Posts Tagged Irish Dance

Why We Feis

I just returned from Grand Rapids, Michigan where we attended the Mid America Oireachtas. It’s always a chaotic weekend filled with delays, stress and practice sessions but it’s also fun. This year my daughter missed qualifying for solos by one dance but was on a ceili team so we were only there for about 24 hours. In that time we managed to see several friends and got to “catch up”.  Most of the conversations were light and positive however, there were a few times when the phrase “Why do we do this?” was uttered in frustration. I’ve been there myself and on a long drive home I came up with my top 5 answers to the question: Why do we feis?

1.    We feis because our children are Irish dancers who want to compete and succeed in their chosen sport.

2.   We feis to support our kids – act as their cheerleaders and crying towels.

3.   We feis because deep down we enjoy it. As parents we get satisfaction out of watching our children dance and interact   with their friends and share in their victories.

4.    We feis because of the friends we’ve made at our school and those we’ve met along the way. No one understands what feising is all about better than another feis parent and if you’re a social media butterfly it’s fun to cheer your friends on vicariously when your family isn’t at a feis.

5      We feis because the competition can lead us to places we wouldn’t otherwise travel. We turned a trip to Louisville,   Kentucky into a fabulous Father’s Day weekend. Louisville wasn’t on our radar so we would not have gone there without the feis and we are looking to returning some day.

Feising is a big source of stress for the parents and most importantly the dancer and it can become frustrating. When those times hit me I have to remind myself that she’s 11 and will probably only be doing this for a few more precious years before she’s off to college or on to something else. (Sniff) Why not make the most of these years? It’s a tremendous bonding experience and one that I hope my daughter will look back on fondly when she’s older – taking the good with the bad – and be glad that we feised.

Til next time – Slainte!


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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 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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Helping a Dancer Rebuild Confidence

I’m pleased to say I’ve started a new job – one that is working into our schedules much better than the full-time one I just left. Sure it’s a big pay cut but I can now get my daughter to her dance lessons and practice sessions, I’m not bringing “work” home with me and I have more time to get back to writing – which I’ve missed. After all what’s more important – blogging or money? If only I could make money blogging…..but to the point…

We’ve been to several feiseanna this year with mixed results and it’s been a time of soul-searching for my daughter who has had a tough time getting back into the swing of things in her eyes. This is a girl who’s used to coming home with a fist full of medals and when she comes home with 1, or worse yet, none it brings her down. Only now she’s been getting down to the point of talking about quitting competition.

The Cincinnati Feis was a difficult one. DD felt off her game – missed a dance (not her fault – stage assignments were brutal) and after finishing her hornpipe she came back to our camp in tears and on the verge of a temper tantrum which is out of character for her – it’s isn’t for me because I’m a dance mom – but it is for her. She was frustrated with herself, unhappy with her performance and saying she’s lost her mojo and couldn’t compete anymore. I got her calmed down – mostly because I hate public outbursts but more importantly because she needed to catch her breath. Thank goodness one of her dance friends was there to help talk her off the ledge. Her friend told her it wasn’t her day, wasn’t a reflection on her as a dancer and a person, that she was a good dancer and sometimes the judges just don’t like the way you dance. With that DD’s friend took her by the hand and down to look at results – which brought DD a 5th place in her hornpipe – the dance she felt she did terrible in and was consistent with her results in Detroit. DD admitted she had calmed down and felt better but I still felt a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings for a mother/daughter/feis mom/dancer chat was in order – not to mention the feis mom needed a bevie.

How to handle a dancer who’s losing confidence? Do you try to save her or let her step back from feising a little to practice and regain some confidence? Over lunch I asked her a number of questions (that BA in Psych hasn’t gone to waste!) including what she felt was wrong, what she felt was right, what she was enjoying and what she wasn’t. It was also time to ask her about her goals. When DD first caught the feising bug she rattled off a list of goals including getting a solo dress, going to the Oireachtas, getting into Prizewinner and recalling at the Oireachtas. Well guess what – she achieved all of those before she was 10! She never replaced any of those goals with new ones and has, IMHO, been floundering.

I’m a goal orientated person. I need something to work at – even if it’s just getting my to do list accomplished. I can wish about things all I want but if I don’t get a plan of some sort into my head I waste a whole lot of time – I think that’s human nature. During our chat I reminded DD that she’s goal orientated too – she achieves what she sets out to do – like getting straight As, moving up to clarinet 1, getting her solo dress, etc – and maybe it was time to set some new Irish dancing goals before throwing in the towel.

