The Irish Open Dance Championships, in its second year on the dance calendar, is being held at Loughinisland Gaelic Club this Saturday (29th January). It has been organised by Brendan and Bernie Lenaghan, former organisers of The Ulster Championships for many years who have been performing and teaching all styles of dancing since the Line Dance craze first hit this country, and they have run dance classes throughout Co Down.
The Open Competition takes place at Loughinisland GAC function room starting from 9am on Saturday (29th January). This competition is open to dance lovers and already there are entrants from as far as Dublin,Donegal and Scotland, and the scrutineers are from England.
Bernie Lenaghan, who is a qualified instructor and a member of Country and Western Dance Council UK (CWDC), currently runs a Line Dancing class in Owenbeg Bowling Club, Downpatrick, every Wednesday night and also runs Dance Den, again in Downpatrick, with a qualified instructor for the younger dancers where they can learn the skills of Hip Hop, Disco and Line Dancing along with all the different styles of ballroom dance like the Waltz, Tango and Jive and even the Latin American styles of the Cha Cha, Rhumba, and Salsa.
She said, “Through the teaching of dancing and coaching of the up and coming competitors, I have produced a number of Ulster, All-Ireland and UK champions and my greatest honour came two years ago when I took my niece Christina Shields, a former Ulster Champion, to the UCWDC World Championships in Florida, and Christina lifted the coveted title of World Champion.
“Subsequently, with several other dancers from Dance Den competing on the World stage, our dancers have had a trophy haul of two runner-ups, a 3rd,and two 4th and a 5th place finishes to complete the honours. Just recently at the Ulster Championships in October, Dance Den claimed another haul of trophies with eight 1st place finishes along with many other 2nd to 6th place awards.
“If you have any interest in dancing, whatever form it may be, you do not want to miss The Irish Open Dance Championships. You will be able watch the latest Ulster, All-Ireland and World champions compete against the very best our country has to offer and maybe even get a first glance of future Olympic stars as dancing has become recognised as an Olympic sport.
“Do you remember back to the days when the Line Dancing craze hit this area and folks were heading out to venues across the country, togged out in their checked shirts, jeans, cowboy hats and boots, to strut their stuff on the dance floors to the latest country music from America? It’s still alive and kicking in our area. Dancers are still heading out to their nearest club although not in the same numbers as when the craze first hit but still with the same passion as it was all those years ago.”
Bernie explained that Line Dancing is still live and licking and is influenced now with new music from the latest charts and many re-released classics from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and with the latest TV shows Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent, and many more, dancing is growing more in demand. With this new music came new styles, Hip Hop and Street Dancing to name a few, are really hitting it off with the younger dancers, many as young as four years old. Dancing has become a global phenomenon and many keen foot-tapping wannabes are checking out their local areas to see what’s on offer in the dancing world. Anyone of any age can take up dancing and will find something suitable for their ability, whether they just want to exercise, or take it that step further and compete in the many competitions throughout the country and indeed the world over.”
Brendan added,”At 11am on the Saturday of the open competition, with almost 200 entrants, the event kicks off with heats of Pro-Am dancing where couples are made up of a professional and an amateur dancer and will display routines of a 2two-step and East Coast Swing, which are Country and Western versions of a Quickstep and Ballroom Jive respectively, Cha Cha, Waltz and West Coast Swing.
“Around noon will see the first heats of solo Line Dancing where competitors will dance one or two dances depending on age and ability. The youngest category which is called Rugrats consists of any dancer under the age of six who will dance one dance for the judges to score them and hopefully take an award home with them.
“After that the categories consist of Newcomer, Novice, Intermediate and Advanced dancers in aged divisions of Primary, Junior, Teenage, Open, Crystal, Silver and finally Gold where the dancers would be 50 years or older, each competing at the best of their ability to score the highest marks to claim the 1st prize. Dancers will be turned out in their stylish costumes from the traditional hat and boots which are worn if dancing to country and western music to the eloquent sequinned outfits with respective skirts according whether they are dancing to Waltz or Cha Cha.
“Some routines, danced to R&B and upbeat chart music will see a more funky style of costume with florescent colours and footwear. Later in the afternoon dancers will then form groups of two or four dancers and will perform their own choreographed routines to a previously selected piece of music, again in their respective divisions. Around evening time will see the awards ceremony where dancers will learn how they did with many having the honour of receiving a trophy to take home as an award for their efforts.
“All this takes place under the watchful eye of qualified judges from Northern Ireland and England and an official scrutineer from CWDC UK. All dancers taking part in the Irish Open and having competed in another CWDC sanctioned event in the UK then qualify to dance at the European Dance Championships to be held at Brean Sands in Somerset, England, one of the most prestigious dance events on the dance circuit.”
Bernie added,”Everyone who comes on the day will enjoy a fantastic display of competitive dancing and, who knows, may even get the opportunity to learn a dance from the many qualified instructors who will be there on the day. The evening finishes off with a social dance and farewell party into the wee hours, where dancers can let their hair down and dance the night away.”
Further information can be obtained by contacting Brendan on 07852259955.