Tracey Tong/Metro ottawa


Natascha Trellinger, 16, and Julie Radcliffe, 14, from Colorado, practise some steps in the Ottawa Congress Centre during the 2007 North American Irish Dance Competition yesterday.

If you spent any time downtown over the last several days, you may have noticed that a Shirley Temple-hairdo had taken Ottawa by storm.

But what you may not know is that the 2007 North American Irish Dance Championships — and not a 1930s revival — was the reason behind thousands of corkscrew curls and rhinestone-studded tiaras in the capital.

The five-day championships, which wrapped up at the Ottawa Congress Centre last night, saw 2,600 solo competitors compete for a chance to shine at the world championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland next March.

It was the first time Ottawa played host to the international championships, said Ryan Carroll, a communications officer for the competition.

“There’s a very big Irish community in Ottawa, but a marginal Irish dance community,” said Carroll.

Irish dance is a combination of jazz, tap and ballet. Much of the dance remains traditional, “but where it’s gone non-traditional is the costuming,” he said. “Costumes are very, very elaborate and are made around the world.”

Although competitors from age six and up came from as far as Australia, England, Ireland and Scotland, dancers here will return the favour at some point. The more serious dancers compete abroad many times a year.

Sixteen-year-old Natascha Trellinger, from Colorado, says one of the perks is the costumes dancers get to wear.

“I really like them,” she said. “But the wigs give you headaches after a while.”