make-up and and celtadelic "traditional" dresses worn by the young female dancers in the UK and Ireland ( I don’t know about elsewhere) is somehow missing the point? They don’t all have to look like Ms Butler of Riverdance do they? The dresses cost hundreds of pounds for a start so are immediately exclusive on that score, let alone any considerations of taste. Am I just being an old git or is it all a legitimate development of the tradition? Bah! Humbug!

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Wow-ho! wait till Zina sees this!

She makes them!

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Oops! I’m dead aren’t I? I’ll get my coat.

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The same phenomenon is alive and very well here in the Midwestern US.

It gets a little ridiculous, $$$ for the shoes, the dresses, the wigs, etc.

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I once heard Jackie Daley comment on the dresses, he summed it up for me when he said "it was like watchin the jumpin book of Kells"

McMahon

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AS far as I have seen on pictures (unfortunately not in real life) the north america based irish dancers beat them all. that

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Tacky to the max, but don’t tell the soccer-moms.

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I totally agree with your observations. One of the unfortunate consequence of these extravagances is that competitive Irish dancing is (or soon will be) affordable only to those children in well-to-do families. Another is that the adjudicators in the competitions can’t help but be persuaded by the appearance of a dancer, instead of judging strictly on performance.
In my opinion, a talented dancer should be able to enter, and potentially win, any open Irish dancing competition - even if he/she is wearing plain clothes.

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Don’t even get me started! ;) Let’s just say that no, NA isn’t the worst by the long shot (in fact, most of the trends tend to start in Australia, NZ, and Ireland), there’s a movement afoot to ban the wigs and makeup, and I only make the things, I don’t create the demand for dresses entirely of sequinned materials in dayglo colors. Also, dancers often do win wearing plain dresses, if they’re good enough. However, most dancers aren’t good enough to stand out from the pack of good dancers — there are a LOT of good dancers.

The dance has become both an art AND a sport. Competitive sports are their own beasts.

Somewhere, there’s an old Chieftains video with a young Jean Butler dancing in a very plain dress. The Daughter of Erin dress is traditional aaaaalllll the way back to about…1940 or so. Which is to say, it’s not very traditional at all.

I’ve commented before about all this — search for it. 🙂

zls

P.s.

They cost so much because they take a LOT of hours to make. I think most of us smaller shop dressmakers have figured out that we make less than $10 an hour for a $800 dress. Some of the home dressmakers would make less than $0.50 an hour. Come spend a couple of weeks in my shoes and then tell me the dresses cost too much. 🙂

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I played for my first Ceili last March. The event was a fundraiser for the local Vermont Irish dance school to purchase a couple of these dresses. The school will own the dresses and the girls who compete will wear them.

Musicians (including myself) spend tons of cash on their instruments. So I don’t see anything wrong with competitive dancers spending $800 on a dress. If I were a young, serious dancer w/o much cash, I’m sure I’d find a way to own a dress to compete in…..plus I think it sends a message to the judges that you are serious and passionate about dancing…..

Down at Gaelic Roots, there were a lot of dancers wearing these dresses..it was totally cool!

Joyce

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Money talks

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Excellent point(s), Joyce. And I think it’s great that the dresses are handmade. They *could* all come out of a factory somewhere but instead people like Zina are handmaking these mini works of art on dresses. Even if some are dayglo and glittery. The jumpin’ book of Kells is a good description! Gorgeous. The wigs and makeup could go, though…

Chris

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Hello Zina!

I thought you’d be snapping at my heels. I totally understand why the dresses cost what they do and all the dedicated work that goes into them (Do ye all think I’m getting away with this one?). Having said that do they make you dance any better? Surely the tons of sequins, and expectation, weigh you down?

A good (expensive) instrument, Joyce, should make one sound better so I’m not sure about that argument. The way you dance should send a message about your passion not a migraine- inducing frock.

