COMPETITORS let their elaborately structured hair down at the weekend as the World Irish Dancing Championships came to a close.
More than 3,000 dancers from all corners of the globe took the stage at the Citywest Conference Centre in Dublin throughout the week for the An Comhdhail World Irish Dancing Championships.
Competitors came from all over Ireland and as far afield as the Czech Republic for the event, which is in its second year.
The atmosphere remained electric despite the inclement weather conditions outside, chairwoman Carol Carberry said.
"We coped with the snow, the blizzards and the freezing cold and still we had about 3,000 dancers here over the course of the week. We couldn't have had worse weather but it seems to have added to the buzz. Everybody made that big effort to get here and they were still in good form as well," she said.
The popularity of Irish dancing is bouncing back following the recession as emigrating teachers bring the art around the world.
"We have one girl in Israel who qualified last year and she has a class in Tel Aviv. It is great to see that 20 years on from 'Riverdance', we are in a very healthy position," Ms Carberry said.
A party atmosphere descended on the hall as the last competitions were played out. Relieved contestants watched as results were slowly revealed on giant screens at the back of the stage and squeals rang out as the winners realised that they had achieved their dreams.
Among those celebrating were girls from Smith's School of Dancing, Derry, who won the under-16 unmixed ceili championship. "It came down to the wire. We are absolutely delighted," said teacher Eugene Smith.
The huge wigs and costumes often obscure what is a serious business.
"There is a serious edge at the top," said Aoife Dempsey, teacher at the Corrib School in Galway.
"They are athletes and they train like athletes. They put in the time, the work and dedication. When you are backstage these are some of your closest friends and many of them become lifelong friends."