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April UPDATE: Amazing ideas are being worked out right now for Open Platform Irish Dancing! Open Platform ID Orgs have been extremely helpful and gracious providing info and feedback so far! We are sorting through pages of info right now and will update the sites then. Keep sending in ideas! :)
To the Open Platform ID Organizations we haven't talked to yet, please contact me with your rules & info. We will promote you!! -------
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Are many intending to attend the An Comhdháil organised Open Platform feis in June (San Francisco)? -- Interested!, 06:37:31 01/11/13 Fri 
When is the closing date for entries?
A short history from Ashley Irish Dance -- Gail, 13:05:33 08/26/13 Mon 
A Short History of Open Platform & Independent Irish Dancing in North America
FEBRUARY 22, 2013 11:11 PM 1 COMMENT
The concept of “open platform” in Irish dancing is new to most of the people currently participating in dancing competitions. Irish step dancing began to develop around 1750, and had roughly 140 years of development by the people until the establishment of the Gaelic League in 1893. The Gaelic League promoted Irish cultural activities, including language, athletics, and dancing. By the early 1920s, separate teachers’ associations were established in Cork and Leinster, but feiseanna were most often if not always organized by the Gaelic League during this period. They would have been open to everyone as long as you could follow the rules. Styles varied widely, which is very good for a culture, but not for a competition. There were no set standards for adjudication, and occasionally fights would break out over results!
Something had to be done. In 1930, the Gaelic League established An Coimisúin le Rincí Gaelacha (The Irish Dancing Commision, or CLRG). An Coimisúin was Ireland’s first big push to organize and define Irish dancing. (They, alongside the Gaelic League, also helped strip much of the variety from Irish dancing in doing so, but that’s another article.) Decades passed, and many member teachers became upset at what they felt was lack of representation at the Gaelic League meetings. A reported 80% of teachers left to form An Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha (The Congress of Irish Dancing Teachers) in 1969.
In response to the split, An Coimisúin basically told An Comhdháil that it couldn’t come to its birthday parties anymore, and closed their feiseanna to outsiders. An Comhdháil said fine, you can’t come to my birthday parties anymore, either—and thus, closed platform was born. To this day, the Derry Open Feis is the only competition at which Coimisúin and Comhdháil dancers can both compete, as it is an old feis, having been established by the Gaelic League before either dancing organization was originated.
In 1971, the Festival Irish Dance Teachers Association (FDTA) was formed to unite the Festival-style teachers who had been competing mainly at music and dancing festivals throughout Northern Ireland. I believe this organization is closed platform since it has a specific style, but its members participate often in other organizations’ open platform competitions. In 1982, a group of teachers split from An Comhdháil to form Cumann Rince Náisiúnta (CRN). They established their organization as open platform and have continued to be open to this day.
Closed platform began in 1969, and open platform returned in 1982. Closed platform feiseanna were possibly the only competitive option for a mere 13 years. Yet the concept has grasped us all so tightly, and open platform (or really, any new organization) is looked at so skeptically because the dominating world organization—An Coimisúin—is closed platform. From what I can count on regional lists (I guessed 70 for Mid-Atlantic because its link was broken), there are roughly 350 An Coimisúin-affiliated schools in North America, compared to roughly 50 alternate organization schools.
I have seen confusion and hostility towards non-Coimisúin organizations both during my time as a Coimisúin dancer and as an open platform teacher. This was more pronounced 10 years ago than it is now, as the decade has popularized open platform here and given people time to get used to the idea. Besides the prejudice brought on by sheer numbers, there are a variety of reasons why this confusion and occasional hostility still exists. I’ll focus on the viewpoints of North American dancers and parents, because that is my experience.
Post-Riverdance, the Irish dancing world busted open. It was no longer a very small world; new students, parents, and ideas flooded in in droves. Irish dancing surged in popularity throughout the world, especially in North America and Mainland Europe. To the great dismay of certified instructors, many unqualified teachers, particularly from other dancing styles, decided to boost their studio’s enrollment by teaching “Riverdance” or “Celtic tap” classes by watching the show’s video and mimicking steps. This happened more than was comfortable. (I’m pretty sure this still happens, but far less than it did.) The concept of a certified Irish dancing teacher was not on most Americans’ radar. Dancers and parents were being tricked, and it needed to stop.
A PR nightmare if there ever was one, so the Internet got to work. I was one of many dancers who created Irish dance fan websites, trying our best to let everyone interested in taking classes know they should find a teacher with a TCRG from An Coimisúin. In the late 1990s, An Coimisúin was the only serious game in town in North America and still dominates. In our collective zealousness for the cause, things got catty against anyone without a certification from An Coimisúin. Perfectly well-qualified dance teachers who just didn’t want to join An Coimisúin got caught in the crossfire. Any organization that wasn’t An Coimisúin was a target, either accused of being copycats, being selfish, not being “up to Coimisúin standard,” or being outright false in order to trick parents into believing their teachers were certified. I remember even An Comhdháil getting hit with plenty of shrapnel from those nasty online forum fights (populated mostly by dancers and their parents), because almost no one in the United States realized it was a valid organization.
Alternative organizations just kept trucking, though, and headway has been made. There were a few grassroots American organizations established in the late 1990s, such as the Performance Irish Dance Teachers Association (PIDTA), now defunct; the Federation of Irish Dance Teachers (FIDT), now defunct; and the American Association of Irish Dancers & Teachers (AAIDT), which morphed into the American Feis Association (AFA), and is for all intents and purposes, non-functioning.
There have been one or two teachers from An Comhdháil and Cumann Rince Náisiúnta in the United States (mostly California) for some time now, but no organizational groundwork was laid until recently. Cumann Rince Náisiúnta moved into the United States in the early 2000s at the request of a few unaffiliated teachers. I attended one of their first workshops in 2005; the organization has grown to 15 North American member schools by the time of this article. Regional and National Championships have been established as qualifiers for the new CRN World Championships held in Ireland. An Comhdháil is hosting its first North American feis this summer on an open platform.
In 2008, the North American Irish Dance Federation (NAIDF) grew out of disagreements within AAIDT, and has grown to 29 member schools at the time of this article. Regional and National Championships have also been established as qualifiers for the CRDM All-Irelands (held in Ireland) and the WIDA World Championships (held in Germany), respectively. The World Irish Dance Association (WIDA) was established in 2004 in The Netherlands originally to serve Mainland Europe, and there are currently six North American member schools.
Updated February 25: Date of WIDA founding added; changed phrase “15 member schools” to “15 North American member schools” for clarification; minor grammar adjustments.
Updated February 27: As of February 27, 2013, AAIDT/AFA has announced its dissolution. In a Voy forum post titled “AAIDT/AFA officially ceases operation in 2013,” a representative stated “AAIDT/AFA has officially disbanded as of 2013 and we will no longer be operating. Best wishes to all dancers and teachers as they continue in their pursuit of Irish Dance.”