I just don’t like the idea of design triumphing over content and the exclusivity the inevitable cost engenders. As Brad says "Money talks" ‘Twas ever thus.

I love the "jumping book of Kells" quote. Very funny.

I’m off to watch The West Wing

P.S. University College, Dublin has just found a large, dusty tome in its vaults called "What to do with your arms in traditional Irish dance". It’s been lost for centuries apparently. Could change everything.

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i’m guessing that you’ve noticed how ‘un-irish’ the dancers look - NOT that i’m trying to say people from other cultures shouldn’t do irish dancing because they aren’t white skinned and freckle faced, i just find it funny that dancers seem to be doing everything to cover up the fact they are irish.

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This discussion seems to be straight down Party lines - the Guys on one side, ie they’re too expensive and glitzy, and the Gals on the other, ie lighten up guys and have some fun. I’m gonna break ranks, cos I’m with the gals on this one - I think they look The Business, they add real spectacle and sparkle to an already great display. I love it when we get the dancers in at our session (our landlady is mad into the Irish dancing and she’s got the daughters at it also).

Maybe there is elitism wrt the price of new kit - so what’s new? Same as every other pursuit - yet I bet, same as other pursuits, once you’re on the inside, you might get some "Deals", ie, maybe some kid has outgrown their dress and can sell it on, etc.

If we went and logged on to an Indian Dance website, I doubt if you’d get anyone moaning about the gear being too flamboyant or expensive. And Jeez, their gear is well-whacky.

Danny.

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I’ve got it! If I want to stand out as a musician at a session I should wear a sequinned dayglo tuxedo. Once I start this trend, no one will bother to listen to some yokel in jeans or whatever. Heh Heh Heh (evil laugh)

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Geoff, haven’t you ever noticed that 50 to 80 percent of any kind art or sport is in the participant’s head? Yup. The dresses do make the dancers dance better. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a dancer put on her new dress (or in the case of the boys, cummerbund or whatever), and place first in all their competitions because they feel extra special and pretty and glamorous and Irish-dancey in their new beautiful dress, and so danced extra well. Happens too often to not notice.

Haven’t you ever felt really good about your playing and then found that therefore you played really well?

And, as for the money thing, since ID these days is a competitive sport, most parents feel that it’s basically like outfitting your kid for, say, soccer or football or baseball. I mean, sure, a kid can probably play well without a nice glove and a nice bat, but they might play better with them, yeah? A good pair of hardshoes is going to run you anywhere from $100 to $300 or so, and it’s worth it, because you can permanently injure your feet without a pair that fits well. Worse, you won’t realize you’re injuring your feet until years and years later. One of the most famous ID teachers and adjudicators can’t take a plane ride longer than 40 minutes because all her joints seize up.

That said, I can speak in favor of the wigs, because the dresses (with tight fitting bodices and wide circle skirts) make you look like a bowling pin if you don’t have fairly big hair, and setting your hair for a feis is a huge bummer (I’ve done it too often, and believe me, the wig is the BEST thing ever!). But little girls with gobs of makeup on (rather than just a bit so their faces don’t wash out on stage) are a bit much for me.

Then there’s the nature of the decoration. (See, I told you not to get me started!) Personally, I wish we’d come back to the embroidered knotwork. All this Celtic stuff with high contrast, large impact applique is nice and all, but it’s not actually very Irish. When I first started making dresses, I thought, hey, I think I’ll only do the embroidered stuff, only to find that this was appropriate only for adults (who do not need to have such competitive dresses because they’re not seen as real competitors, which is ANOTHER pet peeve you don’t want to start me on the road thereof) — the kids need to have competitive dresses, and right now, that means all this glittery stuff.

Why? Because there are so MANY excellent dancers. Oftentimes, an adjudicator may have a whole passel of dancers that dance pretty much equally well in the point spread, and will be forced to include appearance and presentation as part of the judging in order to place them.