I also felt the need to remind her that life isn’t always easy and you have to work for what you want. You can’t lay on the couch watching TV, texting your friends and take a dance class or two a week, not practice and expect to do well at a feis. It’s like me wanting to lose weight and get back to a size 6 while drinking beer, eating wings and watching work out programs (not doing the exercises) and expect the pounds to fall off – it’s not going to happen. She can dance to compete and/or she can dance for fun but if she wants to win a competition or place she needs to work at it. If she wants to take one or two dance classes a week and only dance for fun that’s fine too. I’m not the dancer – only she can make that decision. We’ll support whatever she decides. It wasn’t lost on me that DD was frustrated with herself – it showed that she cared and maybe didn’t really want to quit feising, she just needed some encouragement.

Since that time I’ve had her pull out all of her medals and ribbons, count them and her father found a way to display them in the studio. To her surprise she has close to 75 medals, ribbons and trophies all achieved in Irish dance before 11 years old. Still want to quit competing? Her answer was no.  It’s now time to take things to the next level.

We’ve also started private lessons with a coach who is helping her sharpen her technique, working her hard and refocusing her goals. This has helped bring the smile back to face and give her a boost she’s needed. She confident going into this week’s Rochester Feis and looking forward to the journey. Yes, it will be great if she places and brings more hardware home but if she can dance with confidence and feel good about what she did then she’s won.

Til Next Time – 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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Confessions From Dance Limbo

This is my first post in a very long time and I confess I needed some time away to collect my thoughts. In fact after receiving a few nastygrams from parents of our original Irish dance school I decided to keep a low profile. That is until I had ice cream with a friend (and fellow ID mom and dancer herself) who convinced me to get back in the blogging saddle. It has been an eventful and interesting few months for me and I now feel I can share this journey.

Let’s refresh shall we?

In December of 2011 we made the decision to change Irish dance schools to a new and exciting Irish dance school that opened in town and started quite a stir.

I resisted a change to this school for several months because I wasn’t sure this was a good fit for my daughter. My husband predicted that if we switched to this school she would be out of Irish dance in four months. Then after the Oireachtas and the poor performance by our teams I knew the time had come to make a change. It also helped that several other families were looking as well and we were all looking to the new school in town for answers. My family visited this school and found it was professional, organized and focused on coaching the dancer.  They were also starting to prepare for the Oireachtas much, much earlier than our current school had and the teachers have outstanding credentials. My husband approved so we decided to make the switch.

For the first two months everything was fine but it soon became apparent that perhaps we had a made a mistake – not in changing schools but in changing to this school. While the discipline and work ethic we were looking for was there the fun aspect was not. It really hit home one night when my daughter broke down in tears while I was playing “Siamsa” – not just tears but uncontrollable sobbing. Our now former ID school uses “Siamsa” as their entrance number for performances (dance-outs, displays, etc) and while my daughter admitted she didn’t miss her teacher – she missed the atmosphere. This new school was too much the opposite extreme for her. For us the costs were rising not only in monetary terms but also in the time and emotional commitments. I was elected to a certain office on the parent association board and I won’t deny I sensed tension from a couple of board members that and their friend did not have that position. I don’t play games very well and I could have resigned this position but if our daughter was truly unhappy what difference would this make? In our minds once we wrote the checks  and made the commitment to the teams there was no backing out. We had another decision to make and that decision was to leave Irish dance all together. It was no longer worth it for any of us. It was exactly four months – just as my husband had foreshadowed.

The week that followed our announcement that we were leaving the school was filled with numerous phone calls and emails from other parents begging us to reconsider our decision. I asked my daughter if she wanted to return and the answer was a emphatic no. We were in dance limbo and looking into options. We considered a “traditional” dance school, which our daughter really enjoyed yet she couldn’t stop Irish dancing around the house. We knew she was still an Irish dancer and we couldn’t throw five years of our lives away. We also knew we couldn’t go back to the original ID school – nor did we want to. Instead we decided to check out a CRN school in the area, which looked like a strong possibility until we realized this would be a big step backwards. Plus I couldn’t stand the thought of feising and not seeing my friends – OK I’m selfish I admit it. Finally another dance parent offered a solution in the form of an Irish dance school that is a 45-minute drive from our house. After speaking with the TCRG/Owner it appeared we’d found our answer and made the commitment with the understanding this would be the last change in ID schools we would make.

The decision has turned out to be the correct one and I regret we did not switch to this school in the first place. We now have the best of what our two former ID schools offered and is the perfect fit for our daughter who is enjoying the school’s atmosphere and being challenged as a dancer. The down side is that she has to sit out another six months from feising which I don’t quite understand because she did not compete for the other school so why impose another six months suspension? If we would have moved out of the area there would be no ban but unfortunately there’s really nothing I can do. If I appeal it may do more harm than good.

Instead of feising we’re enjoying an extended vacation in dance limbo while my daughter serves her almost yearlong sentence for switching schools – twice. However, I’m finding that we need this time to heal and get things sorted out but our daughter is very happy in her new school and for us a happy Irish dancer is what it’s all about!

Until next time – Slainte!

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