Posts Tagged Feis

Safe Feising

For those of you who read Irish dance Blogs I really hope you had the chance to read the post on a safety issue at a recent feis on the What The Feis site. If you haven’t please go to http://whatthefeis.com/parents-dancers-please-read/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook and take the time to read through this post including the comments which show this wasn’t an isolated incident.

I’ve felt for a long time that we Irish dance people are a trusting community when it comes to feising. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked away from our camp site leaving my purse behind without even thinking about it. Now that my daughter’s older I’ve let her go off to find her friends or venture to the restroom on her own – especially in venues we’ve been to several times and are comfortable in.  It’s only been when I’ve heard of a tragedy like a school shooting or similar event that I’ve considered that this type of thing could happen at a feis because the events are open to the public. After reading about the creepy guy in Milwaukee I realize it’s time re-evaluate how we feis.

An important piece of advice I’ve tried to pass on to my daughter is be aware of your surroundings. Observe the people and atmosphere – if something doesn’t feel right or look out-of-place listen to your gut and move away from the situation and tell someone in charge – like a “Feis Boss”.  If someone touches her inappropriately she is tell me and we will go together to the proper person to report the incident immediately.

The same holds true for hotels. We where in Niagara Falls this past weekend and something didn’t “feel right” on our floor. Instead of leaving my daughter in our room while I ventured out for ice I made her come with me. I’m not sure why, I just felt it was important that we stick together. However the next day I left her at her stage alone to keep track of her competition while I went to the other side of the venue to settle a dress I was selling. Mad move mom, bad move. Now I realize I should have left her with friends who were the next stage over. Then again we’re at a feis and we’re all friends right?

A lot of this is common sense – don’t go to the restroom with out a buddy, don’t fall for the “can you help me find my dog” routine, etc. but it takes an incident like a creepy guy filming dancers to remind us it’s time to have the “safety talk” with our children again and this time put in terms of feising.  I tried to come up scenarios that could happen at a feis to advise my daughter to be wary off and told her to not to leave the venue with anyone she didn’t come in with – including people she knows – but especially someone who wants to show her a dress or wig that’s in the car. If someone comes up to her saying something’s happened to me she is to go to the nearest feis volunteer and ask to have me paged and stay with that feis volunteer until I show up.

Is this inciting fear in my dancer? In some ways I hope it is but not because I want her to be afraid but because I want her to be aware that while I believe the majority of people on this earth are good people there are some that aren’t and could potentially harm her – or me or anyone. We’ve had some very disturbing things happen with teenage and adult women in Cleveland in the past few years that have made the national spotlight and we as parents have to protect ourselves too.

What can a feis do to increase security? I noticed security personnel at the Dublin Feis earlier this month and I know Cleveland still has the non-dancers pay at the door before getting your dance card and program. Has the convenience of paying a family fee online made us more vulnerable because people can simply walk right in unnoticed? Should there be a tighter check-in process? Of course that would mean increasing volunteers and that might be easier said than done. Maybe we need to increase the number of feis dads to act as bouncers. It’s sad to have to think this way but better safe than sorry.

So when traveling to your next feis – think of ways you can improve how you feis to keep yourself and your dancer safe while still having fun.  I’ve decided the first I’ll do when we get to the Great Lakes Feis venue is instead of locating the nearest restroom or beer vendor I’ll find  the “information” or “security” area instead then set up camp and get ready for the day. 

Until next time – stay safe & be well – Slainte!

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Feising in the Motor City

I know I just added a blog post but feel I have to give you all my 2 cents on the Detroit Feis.

Historically this has been one of my favorite feiseanna to go to. It’s a 3-ish hour drive from home and in the past we have finished dancing and been out the door by noon. Note I said in the past.

Not sure what happened this year but our stage moved very slowly and there were some problems with dancers slipping and falling – my DD included. To their credit the stage monitors did wash down the stage during the morning competitions but maybe they should have given it a once over again in the afternoon.

