History of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha
An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, The Irish Dancing Commission, was established by Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) and is remains under the patronage of Conradh na Gaeilge.
Conradh na Gaeilge itself was founded in Dublin in 1893, and had as its objectives the promotion of all aspects of Irish Culture, but it was primarily concerned with the language and literature. However, the dancing benefited greatly under the patronage of the Conradh na Gaeilge and the dancing classes were held at most branches. The London branch (founded in 1894) organised what was the first ever “Céilí” in 1897. The first “Feis” was organised by the Macroom branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in 1898. Oireachtas na Gaeilge, the major festival of Irish Language and Culture organised by Conradh na Gaeilge, was first held in the Rotunda in Dublin in 1997. The Oireachtas incorporated Irish Dancing for the following thirty five years until that remit was assumed by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Both the Oireachtas and the Feis have by now become worldwide phenomena, as has the Céilí. By the early 1920’s Irish dancing had become popular throughout Ireland, with both Cork and Leinster having their own teachers associations. Most, if not all, Feiseanna were actually organised by branches of Conradh na Gaeilge at this time.
In 1927, the Annual Congress of Conradh na Gaeilge decided to set up a “Sub-Committee for Dancing” which was later given the title “Commission for Irish Dancing”. When this Commission reported its findings to the Annual Congress of 1929, it was given the task of implementing its own findings, and so in June 1930 “An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha” met for the first as an authority charged with regulating Irish Dancing affairs. The last surviving member of that first meeting of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha was Tomas O Faircheallaigh. Who was President of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha until his death in 2004 at the age of 99. He and the late Una Ni Ruairc from Limerick won the All Ireland Senior Mens and ladies Championships at the Oireachtas in the year An Coimisiun was established.
During the year 1932-33 the newly constituted Coimisiún undertook the task of registering all Feiseanna and dancing competition events. During that year some 32 teachers and 27 adjudicators registered in Ireland with An Coimisiún. A handwritten list of registered teachers and adjudicators was first compiled in 1933, and was subsequently issued annually in typewritten or printed form until 1971, when the Liosta Oifigiúil was first published in booklet form. From 1933 onwards responsibility for organising the dancing section of Oireachtas na Gaeilge was transferred to An Coimisiún le Rinci Gaelacha, and assumed the title Oireachtas an Rince, a title it retained until the early seventies, when it was given the auspicious title of Oireachtas Rince na h-Éireann to distinguish it from its new sibling, Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne.
In 1943 An Coimisiún developed an examination system for those wishing to become qualified teachers of Irish Dancing. Successful candidates were issued with certificates entitled “Teastas Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha” (TCRG). Subsequently a similar examination was developed for teachers wishing to be qualified as adjudicators of Irish Dancing and given the title “Ard Diploma Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha” (ADCRG). Another certificate was later introduced for those people who wished to teach team dancing, particularly Ceili Dancing, only entitled “Teastas Múinteora Rince Fóirne” (TMRF).
From as early as 1932 An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha was interested in compiling a list of acceptable Irish Figure Dances. These were collected over the subsequent years and published in booklet form in 1939 with the title “Ár Rinncidhe Fóirne” and featuring the ten most popular Céilí dances of the time. A second such booklet featuring a further ten dances was published in 1943. It was not until the late 1960s that a third book was added to the collection. Eventually all three booklets were amalgamated to form the booklet we now use. Currently, work is at an advanced stage on a process to harmonise the terms and expressions contained in Ár Rincí Fóirne, which was initially only written as a guide to those wishing to learn the dances and not intended as an examination publication.
Up to the late 1960’s, An Coimisiún legislated almost exclusively for Irish Dancing in Ireland, with dancers from Great Britain coming under this remit, but this changed to a global perspective from the late nineteen-sixties onwards. Previously occasional visitors from Australia and America did qualify by taking the examinations in Dublin. Most notable of these was Geraldine O’Shea Ryan, who travelled to Ireland from Australia in 1953, a journey takinf three weeks by ship. In response to dialogue with overseas organisations a series of exams were conducted by Coimisiún examiners in America (1967), England (1969), and in Australia also in 1969. Among the other figures of note who travelled to Ireland to take examinations was Peter Smith, long time President of the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America and former President of An Coimisiun.
With the introduction of Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, the World Irish Dancing Championships, in 1970 – probably the single most important development in Irish Dancing in the eighty years history of An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the role of An Coimisiún rapidly changed from a national legislative body to that of a global body. The founding fathers of the World Championships were Seamus MacConuladh, former secretary, chairman, and laterally Chief Executive of An Coimisiun, and Maitiu O Maoileidigh, long time Ceannasai an Oireachtais and laterally chairman of the Oireachtas Committee, both of whom have since passed away. From humble beginnings in the tiny theatre of Colaiste Mhuire in Parnell Square in Dublin Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne has grown into an international event of immense proportions, with a standing undreamt of back in the nineteen-thirties. One has only to look at the media interest in the event to gauge the influence it has had in placing our Irish Dancing on a world stage. Until 2000, when the event moved to the magnificent Waterfront Hall in Belfast, the World Championships had never moved outside the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland. Since then the event has been held on a number of subsequent occasions in Belfast, as well as being held on three occasions in Glasgow, Scotland, and in 2009 in Philadelphia, PA, in the USA.
The 2011 World Championships was held in Dublin for the first time in fifteen years, when the event tool place in the Citywest Hotel and Conference Centre and in 2012 the World Championships returned for a fifth time to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast
The dominant role of Conradh na Gaeilge has diminished over the years as has the role of the Irish Language. Up to the 1980’s meetings of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha were conducted entirely in Irish, but this gradually changed to accommodate the ever increasing representation of regions outside of Ireland. However, the promotion and use of An Gaeilge, the Irish Language, continues to be actively encouraged by An Coimisiun, and the organisation has taken steps towards this end in recent years.
The principal aims and objectives of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha are to preserve and promote Irish Dancing, including step-dancing and team dancing.