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A touch of Ireland in Illinois

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A touch of Ireland in Illinois

https://midamericaregion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/oireachtas-logo-2017.jpg?w=1200

https://midamericaregion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/oireachtas-logo-2017.jpg?w=1200

https://midamericaregion.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/oireachtas-logo-2017.jpg?w=1200

Bridget Baehl, Journalism Student

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The Mid American Irish Dance Championship, called the Oireachtas, took place over Thanksgiving weekend at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center.  This feis ,a traditional gaelic word meaning competition, is the qualifier for the national championship as well as the world championship, of Irish Dance for dancers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky , Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Over these three days, girls and boys as young as seven years and through thirty-five, compete in solo, traditional set and team competitions.

Seven  time mid-America champion McKimmon Engelhardt said,“Oireachtas is the summation of the years hard work for most dancers and is the opportunity for them to qualify for the World Championship. It is highly stressed as one of the biggest competitions for most dancers,and most highly regarded in terms of difficulty level.”

To begin, the solo competition is categorized by age and gender group, each age group  then competes independently.  First, one must qualify to compete in solos. The solo competition is split into three rounds of dancing –the first being a heavy shoe round danced in a shoe resembling a tap shoe with steel heels and fiberglass toes. This round is a  either competitive treble jig or hornpipe, alternating every year.

Then the second round is danced in a leather ballet type shoe.  This dance is either a slip jig or a reel and is danced two at a time . If one dances hornpipe,  one would have to do reel, and if one danced slip jig, the other would have to dance treble jig.

Lastly, the third and final round is a set dance  that is choreographed to a specific piece of music for a specific dancer  and performed in heavy shoe for only the top 50 dancers determined by the combination of the first two rounds scores. Finally,  all three scores are combined, determining the  overall placing.

For  the traditional set, the dancers do not have to qualify,and  it is separated by age but not by gender. In the  traditional set, competitors dance three at a time doing dances done the same way regardless of where they are in the world. These dances are the most traditional of Irish dances. Recalls are only  done for the top fifty percent of the competition for awards.

In addition, Team or Ceili competition consists of an eight person team. Each team has four “girl” spots and four “boy”spots. This competition is separated by age and whether or not boys are on the team. When boys are present on a team, it is referred to as a mix team. The top fifty percent of each age category is recalled for awards.

Ellen Nemivant, a nationally qualified Irish dancer, said, “The Oireachtas to an outsider can look like a glorified beauty pageant. Yet this regional competition has solo dancing. It requires a lot of practice year-round, every day. Every competitor dreams of dancing at worlds, and this is their chance. It’s a lot more than it seems to be.”

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A touch of Ireland in Illinois