My own current solo dress (and I’m thinking of a new one) is black velvet with red and gold trim, with embroidery of Chinese animals and flowers. It’s REALLY hot to dance in — Colorado does NOT have Irish weather. The next one, I think, will be a very light dress in iridescent white and kingfisher blue, with an embroidered and beaded white dragon that goes all round the skirt and up the bodice.

Let’s face it, I do NOT look Irish and will never. So my dress celebrates both my heritage and my love of the dance and music. 🙂

zls

And, oh yes…

Want to buy a good used Irish solo dress? Try http://www.dance-again.com. (If you want to get a gander at some dresses because you’ve never seen them, it’s a good place to look too, but keep in mind that these are used dresses and so are not particularly up to the minute trendy.) That’s how many dancers start. Then you finance the next dress by selling your old one. Also — JOYCE…so, tell me about this school in Vermont that needs costumes? I know there are a couple of dressmakers up there. Perhaps we can find them some kind of deal. Is it solo costumes they’re needing, or are they looking for school costumes?

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Zina I take your point, about the psychological effects of a new dress that stands out, and it is persuasive. I never mentioned the hard shoes in my original posting as I would always have thought of those of an essential part of the armoury.
I like the sound of your Chinese motif dress with the kingfisher. Perhaps you could bring it over to Winter Park when I am there skiing in Feb 2004. It could be a music AND dance session if your original offer still stands from a previous thread.
I’m glad to see you may get some sales out of this thread (my usual percentage will be OK).

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Zina, I do love the idea of the Chinese motif on the ID dress! And I agree with Geoff, your argument in favor of the dresses and even the wigs is very persuasive. Up until this point, I didn’t even relize they were wigs, just thought it was all done up in curlers or with a curling iron or something. The last festival I went to, one of the girls who also happens to take harp lessons with my teacher, was the only on with her hair au naturel. I must say she looked lovely and dignified while the big hair of the others looked plain silly

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Zina, your dresses sound fantastic, with the Sino-Celtic theme! The dragon design sounds splendiferous, I hope you make it. Top cool points!

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Yay Zina! I totally agree that sports (& arts) are 50-80% mental…I raced road bikes professionally years ago, so I understand this. I remember when I got onto my first big team out in Los Angeles. We were given these shiny, bright racing clothes and new equally loud-colored racing bikes. We looked totally bad-ass! I know that this gave me an extra edge. Physically I’d done my homework by hours & hours of training….but when you look good….you feel good! So I totally believe that these girls might dance a bit better when they are wearing their dresses!

So guys (except Danny), lay off the dresses : ) I think they rock!

Joyce

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I have seen the light and it is multi coloured!

Joyce, I am also a cyclist and have no objection at all to wearing ludicrously-hued lycra (more chance of motorists seeing you) so, I suppose what’s good for the goose etc.

I refuse to wear the wig though.

I’ll have to think about the make-up.

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I refuse to come up to Winter Park if you don’t, Geoff, so mascara and lip gloss on. *grin* Nutter, of course I’m meeting you out there. Perhaps we should arrange another The Session session in Winter Park for any players who are also skiers. (I’m not, I’m more the ski-bunny, drink-and-whatever in the lodge sort of winter sport type, so I’d say open to everybody.) I mean, we could rent a cabin and play all night and ski all day.

Make sure you plan a day or two in Denver before going up. Don’t want to go getting altitude sickness and spoiling your holiday.