My daughter also had the same judge for 3 out of 4 of her dances – that’s a BIG pet peeve of mine although I felt this judge was fair. There have been other times when having the same judge can either make you or break you.

As for the speed of posting the results – I can’t comment because I caught on to the Feis Worx posting system and had her results on my phone before we checked the boards. From what I could tell by seeing the medals around dancers’ necks they seemed to be coming up in a timely fashion.

They were also slow bringing the beer cart into the lobby and the price had been raised 75 cents since we were there 2 years ago…can you believe it $3.75 for a bottle of beer! It’s still a great deal – I should have had 2 but my hubby didn’t come this year and I had to drive.

Overall I still like the Detroit Feis – the venue is great, food prices are reasonable, a lot of camping space but it didn’t feel as organized as it has in the past.

I always say we’ll never do a feis 6 days after the Akron/Cleveland weekend but Detroit’s too close to ignore. The same with Buffalo which is about the same distance from home so maybe we’ll alternate and shuffle off to Buffalo next year – but that’s too far away to plan. See you in Cincy?

Til next time – Slainte!

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Putting the Fun Back into Feising

I promised myself that when my daughter was finally off ban we would not go back to the level of feising we did in the past – meaning upwards of 12 – 14 a year. Who was I kidding? Myself obviously for we’re back to feising in full force having completed 5 feiseanna in 4 weeks. OK 4 of those were 2 back to back weekends but we’re looking at Cincinnati this weekend and have registered for 6 more with the potential of more on the horizon. What changed you ask? Well I’ll tell ya – we had some success and fun in the process and that makes us want to keep going. 

I won’t lie and say the first few times back to competition it was easy for either my daughter or me. It took a couple of feiseanna for my daughter to get her mojo back and for us to feel comfortable again but after traveling to Queen City and the Blue Grass Feis some glimmers of hope began to shine.  I think what really turned the tide is that feising had become fun again. We had friends share our hotel room in Lexington which reminded me of when we used to travel with another family and how much fun we had – not to mention the money we saved. Our school set up a  tailgate at the Akron Feis and we got to see a lot of out-of-town friends at Cleveland and Queens City. What has been especially helpful is that we are finally with a group of supportive friends and parents who encourage and commiserate with no one criticizing and laying blame. It takes a lot of the pressure off everyone knowing even though a feis is a competition it doesn’t have to be an ugly competition and the results are starting to come in – except for that illusive Slip Jig but with a few 4ths and now a 2nd place finish at Cleveland we can almost taste it.

So it’s on to Cincy this weekend where hopefully the upward trend continues but if not there are about 7 – 8 more feiseanna in our future. You can’t win ’em all but at least you can have fun trying!

Til next time – Slainte!

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The Feis Food Fight

We’re recovering from the back to back Akron/Cleveland Feis weekend and I was going to try to comment on the Akron Feis since my friend and feis dad What the Feis had his review of Cleveland. However I’m afraid that since our school is the Akron host school and I was a stage monitor I wouldn’t be able to give an unbiased account. The same with the Cleveland Feis which is hosted by our former school and anything I say might seem like sour grapes…..but since I’ve mentioned grapes that does turn my attention to feis food and I think I can offer some fair opinions about that.

First of all I don’t let a little line on a feis syllabus stating no outside food is allowed stop me from packing a cooler. OK I did the first couple of times we feised but after I saw other people bringing food in I figured it was fair game – and less expensive.

Here’s where Akron does it right. Not only do they have a concession stand with reasonably priced food and beverages they also have food trucks out front offering the fair food we all crave. My husband was working the afternoon award table and was teased by parents and dancers bringing armfuls of funnel cakes, tacos in a bag, fries and other greasy goodies to the table only to hand him their dance card and ask for their medals – hopefully he didn’t drool on them too much. Needless to say he was one hungry boy when his shift was done and guess what? There was still food available at 3:30 – which is nice and necessary. Our school had food available for our families as did the feis for its volunteers so I did not get a chance to go to the trucks to price out the fries, etc but I remember them  being reasonable from past years. Feel free to comment if you know differently.

