Tag: Irish Dance

Madame Alexander Doll Convention

To celebrate the theme of “Shall We Dance,” my Irish dance group was invited to perform at the 2016 Madame Alexander Doll Convention in Minneapolis. You didn’t know there was a convention? Me either! There are people who love the classic Madame Alexander dolls so much that they come from all over the U.S to attend a convention. These people love dolls. A lot.

The Madame Alexander Doll Convention

This was a really fun event to observe and be part of, even just for the short duration of our dance show. We performed during the dinner hour, and the entertainment was a surprise to the attendees.

Every table had a centerpiece with a doll in an Irish dance costume spinning around. Not too surprisingly there were a lot of dolls in the place, period. Everyone there was incredibly nice and it was fun to see people following their interests and getting to know others with the same hobby.

After, the other dancers said, “this is right up your alley.” “You’re going to write an article about this, aren’t you?” They know me well.

So I decided to do a little research on these dolls.

Who is Madame Alexander?

On a quest to learn more, I unearthed some interesting tidbits from the Madame Alexander website. Some highlights:

  • Madame Beatrice Alexander was a real person who founded the company in 1923.
  • She was the child of Russian immigrants and was raised over her father’s doll hospital in Brooklyn. She often played with the dolls in the hospital and was inspired to start her own doll company at age 28.
  • Today, the product line has expanded to include more than just collectible dolls. There are larger dolls for toddlers and soft dolls for infants.
  • Madame Alexander is a master of disguise, known for her many costumes such as Cat Woman, the Wizard of Oz and yes, even Frozen.
  • You can join the doll club for $45 per year and attend events like the annual convention that I danced at with Mactir Academy of Irish Dance.

Madame Alexander Doll ConventionMy mom has one from her childhood, so I asked her to take it out so I could add photos of it to this post. She’s pictured above. And of course I need to share the paper doll version of Mme. Alex:

Madame Alexander Doll Convention

Are these dolls part of your life? If you have more information on her to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Adding Swarovski Crystals the Right Way

Add sparkle with Swarovski crystals

I had a weekend of back-to-back feisanna, or Irish dance competitions. It was a fun, tiring and rewarding weekend. I’m excited to share my newest creation, which is these bedazzled hardshoe buckles. Irish dancers LOVE adding crystals to things. Crowns, buckles, even dresses are littered with jewels. I’m thrilled I finished the project (a win in itself) and figured out how to jewel Irish dance buckles successfully. I started decorating the buckles for Irish fair in August, but my experiment with using super glue didn’t go well. So in preparation for the weekend I finally succumbed to using the adhesive E6000 for the first time, thanks to my dance classmate who gave me a leftover tube of it.

Selecting the right adhesive

Here’s what I learned about how to Swarovski (yes I just made that into a verb) your own apparel. I mentioned my first attempt involved superglue. Turns out that’s a huge mistake–cyanoacrylate becomes brittle after time and movement can pop embellishments right off! Lesson learned. Unfortunately the alternative, E6000, is pretty toxic stuff. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MDSM) is available online if you want to know the details, but basically when using it you want to 1) use it as infrequently as you can, 2) wear gloves, 3) be in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside if possible.

How to DIY Swarovski BucklesI used a toothpick to apply a bit of glue to the location of where I wanted the crystal, then used the same toothpick to pick up the crystal from the back and place it on the buckle. It was tedious, time-consuming and full of fumes, but it was so worth it to have fully blinged buckles. Since buying the buckles, crystals and glue adds up, choosing the DIY route doesn’t really save any money. But it does allow for customizing a look that’s not otherwise available (I used half clear Swarovski stones and half Aurora Borealis). Dance trends and fashions are changing all the time and fully crystalled buckles are more on trend, so I might add more crystals later. But for now, I’m satisfied!

What adhesives have been successful for your DIY projects? I’d love to hear advice from other crafters about tips and tricks for successful embellishing!

The Evolving Style of Irish Dance Costumes

Photo by Brendan Lally
Photo by Brendan Lally

Updated February 2017 Today we’re talking about style within a sphere that I feel passionately about–Irish dance. If you’re interested in reading about Irish dance dress trends through the ages, please read this post first.

Now let’s talk about current trends in Irish dance dresses. If you’ve been around the Irish dance world for more than a couple years, you’ve undoubtedly seen how quickly styles can change! Love it or hate it, it’s definitely something interesting to watch.

When fluorescent neon brightened solo dresses in the 1990s, that was a huge change. When crystals upped the cost of dresses by hundreds of dollars in the last decade, that was a painful yet beautiful change. As someone who remembers what dancing in a velvet dress was like in the summer, the evolution of Irish dance dress styles to incorporate lighter fabrics was welcome!

