What the Judges Want

November 17, 2009

As everyone heads into Oireachtas qualifier season, I’d like to take a moment to offer my thoughts on those stern people seated at tables in front of your stage. They are armed with a silver bell, multiple pens and the almighty score sheets. You’d like to forget that they are there, but you know that your success this year depends upon them. (As much as call-in votes would be fun to do…)

Who are they? Where did they come from? Why are they here?

They were selected by the teachers of your region for multiple reasons, which I won’t canvass at this moment. They are highly qualified and trained adjudicators from all over the world. They have seen thousands of dancers in their time, have selected world champions and placed incredible teams. They have seen success first hand, because they have created it.

But who are they really?

Each one walked into an Irish Dance class as a youth. Each one pointed a clumsy toe at their first feis. Each one worked to learn a new Jig, to perfect a Hornpipe. Each one slipped on a new costume and laced their hardshoes with care. Each one experienced frustration, felt the elation of victory. Each one had injuries, and fought their way back. Each one danced and danced for years and felt that that was the best thing in their life.

Not only this, but each of those people worked to become a teacher, because the dance was so important to them that they wanted to share it. They wanted to improve the sport, inspire coming generations and feel a part of this world even after their dancing days were done. They have seen children grow in mind, body and spirit as they tame the dragons of discouragement, pessimism, weakness and defeat. They have helped in that journey. They loved those kids who walked through their doors. Many still do as they continue to teach and judge on the side.

Each has their own preferences, their own Essential List of “What Irish Dance should look like”. Some want lift. Others want footwork. Some want powerful movement, while others would rather see precise and sharp. Some want carriage, others want the newest movements. Some like a polished appearance, all want solid rhythm.

But do you know what each of them really wants to see?

They want to look at you dancing and feel what they felt years ago. They want to feel the drive, the passion, the elation and the happiness in soaring across the stage. They want to know that you want this so badly, that you love it so much. That it is a part of you. Because it’s a part of them.

8 Responses to “What the Judges Want”

  1. tinytcrg said

    Wonderful words and thoughts, and a good reminder to all that we are all in this because of what we loved about dancing when we did it ourselves. I think too many people forget that judges and teachers have walked that road and really do understand and have been there. And we all look for that “je ne sais quo” – that extra bit of magic, energy, drive, that takes the dancer over the top. Thanks for putting it out there so eloquently.

  2. chanelsmomma said

    Thank you for all of these posts. This one puts into perspective the “human” element of judges. We tend to look at them as “Gods” not realizing that they also danced, took exams, and were probably extremely nervous when they judged their early competitions.

    You have put into words many of the thoughts that I have tried to expess to my daughter…I think she will be more likely to “listen” to your remarks and follow through on them as they are not coming from her “momma”.

    I look forward to many more insights!

  3. […] highly recommend reading Irish Dance Teacher’s What the Judges Want. A snippet: They were selected by the teachers of your region for multiple reasons, which I won’t […]

  4. OneSeaCaptain said

    I appreciate the comments by this blogger. I started dancing at a young age and I do not recall my first class. I do recall learning butterflies, clicks, and cross-keys. They were so fancy at the time. Oh, and when the double click came out…

    I have progressed through the ranks and eventually won the Nationals after years of placing in the top five. I eventually placed at the worlds after years of just missing.

    The reason I bring this is up because I know what it feels like to just miss out and I know what it feels like to win. I remember these feelings every time I put my pen to the paper and score a dancer. Every dancer deserves my most accurate score to reflect the dancing; regardless of the costume, teacher, hair, fake tan, etc.

    More times than not, a panel of adjudicator’s scores do not match up perfectly. That is precisely why there is a panel of adjudicators on a championship. If there were no subjectivity to this art, there would only be one judge required. A dancer needs to impress all three to five of us.

    Even though scores vary from one judge to another, I have this to say: Every judge loves Irish dance as much if not more than anyone reading this. There is no other reason we give up our weekends to see children dance. The money certainly isn’t making anyone rich! We judges have dedicated our lives from the time we were wee lads and lasses to Irish dancing and I have never worked with another judge that does not share the passion that I have.

    Keep up the hard work everyone and I am looking forward to possibly seeing you very soon.

  5. Stunning blogpost, didn’t thought reading it would be so cool when I read the url!!

  6. S said

    Post again, please! Love your thoughts and perspective on ID. Please, post again.

  7. Murdledd said

    Lovely post. And, OneSeaCaptain: I wish my daughter could always be judged by ADs as thoughtful as you!

  8. Tomás said

    fantastic a true TCRG Gentleman “if you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it” thank you GOD BLESS

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