The Reality of Irish Dance

Irish step dancers getting ready for a feis. Photo by Tara Dougherty.

By Tara Dougherty, Music Editor
February / March 2012

It is hard to overstate the way Irish step dancing has exploded onto the scene in mainstream media. The once-niche sport will be the topic of a new show to air on TLC called Irish Dancing Tweens.

TLC, formerly The Learning Channel, has begun production on a documentary series which will follow several competitive Irish dance schools chronicling everything from choreography to costume.

With the hit show Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC has certainly been the network frontrunner in the race to capitalize on children in individualized competition. Irish step dancing fits the mold for the perfect backdrop for a show of this nature with the hard hours of training, the parental involvement and, of course, the glitz and glam. Irish dance costumes, wigs, makeup and shoes are known to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, more than dance lessons and competition fees.

A compelling notion, which will no doubt be a focus for the series, is that while the expenses are astronomical, there are hardly ever cash prizes involved for Irish dancers. In fact, most of these dancers are in it just for the win.

Irish dance became a documentary darling with the hit film Jig! filmed at the World Championships in Glasgow in 2010. TLC has obtained rights to air Jig! on their network as well as recruited the film’s director Sue Borne to work on Irish Dancing Tweens.

TLC has faced its fair share of criticism in the past for its series Toddlers & Tiaras, which documents children competing in beauty pageants. The show has been labeled exploitative with the children’s parents coming under the most fire. It is unclear whether Irish Dancing Tweens will bear a similar tone to the network’s other series, but it is probably a safe bet that by the end of the first season Irish step dancing will come under some amount of skepticism from viewers who often take up arms when children in competition is the subject matter.

One can only hope the focus will remain on the craft rather than the costume but then again this is show business.

Jig! aired Sunday, January 8th. TLC has yet to announce an air date for Irish Dancing Tweens.

2 Responses to “The Reality of Irish Dance”

  1. Michael W. Harrison says:

    Any idea as to when the programs on Irish dancing will air? I’m looking forward to them.

  2. Anne Johnson says:

    One small criticism on your choice of wording –“In fact, most of these dancers are in it just for the win.”, yes, there really isn’t any monetary reward in competition, but there is more to Irish Dance than the “win”. Dancers are first and foremost “in it” for the love of dancing.

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