What do you think have been the most dramatic changes in the evolving Irish dance dress styles? What do you love and what do you kinda wish had never come into style? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Want to learn more? These are two of my favorite Irish dance documentaries. They’re full length, so don’t feel like you have to sit through the whole thing to get the gist of what it’s about but also don’t be surprised if you can’t stop watching!

Jigs and Wigs

This video is part of a six-part series showing different aspects of the Irish dance world today. This episode highlights dressmakers and the importance of style in Irish dance.

All six episodes in the Jigs & Wigs series are available on YouTube. Each one focuses on a different aspect of Irish Dance and I highly recommend them all if you want to find out more about the history and evolution of Irish dance (or just want to see some more cool costumes and dancing).

Strictly Irish Dancing

The following documentary, “Strictly Irish Dancing,” is also worth a watch. The second section takes a look at the glitzy appearance aspect of Irish dance. The extreme costumes of Irish dance champions have been the subject of many debates and exposes. In the Irish dance world, it’s a heated debate and bans against younger dancers wearing makeup and sparkly costumes have gone into effect. “The irony of the situation is, they all want to stand out but they all end up looking exactly the same,” former Riverdance start Breandan de Gallai says in the video, regarding the fake tans, stage makeup and extreme sparkle.

But in the film, multiple-time World Champion Claire Greaney defends her sport against those who call it a beauty pageant, saying, “People are so quick to judge and are always judging Irish dancing more like judging a book by its cover, not really taking the time to get past the exterior of us and getting into actually understanding what we do and, like, the work that goes into what we do.”

Claire contends that although top competitors spend thousands to stay on top of trends, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s about the dancing. “In Irish dance, the makeup, and wig, and costume and everything is literally for first impressions. Your result has nothing to do with how you look and it’s about your talent, the technique that you’re doing onstage, your performance.”

I love seeing the different costumes, each one totally unique. Yes, styles change and many people lament how far Irish dance costumes have fallen from the traditional designs and simple cuts. But sometimes that’s a good thing. The older, stiff-paneled, velvet dresses were heavy, hot and hard to dance in. So some of the changes aren’t purely for aesthetic purposes. If dancers don’t like the highly made-up, extreme-costumed look, they can always design a look that works for them. That’s what I love about Irish dance–there is freedom for a dancer to choose what to wear for a dress and hair, how much they want to compete (or if they just want to perform or dance recreationally). There really is room for everyone. And that goes beyond style–there is room for people of all ages and sizes to take part, but that’s a whole other post in itself.

What do you think about the evolution of style in Irish dance? And if you find any Irish dance videos you love, please send them my way as I love to watch them.

Feis Fashion

Updated February 2017 Anyone who’s been even slightly exposed to the world of competitive Irish dance knows how important feis fashion is–especially the solo dress styles. From really fancy to simple and traditional, each dress is unique and beloved to the dancer who wears it. Just like runway fashion, Irish dance dresses are constantly evolving in style.

Take a look at feis fashions through the decades, as told by what Etsy sellers have to offer in the way of vintage Irish dance dresses. All the dresses in the photo are for sale as of February 2017–just click the photo to go to the seller’s page.

Mid-century Irish Dance fashion

This is being sold on Etsy as a 50s-era child’s Irish dance dress. I’m not totally sure if it’s really from the 50s, but if it is we can say that it was a simple style with generally “Irish” motifs.

60s Irish Dance Dress Styles

Very traditional embroidery motifs and a sleeveless design. It almost looks like you could wear it as an every day dress, don’t you think? I definitely would. Here’s another (more recent style) solo dress someone is wearing as street clothes!

1980s Irish dance costumes

The 80s and 90s were full of lace collars, full skirts and traditional knotwork. And the fabric: velvet. As anyone who remembers dancing in a velvet dress will tell you, this was hot and sweaty.

2000s Irish dance style

This was a decade when the traditional styles of knotwork were replaced with a stylized, geometric pattern. Glitterball fabric was huge, and colors like hazard cone orange became popular. Waists were still high and three panel skirts were the thing.

Current Irish dance dress trends and styles

Irish dance costumes had a resurgence of traditional motifs and knotwork since 2010, followed by a trend of extreme intricacy of embroidery that’s still seen today. Waists dropped, skirts softened, and mandarin collars became popular. Lace has seen a resurgence, but it’s used in different ways than the traditional crochet collar of the 1980s. Hairstyles have changed too over the years but that’s an entirely different post! The biggest change since the 2000s is Swarovski crystals! Hundreds of dollars of crystals can cover a single solo dress (and shoe buckles). Here’s an example of a more modern dress style. I took this pic at a feis, on the used sale dress rack so it’s not the most current style but still a good representation of recent trends:

Irish dance dressHave a favorite decade of Irish dance style? I want to hear your opinion in the comments section!