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Irish dancers kicking up their feet at contest in Chicago

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Thousands of dancers from across the globe are in Chicago to kick up their heels in a major Irish dance competition.

The dancers are stepping lively at the Sheraton Hotel, which is home base for the North American Irish Dance Championships.

In the hallway, young ladies fine-tune their footwork, while in the ballrooms, they go head-to-head on stage before a panel of judges, hoping to qualify for the world championships in the fall.

The society may seem a little foreign to some.

"You get into the competition and just, like, the glitz and the glamour of it all, as you can see, the makeup and the wigs," said dancer Tara Strazdas. "To some people, it may look a little absurd, but up on stage, it looks really great."

"You dedicate your life to Irish dancing," said dancer Aimee Deveaux. "People think it's crazy with the wigs and the tanning, kind of like Toddlers and Tiaras, but to me it's different because we put so much work into it."

The work goes in to mastering a unique dance style.

"I think what makes it most unique is that the upper body doesn't really move at all in the solo dancing," said event co-chair Tim O'Hare. "It's all arms at your sides, and I know a lot of people think it's stiff and rigid looking, but it's supposed to be just a natural relaxed posture with your arms at your sides."

Boys are well represented in the competition. Daniel Callanan, 8, has already been dancing half his life.

"It's really fun. You get to do double clicks, triple clicks... single clicks, and you get to move a lot," said Callanan.

The North American Irish Dance Championships draw more than 5,000 dancers from all over North America, parts of Europe, Mexico and Australia.

"They say, 'What sort of dancing do you do?' I say, 'Irish,' they're like, 'Uh - is that what Michael Flatley does?' Some people would know, but it's not that common," said Irish dancer Madeoyne Glover.

That doesn't seem to matter to these competitors, who are all striving to become lords and ladies of the dance.

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