Sunday, June 25, 2006

I came, I kvelled, I conquered: Sunday

Two words for you: step dancing.

No, I haven't gone mad. It just so happened that an "Irish" step dancing competition was taking place in the Convention Center



at the same time as TNNA.

Prior to this point, I had no exposure to "Irish" step dancing. I am putting "Irish" in quotation marks, because after viewing the participants, I am confident that no one in Ireland looks anything like these little Jon-Benets. The girls ranged in age from about six to sixteen. What was particularly eerie was the way they all conformed to some kind of dress code: lots of makeup, extremely shiny dresses with poufy skirts in gaudy combinations of red and green, cheesy tiaras, and hairstyles that involved the placement of blonde (always blonde) Shirley-Temple-like ringlets on the top of the skull, just above the forehead, so the ringlets cascade onto the face. UK residents, back me up: have you ever seen anyone in Ireland dressed like this?



Photo from this purveyor of fine Irish step dancing wigs.

These girls were all over the hotel, the convention center and the adjoining mall. Some wore shower caps so as not to disturb their hairstyles. Some wore vinyl capes, the kind you wear at the beauty salon, so as not to mar their costumes. We were told that dresses for these events can cost as much as $1500 or more. We saw girls with customized zipper cases that provided extra room for the poufy skirts and zipped around them, suggesting that this is big business if custom-sized travel cases are being manufactured somewhere.

I don't mean to suggest that dance lessons, even some competitions, are a bad thing. I'm sure there are many girls who enjoy dance and who benefit greatly from the exercise, the grace, the discipline. What turned me off was a combination of the extremely bizarre, beauty-queen like stylizing of these girls, and what was obviously a pretty significant financial investment on the part of their parents -- the same kinds of things that bother me about pint-sized beauty pageants. I'm sure these talented girls would look just charming in their natural, youthful, unshellacked state doing these dances. But I digress. We were talking about the last day of TNNA.

By Sunday, my ass was dragging. The day broke bright and early -- well, rainy and early -- with an invitation-only fashion show sponsored by Westminster Fibers. You may recall that Westminster is the parent company of Rowan/RYC, Jaeger, Regia, Nashua Handknits, Schachenmayr, and Gedifra. We were given breakfast at a nearby hotel, then examined the most excellent goodie bags (much of which was in the swag photos from one of my previous posts). We then got to see a fashion show which showed, company by company, Westminster's designs for the fall.

Seeing this kind of fashion show -- which featured multiple garments from a single exhibitor (the TNNA fashion show limited entrants to 1 or 2 garments each) -- was much more instructive for me. I got a much clearer sense of what Westminster's vision of the fall was going to be, and since Rosie's stocks a lot of Westminster yarns, this is information which will be very helpful. (I'll do a separate post giving you some fall pictures and info about fall yarns.)

Then it was on to more exhibit-viewing, and some serious yarn-shopping. Desperation at the many things we hadn't covered but needed to energized us. We were reaching sensory overload, but still we pressed on. Random observations:

  • The name "Hooker's Nook" might not be my first choice for a shop, even if I specialized in crochet.


  • Regia is pronounced, let me put the issue to rest once and for all, "Ray-Gee-A" with a hard "G" as in "gallop."


  • Kristin Nicholas, who designs for Nashua Handknits, has an interesting blog which you might want to check out.


  • Lucy Neatby was carrying the most hilarious bag that looked like a chicken. She named it (Ernest maybe? but I could be wrong).


  • I saw a grown woman dressed like a watermelon. Yep, a watermelon-themed sweater, fuschia with black seeds on it, ribbing in a stripe of white then green. (She was not in the Rowan fashion show, needless to say.)


  • Overheard: "She was looking for 100 blue-and-white kazoos for a wedding reception."


  • Did I tell you how much I loved meeting VĂ©ronik Avery? So much so that I spelled her name wrong in my last post. (sheesh)


I, once again, was feeling that perhaps my mom was right and I had overextended myself a bit, so I excused myself for another quick lie-down.

Laura and I headed to the airport together (Lisa stayed on another night). We shared a cab with a lovely woman who -- despite her relative youth, and I mean no disrespect by that -- owned her own shop in Ontario. We compared notes on some things and then she dashed off to try to make her plane. Laura and I were left to watch the rainclouds approach. Our plane was overbooked and we considered for a brief moment taking the free ticket vouchers and staying over, but then we figured that would only require us to fly another time, so what kind of prize was that?

Our plane was some kind of balsa-wood child's toy called an Embrauer, with a mere three seats across, one on one side of the aisle, two on the other (gulp). Ironically, we were seated in the emergency exit aisle. The stewardess came to ask me if I was physically and mentally ready, willing and able to help evacuate the plane in the event of a euphemistically-described "emergency." She seemed somewhat taken aback at my "Hell, yeah!" while Laura delicately asked if this would require us to stay on board for any length of time after said emergency or if we could just hurl the door open and leap out (into the gaping maw of empty space).

