In Pictures: World Irish Dancing Championships in Belfast
Thousands of Irish dancers have descended on Belfast’s Waterfront Hall for the start of the World Irish Dancing Championships.
The auditorium was awash with bright colours as dancers from across the globe took to the stage.
The nine-day event is taking place in Belfast for the fifth time since first coming to the city in 2000, and is being attended by dancers as young as 10.
Since the first championship was launched by the Irish Dancing Commission back in 1970, the competition has gone from strength to strength, with around 4,500 competitors this year alone.
Former chairperson of the commission, Seamus O Se, said Belfast has been the perfect host city over the years.
“The support means everything to the commission. Without that we wouldn't be able to sustain the infrastructure needed to keep this event running.
“Our biggest supporter is Belfast City Council — it's clearly great value for the city considering we've brought the competition here five times now.”
Amidst the glitz and glamour of the sparkly dresses, shiny make-up and huge curly wigs were the competitors themselves.
They said they simply love to dance, and have done so since early childhood. In the under-12 category awaiting their next dance on stage yesterday were Canadian Liana Evans, Ciara Mae from Perth, Australia, and Savanna Saez from Virginia, USA.
The girls were all in their second year of competition, having travelled to Dublin last year for the big event.
“My dad's from Belfast so most of my family are out there watching,” said Ciara, who added that hitting the city's shops was high on her agenda when the competition finished.
Savanna, whose grandparents are Irish, said she thinks Belfast is “cool”.
“It's different to where I'm from, it's smaller but I like it,” she said.
“The people here have a different way of life.”
There was no sign of nerves ahead of the next performance, as the girls chatted and giggled despite having just met for the first time last week. Cleona Haughton-Brown, who travelled from Northamptonshire for her third competitive year, said she might like to become a dance teacher when she is older, adding that there is no age limit when it comes to dancing.
“The oldest person in my dancing school is 82,” she laughed.
Next year's competition will be held in Boston in the United States, and London will host the championships for the first time in 2014.