The Cleveland Feis on the other hand is obligated to use the concessions at the Wolestein Center and that makes things more difficult. The first year we attended Cleveland they actually had people going through bags at the entrance looking for contraband food and drinks. They would confiscate the items – including water for the dancer and send you on your way. They haven’t done that since and that was 6 years ago. The concessions historically run out of food items – one year all they had left was nachos by the time we got there – and this year the stand behind our section was closed by 3:00 and the feis was still going strong. The prices are standard arena pricing and the offerings are not only not healthy, they’re but not as yummy as the fair food at Akron. If they are going to offer their standard game day menu at their standard prices they could at least serve beer! Then again it would probably be $8 but by some point in a feis day I’d gladly pay it.  The Cleveland Feis is a long day and the organizers should be able to negotiate with the venue to have a least half of their food stands stay open if for nothing else for beverages for tired dancers and their families.

So we’re off to Detroit in a few days where they sell Harp and Guinness and have reasonably priced food. Not that it’s all about the food but it sure helps!

Til next time – Slainte!

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Confeissions on the Transition Period

It’s been almost one month since we changed dance schools and we’re settling into the new routine nicely. It was weird, for lack of a better term, not going to the Pittsburgh Winter Feis in one way but on the other hand I took my daughter and her friend to the movies instead. I think my daughter is welcoming the break from feising. She told me last week that she was jealous of the kids she would see acting as results runners and once or twice wished she could trade places with them. Being the good mom that I am I quickly turned her name in to do just that for the North Coast Feis taking place in a few weeks. I’m on the committee and since I’m working the feis she might as well have her wish granted right? 

Back to the transition period. It’s definitely a different experience. Our new school’s downtown location is not a bad commute for us – about 25 minutes. I like being downtown and think it will be cool in the summer. We’re already making a list of things to do before class and are looking forward to the adventure of going to the art museum, Rock & Roll of Hall of Fame, taking in an Indians game after class, trying some of the restaurants, etc. My daughter goes to class two nights a week and comes out tired and sweaty. She also comes out of class excited and motivated. In four classes she and her friends have learned five new steps including one they will use at this year’s Oireachtas! Hmmm, preparing for the Oireachtas in January. You can do that? Who knew?

Like everything else there’s a learning curve not only for my daughter but for us too. We have new faces to put names to, different policies to follow and a new schedule to adjust to but in the long run it will be worth it. In fact it’s already starting to pay off for my girl in that some of the “issues” she was having are being corrected. I’ve noticed her posture has improved, her legs are straighter and her attack is sharper. At the last class she came out with a lollipop as a reward for something to do with her kicks. Really? MY daughter being praised for her kicks? That’s new. The previous class she got a high-five for doing something else well. She said all the kids in class get praised for what they did well that day.  There’s something said for positive reinforcement – this coming from a Psych grad. (No, not psycho although I answer to that too.) Yes, the teachers yell at the kids to get their legs up, turn their feet out, etc but not in a bad or demoralizing way.  Her swimming and basketball teams get yelled at by their coaches too that’s part of sports. I don’t have a problem with that as long as it’s done in a constructive manner.

So far so good. Yes, we miss our friends from our former school and feiseanna and I’m not naïve to think there won’t be bad days because that’s life and you have to take those along with the good but we are happy with the change. Speaking of good times we travel to Columbus this weekend to perform at the Blue Jackets hockey game which we’re very excited about as this will be another step in the transition period and also fun. I need to remember to bring my camera.

Til next time – Slainte!

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A Change Might Do You Good

This is a follow-up to my previous blog about my friend (who is actually a feis dad not mom) and his debate over switching dance schools. What I did not mention at that time was that I was going through the same thing myself and had been for some time. The reasons for switching Irish dance schools were numerous – some personal as well as “professional” but we had no real motivation to make a switch. That was until the Oireachtas a few weeks ago. Personally my daughter had a great experience as she recalled in the U9 Girl’s Solo competition. However, she was very disappointed when neither of the teams she participated on recalled. That’s not true – her choreography team did get a medal because there were only five teams competing and all five were recalled by default. However, the girls came in fifth out of five and my daughter just handed the medal to me and walked away. That proved to my husband and me that it was finally time look at other schools as hard as it would be to leave the comfort of our “home” of the last four years. We felt we owed it to our daughter to look into a school that would challenge her, group their classes by feis level and raise the bar for all their dancers. As my husband put it we’ve simply decided to move in a different direction.