Having notched back on the Atavan for fear of a DUI conviction, I found the ride home to be much more ... bumpy and anxiety-provoking. I was charmed, however, to see the skyline of my adopted city once we circled the airport. It was a great trip, but it was good to be home.

28 comments:

LornaJay said...

You're right. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of hairstyle in the UK....

Karlie said...

The wigs, makeup, and dresses are the "Traditional" style for Irish step dancing, meaning that for modern competition girls are more or less required to wear them. I was a ballet dancer for 7 years, and I too had to wear obscene amounts of makeup even when I was 6. This is because (especially if you're pale) you disappear onstage if you're not wearing 5 different layers of makeup. You'd actually appear to have no expression whatsoever without heavily outlining the eyes, brows, and lips. They do look rather silly when you're not actually onstage performing, but the girls were likely between performances and they wouldn't remove the makeup for that.

I guess I don't see it as any different than putting on my baseball uniform and black glare paint! Probably just because I was used to it.

Dave Daniels said...

Wow, thanks for the link to the Irish Step Dancing Wig site. You just NEVER know when that will come in handy. I mean...it could...

Anonymous said...

in ireland they dress pretty much the same way for these competitions. ireland and the uk are two different countries though, so i don't know what they wear over there.

Carol said...

Geographic mea culpa: Northern Ireland = part of UK, regular Ireland = independent country.
Right? It's a shame I didn't ask my 8 yr old -- he has the World Atlas practically memorized. I could have saved myself some ugly Amurrican embarassment.

Michelene said...

Ugh. Kiddie pageants. During my waitressing stint at the local whoopie-doop hotel a certain pageant came every Memorial Day weekend. As frightening as the girls were, the mothers were worse. I've seen them smack their daughters for spilling water on their clothes, hand them a diet pill before they ate, scream at them for not "putting enough wiggle in your walk", berate them in cruel and cutting language, and brag to other women about how they "influeneced" the judges (I can only imagine what that entailed. I'm sure tail was involved.).
I was given the "privilege" of waiting on the chief powder puffs and money grubbers. When they asked me if I had daughters and would I like to enter them I nearly dropped the tray. Suck up, and play nice? Or tell them what I thought? (You can guess what I picked, can't you?)
I told them I didn't need to pay them and paint my girls with a spackling spatula to know they were beautiful--I knew they were beautiful. For me this was fairly restrained, and I did say no thank you. The hotel sales manager(she was a tarty trollop herself) hated me ever after. I lost the privilege of waiting of the paegant queens. Darn.
My daughters are still beautiful too.

Christina said...

My family is Scottish and we attend Highland Games in Detroit, etc., and I love watching the girls dance because their wacked-out curls bouce ferouciously up and down as they kick their feet. It's an image that stays with you.

Charity said...

Glad you made it home in one piece! Sounds like an exciting experience.

Mel said...

I've been on my fair share of Embraers. Being on a jet is far better than being in a prop engine plane. The bigger they are, usually the more resistant to pitching about in turbulance.

Glad you didn't need to open that emergency door.

Ginny said...

What i've seen (in UK) of Irish dancing looks more like this: http://www.royaltara.co.uk/id15.htm but scarily by googling i found this... http://www.irish-dancer.co.uk/ which looks just like what you found. HORRIBLE!!!!

Ella said...

That is pretty standard for Irish Dance competition. I work for a small company called Paddy Kelleher Designs making Irish dance dresses, you can check them out here www.paddyk.com
Our dresses go from $1000 to close to $3000 canadian, and we are in the mid range for pricing! We make between 50 and 100 dresses a year so there is a huge market for them.
Most designs follow whatever new trend is coming out of Ireland, and if you don't keep on top of things you can quicklyloose your place in the market.
We ship mostly to North America, but have shipped to The UK and Austrailia, so I think the styles are probably the same world wide.
However I'd rather be knitting!

turtlegirl76 said...

I call those planes "puddle jumpers". I hate them, they're so small. When I travel home to the tundra region of NY (there is one) I get to take one from Philadelphia to Massena. 1 seat on either side of the aisle. Maximum capacity, I think, 19? Yeah. Not a fun trip EVER. And you know, they put the trainees on those planes.

Carol said...

As in pilot trainees? Or flight attendant trainees?

It doesn't surprise me. All the employees with seniority would opt for the real planes.

Anonymous said...

Hair style takes not time at all; it's a wig. Those dresses have a huge after market sale value with people hunting them down on the internet for purchase.

Cat said...

Karlie makes a good point about the makeup and the stage lights. All very true. I think it's funny that the competition has evolved to be so stylized, though. At least they're actually learning to do something athletic for dance competition - I really don't see any merit at all in beauty pageants . . . for any age . . . other than to objectify the gender of the participants.

Sherry W said...