Andee, for those of us without curly hair and Irish curl-inducing weather, curlers and hot rollers were indeed once the order of the day. I have extremely thick, long, and bloody-mindedly straight hair. It took over three big packages of those foam stick curlers to curl my hair, and it would generally start uncurling sometime during the slip jig (halfway through a feis, in other words). Believe me, the wigs ROCK. Moms like them because the kids get a good night sleep the night before a feis rather than trying to find a way to wedge pillows around all the curlers. Instead of curling hair, they can all be out at the pool at the hotel or going out to eat. It’s made the feisianna a lot more fun for the dancers, hanging out with friends that you never see but at the Oireachtas or Nationals or Worlds is so much better than putting curlers in your hair… 🙂

I keep putting off making the new dress. It’ll be a lot of work (embroidery always is, which is another strike in favor of the applique dresses). When I do I’ll post a pic. Thanks for the advance comps on it, though. 🙂

zls

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Two of my kids are dancers and they feel really special in their outfits. Caelainn doesn’t do the makeup bit but does use a wig. The only reason for this is that previously my wife, P

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Can’t wait to see the pic of the dress once it’s made, Zina! And so the adult dancers do the curls (wigs), too? You’ve convinced me by the way, if one must have the curls, then wigs are the way to go….

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Our TCRG calls it "going over to the Dark Side", Andee, but yes, we do. However, we don’t generally do the horrendously curly things, nor the ones that make the dancer look like an ungroomed poodle has climbed atop their heads. I tend to look for ones that actually look like real curly hair. 🙂

zls

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My hair is curly, but more like a rat’s nest. If I was competing, I think I’d do the wig thing. I wish my hair looked more like those wigs!

J

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YUCK, YUCK, YUCK…….. and more a YUCK!!!!!!!
you’ve probably guessed that i don’t like them. oh and the poodle socks that have to be kept up with sock glue…..eeewwwww
I refuse to wear them but as i entered intermediate/open level dancing i did have to upgrade my nicely plain dress and get some poodle socks. My Mum made me a dress out of green velvet with cream and gold braid and sheer sleeves (it gets rather hot in oz, not good for christmas tree dresses). It has stiffening in the skirt but not actual cardboard and no bright, fleuro colours or sequens. People actually notice me more because i look completely different to everyone else….don’t know about the judges though.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the christmas tree dreses are designed ot cover up bad posture and hide the arms which are supposed to be straight.
up oh….i’ll be in trouble now……
I should explain that I don’t mean to say everyone that wears a christmas tree dress has bad posture but anyone who’s seen dancing must have noticed that some people with big dresses have really bad posture that seems to go unnoticed by most.
The point about paying lots for instruments is fair enough but i think in this case the instrument here is the body and the shoes. It may have become the dress, make up and wigs over the years but i think this is very wrong and completely missing the point.
We had a rule at our school that you got to wear a christmas tree-like dress only when you got to intermediate level which means that parents don’t go spending thousands of dollars on something that may only be used for a little while. It takes the moeny aspect out of things so that EVERYONE can learn to dance.
Isn’t all this supposed to be about the dancing, the tradition and having a good time. Yeah sure it has turned into a competitive sport and at the high level i think this is ok, but i’d like to see less of the competitiveness at the lower levels so young dancers can enjoy it for what it truely is…..dancing!
but i know this is unlikely to happen.
when it comes down to it though i hav to admit, in the big comps. it is the ability of the dancer (physically and mentally) that wins not the dress, the hair or the make up which is good.
ah welll……..the stages will probably be forever littlered with little sheep, dressed in a christmas tree, feet going at a million miles, wearing poodle socks on their anckles and a tiara on thier head but at least the dancing still exists.

wow….i didn’t realise how long that was!!!
sorry if i bored anyone

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alrighty. well since all of you worte this thread of comments about a year ago, its useless to be writing in this. buuuuuuuut i dont care. I’ve been step dancing for 6 years and im saving up for a solo dress im looking at. i absolutely hate the ugly geometric flouresent holographic crap. there are some dresses that i am in love with, all which have none of the previously stated. i like the wigs and make up, because my hair will not go into ringlets, wigs are good. i can find good deals too.

Im always reminding myself about why im dancing, because i love it, not becauase i need to beat the others. and since i know why im dancing, it’ll help me smile on stage, and thats a plus towards the judges.