Last Thursday night my family visited another Irish dance school in town and the answer became clear immediately – this is where we belong! That fact was solidified by my daughter’s reaction as she ran out of class breathlessly declaring “This is awesome!” It also helped that two of her friends made the switch to this school as well – which was completely unplanned by the families involved but it’s cool that it happened this way. My husband suggested that the three families get together and announce our decision in a televised special and use the proceeds to aid in fundraising but somehow I had the feeling that this approach had been done before – can’t remember when or where but I’m pretty sure it has. So I decided that a brief email to her former TCRG would be appropriate (especially because I was on the board of the parent’s association and needed to resign) and the fastest way to break the news to her. She has surprised but took it well.

I haven’t seen my daughter this excited about dance in over a year. In just two classes she ‘s learned two new Treble Jig and Reel steps, comes out of class tired and sweating and has been practicing at home with a vengeance. There’s no guarantee that by changing to this school that my daughter will become a Championship Irish dancer.  If that happens great but for now  she’s focused on working out some bad habits, learning new steps, making new friends and having fun. We’re also hoping that the new school will have a ceili ready by the next Oireachtas as that’s a part of Irish dance she enjoys but one step at a time. 

We are now on holiday break and classes will resume in January. It will be strange not feising for six months but it will be fun watching her enjoy the new experience! Sheryl Crow sang that a change would do you good and our case it certainly has!

Until next time! Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Can Opener and The Can of Worms

Last night I found myself in a texting session with a friend who’s thinking of moving her daughter to a different school. She was looking for advice and a shoulder and I was happy to give both. The main dilemma is that a new school is opening and her daughter’s friends are wanting to go there and naturally her daughter is wanting to go to. The new school, located in southern Ohio, is cheaper and 5 minutes closer to their family and seems like a better fit. Still, she has some fears about the change. Rightfully so.

Changing schools is always a big step but I’ve observed in the world of Irish dance it is a major undertaking. Paperwork needs to be filed, costumes need to be changed, friendships may be lost and the dancer has to sit out of competition for 6 months. That could be a real momentum breaker for dancers on the move. It could also be very motivating with learning new steps and routines.

But what if the new school doesn’t work out? I’ve been told that unless you move out of the area your old school will most likely not welcome you back. Then what? Stick it out? Find yet another school? Quit Irish dance altogether? Beg for forgiveness from the old school?

My advice to my friend was to weigh the pros and cons of both schools, go to the new school’s open house and ask a lot of questions. How do they organize their classes? How many TCRGs are on staff? Can you dance for sheer enjoyment or is the school strictly focused on competition? I could go on and on. If the school is just starting out the advantage for her daughter would be that she would get a lot of attention because the classes would be small – hopefully.

Friendships are an important factor in any endeavor. It seems even more so in Irish dance because it’s a shared experience. Nobody but the people involved in Irish dance understands what going to a feis or the Oireachtas, bus trips, ceilis, etc. is like and it’s to hard explain. I know we’ve made more friends through Irish dance than any other place since our move to Cleveland so I understand her daughter wanting to stay with her friends. But is that reason enough to make the change? Are there other issues? My friend’s daughter is older and may feel she’s  running out of time to achieve her goals and may be feeling stagnated at her current school.

Ultimately my friend needs to decide what’s best for her daughter and choose wisely. Your current situation is always the known hell and you could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire or, as my friend put it, here is the can opener – there is the can of worms. It could also be the best thing she did for her dancer. Best of luck with the decision wherever you take your dancer’s talents – just please don’t announce it during a prime time special……

Look for another post in a few days about our Mid-America Oireachtas experience. Til then – Slainte!

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