Northern Ireland news

Irish dancing makes welcome return to Belfast for world championships

The World Irish Dancing Championships 2022 kicked off at the Waterfront in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Mark Marlow

IRISH dancing made a colourful and welcome return to Belfast yesterday as competitors from around the world took to the stage following two years of cancellation.

More than 3,500 dancers from around 20 countries will this week descend on the Waterfront Hall for the 50th World Irish Dancing Championships.

Among the highlights of the opening ceremony and first day of the contest was an appearance by Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley, who was surrounded by fans as he arrived at the venue.

A young fan met Michael Flatley at the Waterfront Hall. Picture by Mark Marlow

Around 20,000 spectators, teachers and invited dignitaries will also gather for the week-long competition, which continues until Sunday, and will also include art exhibitions and Irish language events.

The event is organised by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (the Commission of Irish Dancing), which is the biggest and oldest governing body of Irish dancing worldwide.

Picture by Mark Marlow

Dancer and choreographer Flatley was last night among the dancing stalwarts to attend the opening ceremony, as well as the the first world champions from 1970 when the event was held in the Mansion House in Dublin.

The event aims to celebrate "the irrepressible spirit of Irish dancers and Ireland’s resurgent culture of music and dance".

Live and video performances last night relived the past 50 years of the contest with each participating country producing and choreographing its portrayal of the world championships during each specific decade.

The championships returned to Belfast after a two-year absence. Picture by Mark Marlow.

A historical display of photographs and memorabilia also looked back on the five decades of competition, which has visited various cities across Ireland, US, Canada and Britain.

The performances featured dancers from all different schools and many different countries, which came together and worked with choreographers to develop each piece.

Picture by Mark Marlow

"On display will be some of the world’s most talented Irish dancers," organisers said.

"The traditional aspects of Irish step dance will fuse with increasing athleticism, innovation in choreography and rhythm to bring us a modern and truly inspiring evolution of our cultural dance form."

 Michael Flatley pictured with fans. Picture by Mark Marlow

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