ery recently there was a huge uproar from the online Irish Dance community due to a very controversial article posted on Irish Central. There was a very heated argument about the use of wigs, tanner, makeup and of course our very expensive dresses. What disturbed me the most was the view that somehow wearing makeup and wearing something brightly colored hides our dancing talent. Any judge will tell you that the thing they are most concerned with is the actual dancing. While a put together appearance definitely makes one seem like a more serious competitor, a very expensive dress is not a key to winning first place.
As women in the Irish Dancing world, we are constantly being bombarded with conflicting messages. “Wear makeup and make sure your legs are tan!” “That is way too much makeup!” How do we make sense of all of this? One of my friends recently overheard a conversation in which a few men were talking about how Irish Dance sexualizes young girls. This comment shows a deep misunderstanding of our community. The messages denouncing wigs and makeup teach young girls that they should be ashamed of the way that they look on stage instead of feeling confident. I am by no means saying that makeup that is acceptable for a twenty year old is acceptable for a ten year old. However, young girls should not be taught that lipstick and a curly wig sexualizes them. Irish Dance teaches us how to perform, and performances require a costume. Girls and young women should not be ashamed by the fact that they wear eyeliner and a wig. This does not make them gaudy or over the top. I don’t know about everybody else but wearing a tiara makes me feel like a princess. Every girl has the right to feel like a princess.
Nobody is forced to wear tiaras or sequins. It is a personal choice. Those who say Irish Dancing has lost its way because of costumes and makeup are neglecting many other elements of Irish Dance. We still dance to the same music and hold our arms in to our sides. Rhythm, timing, crossed feet, turned out feet and pointed toes are still vitally important. The talent in the Irish Dance community improves every year because we challenge each other to become better and have an excellent support system. Most of the dancers I know feel beautiful in their wig and costume and who is anybody to tell them that they’re not.
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