By Brónach Ní Thuama

COMPETITORS from around the globe are gathering this week at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall for the 2016 Oireachtas Rince na h-Éireann/All Ireland Irish Dance Championships.

The week-long Irish dance event, which is the highlight of the Irish dancing community, is organised by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha and is expected to bring in excess of 1,600 competitors and 7,000 spectators to Belfast.

The event, which was established in 1932, is the longest running major competition in the Irish dance calendar.

Danielle McManus-Belouazani, whose son Youcef (11) dances for the Carson/Kennedy school: “Youcef danced on Monday in the boys Under 12 category and came ninth. Everyone is so proud of him.”

Youcef developed a passion for Irish dancing at a very young age.

His mum added: “He lives, breathes and sleeps dancing, there are times I have to tell him to stop. He went through a phase a while back when he stopped for a while but he’s back at it now and thriving – he has qualified for the Worlds which are being held in Dublin next Easter.

“I love the camaraderie between the boys, they are all so supportive of each other and congratulate one another after each dance. Youcef is extremely focused and determined, he will go far, it’s a joy to watch him and all the other competitors dancing, they are all wonderful.”

Tickets prices are £6 per day for students and OAPS and £12 per day for adults, and can be purchased from the Belfast Waterfront box office which will be located on site for this event. Children under 10 years, who must be accompanied by a paying adult, will be free of charge.

The competition runs until November 5.

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