Belfast hosts World Irish Dance Championships

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image captionMore than 5,000 Irish dancers are taking part in the championships

More than 5,000 Irish dancers from around the world are in Belfast this week with the aim of becoming world champions.

The 2017 An Comhdháil World Irish Dance Championships are taking place at the Waterfront Hall.

The event, which began on Sunday, features 42 competitions over six days, with dancers aged from nine to 21.

It is the first time the event has been staged in Belfast.

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image captionCompetitors from Ireland, the UK, US, Europe and further afield are performing

Competitors from the US, Scotland, England, Europe, Japan, the UAE, Australia and all over Ireland are taking part.

Some 25,000 spectators are expected at the championships, said Matthew Donohoe, the event's chairman.

"The An Comhdháil World Irish Dance Championships is the premier event for our organisation," he said.

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image captionColourful costumes are a must at any Irish dance competition

"The dancers that will compete here have been preparing for many months to showcase their exceptional talent."

This year's championships have a record number of entries both in solo and figure dancing, said Mr Donohoe.

"The Waterfront Hall really suits the championships we're running this year, we're running two major stages and the extension to the Waterfront allowed us to do that," he said.

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image captionThe championships feature 42 competitions with dancers aged from nine to 21

Among the dancers who have already been crowned world champions is 10-year-old Eva Jane Muldoon, from the Quinn School in County Tyrone.

"It was really exciting," said Eva Jane, who has been dancing for five years.

"We had to do a dance with two other people, then we did another dance with two other people.

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image captionYou didn't think all that big hair was real?

"If you got a recall for your championship, then you did a set dance on your own."

Coming from further afield, Florida dancer Stephanie Lovetere, who is performing in the under-18 category, said she had started as a ballet dancer.

"But I found an Irish dancing school and I've always loved watching Lord of the Dance and Riverdance," she said.

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image captionEva Smith and Cliodhna McGoran from Ferris School of Dancing are among those competing

"I really just wanted to get involved, especially since I'm part Irish, so I wanted to do sort of a heritage thing and I just got reeled into the competitive world.

"Quite a lot of people in the United States are involved in Irish dance."

Four hundred teams are competing in the championships, with events running every day until Friday.

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image captionThe championships, being held in Belfast for the first time, finish on Friday

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