Don't boys Irish dance? (Yes, I'm sure girls are more common-they are in other dance styles). If so, do they have to wear gobs of stage makeup too? If so, I understand it. Have you ever seen actors AND actresses (or ballet dancers) offstage?

If however, the boys don't have to wear stage makeup as well, then they are just tarting up the little girls. Ick.

Karlie said...

Yep the boys wear just as many layers of stage makeup, and the little ones HATE it lol. Funnily enough the 13 year olds don't, but that's because if they're thirteen and dancing or acting they already know and accept the drill :) So the 15 layers of makeup definitely equal opportunity.

I just thought I'd point out I also loathe little girl's beauty pagents (and regular ones too). That's very different - parading beauty around. The dance/stage hair and makeup is for a very different reason, which is why it doesn't bother me at all.

krista said...

I flew recently and snagged an entire two exit row seats to myself. The flight attendant asked if I was prepared/able to sit there, and I said, 'Oh, I can handle opening the door and shoving people out.' She cheerily went along her way, and I rocked out with all my leg room. Woo!

Ween said...

They are not pilot trainees. My husband is currently "training" to be an airline pilot, if you want to call it that. At last count he was just short of 300 hours, and will now begin flight instructing to earn the last of the hours he needs. He has a bachelors degree in aeronautical science and by them time he reaches a commuter airline (puddle jumpers) he'll have a minimum of 500 hours, which isn't a lot when you think of how many he'll have when he retires, but it is significant. When you consider it costs $150-$300 per flight (not including the $20k/year private college tuition), you can imagine that those 500 hours are not taken lightly.

You should be comforted to know that the majority of flight training is not how to fly the plane, but how NOT to crash it and what to do in case of emergency. Additionally, you have to be at least 21 to hold a commercial certificate. And remember, they don't want to die any more than you do!

~Gina

Franklin said...

I am just sick that I skipped TNNA to go on my alumni tour. If I had known about the step dancing, things might have been different.

I wonder how the kazoo wedding went?

Carol said...

There's always next year, dear...

Kathy Merrick said...

Wow, someone calls little planes "puddle jumpers"?
How vewy cwever...

And, may I ask the commenter who claims about yet another ridiculous item demanding ridiculous prices...any proof?
And has anyone PAID these alleged enormous prices for stepdancing costumes?

Holy Jeez, give me Quebec stepdancing.
No goony costumes...just good music and fun.

Carol said...

Okay, I did a search of Ebay. There were several pages of hits; I looked at the first. Of the 17 dresses listed, only 1 had sold, for just over $400 (USD). The other sixteen remained unsold. 7 of them had no bids; the other 9 had bids under $95 and so the reserve wasn't met. This suggests to me that the market for preowned Irish step dancing dresses is hardly robust.

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Angel said...

I fly on those jets all the time- like someone earlier said, they are way, way better then the turboprops (I too HATE flying, but I do it fairly often.) The crews that fly those planes do tend to be young (I remember seeing the pilots of one plane and thinking that they looked younger then me- and I'm in my late 20s) and I once had a flight attendant who was so obviously in training that I wanted to get up and give the saftey lecture, because I knew it better then her....

And on the Irish dancers- If you ever want to see Irish dancers sans makeup, curls, and costumes, go to a community dance. When I lived in Boston I took up the Irish tinwhistle, and I used to play at the beginner sessions and dances for fun. It was always great fun to see regular people (often older people, but sometimes young folks too) step-dancing and laughing in the dance hall. As a musician I got to sit and play and watch all the chaos on the dance floor- the musicians used to love to play tunes as fast as possible to see if the dancers could keep up. Some could even get up and play and dance themselves (fiddlers seemed especially good at this). It is tons and tons of fun to go to one of those community dances (and not a fake curl present.)

Mindy said...

The very first plane I was ever on was one of those prop planes- I was terrified that the kid on the ground holding the remote control would be called in for dinner and all 8 of us would crash to the ground. I actually like flying- especially take-off- but I also like roller coasters...

Lisa and Robb said...

I am delighted that hte "irish" wig site makes a point of mentioning that the plastic material the wigs are made of is manufactured in Korea, but that the wigs themselves are assembled in China.

I also think it is pretty amusing that the featured wig is called "the Sinead." The most famous Sinead I can think of was known for her shaved hed!

Anonymous said...

Carol said...
Okay, I did a search of Ebay. There were several pages of hits; I looked at the first. Of the 17 dresses listed, only 1 had sold, for just over $400 (USD). The other sixteen remained unsold. 7 of them had no bids; the other 9 had bids under $95 and so the reserve wasn't met. This suggests to me that the market for preowned Irish step dancing dresses is hardly robust.

Depends on the time of year and the type/size of dress. When you get to the higher level of competitions $500-$700 dresses are common. Can't imagine paying that for a child's dress that she'll outgrow in a year.

I sew costumes for my friend's son (satin shirts with some applique work)and have done repair work on costumes for some of the girls he dances with.