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How to Judge Irish Dancers

Updated July 20, 2017

Irish dancing originated as a social dance performed by couples or groups of dancers to traditional Irish music. In the late 1800s it took a competitive turn with the establishment of the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin, and today a dancer can attend a feis (Gaelic for competition) almost every weekend anywhere in the world. In order to judge Irish dancing you must have the correct qualifications, including dance experience, and be certified by the Irish Dance Commission, also known as An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha.

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  1. Have some experience as an Irish dancer. It is not necessary to have years of experience, but you will need to display proficiency in performing the steps and have the recommendation of a teacher in order to sit for certification exams.

  2. Be at least 20 years of age, have the recommendation of a registered Irish dance judge or teacher and successfully pass the Irish dance teacher certification Teagascóir Coimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha (TCRG) exam. The test is broken down into six sections, all of which must receive a passing score of 70 per cent or greater. The sections of the TCRG are: practical test in step dancing, written ceili dance test, practical test in teaching ceili dancing, practical test in teaching step dancing, written music test and an optional oral Irish language test.

  3. Apply for and successfully pass the Irish Dance Commission adjudicator certification Ard Diploma Coimisiuin le Rinci Gaelacha (ADCRG) exam. A candidate must be at least 30 years of age and have been a certified Irish dance instructor for two years. The test consists of six sections, including a practical test in step and ceili dancing, written tests in ceili dancing and music and a practical test in judging (adjudicating) step and ceili dancing, along with an interview, written test on marks, points, determining placement and the point system and an optional Irish language exam. All sections of the exam must receive a passing score of 70 to 80 per cent.

  4. Look at a dancer's appearance, carriage and performance skills and score them according to your subjective opinion, as a judge. The adjudicator looks at each dancer for specific dancing skills, including timing, foot placement (turn out, cross over and point), arm placement and movement. Appearance is critiqued for appropriate skirt length, amount of make-up and wig style for girls and overall neatness, vest/jacket or pant length and shoe condition for male competitors.

  5. Use a 100-point system to score competitors for advancement to the next competition level. Solo dancers are scored by one adjudicator in the grade levels, while Preliminary and Open Championship dancers are scored by three judges. Championship level competitors perform three dances, and their score is the combined total of the three judges. The adjudicator awards points in a range from 100 to 60 points per dancer. The point range is not standardised and can vary from judge to judge. The judge determines the number of placements depending on the amount of dancers per competition. Ties are possible but are discouraged. The judge may also write out comments for the dancer to assist in improvement; however, this is not required.

  6. Warning

    There are fees associated with taking the exams for teaching and judging, as well as penalties should you withdraw your application.

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About the Author

Mary M. Kolar-DeNunzio is a native of northeast Ohio currently living in Cleveland. A freelance writer since 2007, her articles have appeared in "Ancestry," "Body & Soul," "Feis America" and "Irish Dance and Culture" magazines, as well as online at More.com. Kolar-DeNunzio holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Youngstown State University.

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