Irish dance make-up ban ‘too extreme’, says teacher

A ban on young Irish dancers wearing make-up during competitions has been criticised for being “too extreme”.

Irish dance make-up ban ‘too extreme’, says teacher

The ruling from the Irish Dancing Commission — which came into force at the start of this month — also forbids children under the age of 10 from wearing fake eyelashes during contests, but stops short of outlawing fake tan and wigs.

Supporters of the blanket ban, which applies to youngsters taking part in solo or team competitions, have welcomed the move, with many saying it was long overdue.

Concern had been raised that the globalisation of Irish dancing since Riverdance had resulted in widespread use of make-up by young competitors.

But a leading Irish dance teacher said it should be up to the parents to decide on whether or not their competing daughters should wear make-up.

Pauline Fegan, who runs four schools in south county Dublin and Co Wicklow said: “Too many people who don’t really understand Irish dancing have got involved, with people calling up radio shows to say it’s disgraceful that children are wearing make-up.

“But it’s not that big a deal. Children who take part in competitions are trying to win and they want to look as well as they can when they perform. You would expect a child to make an effort with their appearance and look their best when they’re in competitions and wearing a bit of make-up helps them stand out.

“The young girls get excited about putting a bit of make-up or lipstick on for competitions. At the end of the day it’s all about the dancing, but I think it should be left for the parents to decide on whether their daughters apply make-up.

“The new rule concerns all Under-10 advanced grades. This is an extremely high standard of dancing and appearance plays an important part on stage. Most parents know best on how to present their children.”

Ms Fegan, from Bray, Co Wicklow, has eight children — including one boy — from the Traveller community amongst her students — some of who will feature in a six-part documentary series, which begins on RTÉ tonight.

One dancer, Bridget Connors, 13, who’s based in Leopardstown in south Co Dublin, tells the show: “Outside of dancing I might be looked at differently, like an outcast or whatever.

“But when we’re dancing, we’re all wearing make-up, we’re all wearing tan.

“There’s all the other girls who are not Travellers buying them. I’m not the only one. It feels good.”

* Jigs & Wigs starts tonight at 8.30pm on RTÉ One.

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