FEIS GUIDE 2011-2012

What is a FEIS
The word "feis" (pronounced fesh) comes from a Gaelic word meaning "festival".    In the context of Irish
dance today, it means "compteition".  Some feiseanna have other competitions such as Gaelic Language
presentations, music performance, art and a favorite: Irish Bread.  The judges and the musicians get a nice
snack with their tea.

This in-house guide is designed to give you an overview of competitive Irish Dance and what a feis is like.  It is geared primarilly to dancers in the Beginner and Adv beginner levels.   If you have specific questions that are not answered here, talk to Clare about them at your class. 

When and where are these feisenna held?
Dance schools and other interested Irish organizations hold dance competitions throughout the year, all over the country and all over the world.  The North American Feis Commission is responsible for organizing feisenna in the US and Canada.  Their site lists these events and can be viewed by region.  Our own page lists the ones in our area: click here for that info.  You will see that most competitions are an hour or so away from our studio.  We can give you more info about an individual feis at your child's class. 

How do I register?
Each feis will offer a syllabus that lists the pertinent info for that event.   A syllabus request form is available off our our feis page and at classes.  Pick the ones that you might like to attend and pass them in at class.   Clare will complete a syllabus for your dancer and you will submit it yourself along with the regustration fee.  Some allow on-line registration through e-feis but when you are beginning you should talk to Clare first.
If you get s syllabus that you later choose not to submit, please let Clare know that too so she is not looking for numbers etc. that are not coming.

What are the fees?
Each dancer is charged a fee per dance, typically $4 - $8 or $9, depending on the hosts.  If your dancer dances a reel, light jig and slip jig for instance, the fee could be $12 - $27.  There is usually a family cap.  There is always a fee at the door for non-dancers (kids too most of the time).  These amounts are usually listed on the syllabus. 

What level do I belong in?
The following is taken from the NAFC site and is generally printed word-for-word on the syllabus:
Beginner Grade: A beginner is a competitor who has not taken a full year of Irish Dance lessons, thereby giving beginners a full year with such status. A Beginner must move into the Advanced Beginner category the next year.
Advanced Beginner Grade:  (also called Beginner II) An advanced beginner who wins 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place will advance to the Novice category in that particular dance.  Competition dancers are reel, light jig, slip jig, traditional treble jig and traditional hornpipe., as a minimum requirement. 
Novice Grade:  A novice who wins a 1st place will advance to the Open (Prizewinner) category in that particular dance.
Open Grade (Prizewinner):  A competitor who does not qualify as a Beginner, Advanced Beginner or as a Novice
Preliminary: A competitor who has previously placed 1st in all of their Prizewinner dances (reel, slip jig, treble jig, and hornpipe) are qualified to move up to Preliminary. Dancers in this competition dance one soft shoe dance (reel or slip jig) and one hard shoe dance (treble jig or hornpipe).
Open Championships: A dancer who competes in this competition has reached the highest level. In order to compete in this level you must have previously placed 1st in to two feiseanna.

In addition to the "grade level" the competitions are separated by boys and girls and by age. 
Your Feis Age is your age as of January 1 of that year.  It does not change on your birthday.
The final word on what level you should dance in comes from Clare.

What happens at a feis?  Once you have registered, paid and arrived at the feis, the fun really begins!

Numbers:  Each dancer receives a number which is worn on a string or ribbon around the waist.  Some dancers have plastic sleeves to tuck the number in to.  Some of the boys pin it to their shirt.  Some feiseanna send the numbers out to the teachers ahead of time and others pass them out at the door when you arrive.  (It is more common to get them at the door at the CT ones for some reason.)  **regarding number holders: when these first came on the scene everyone bought them but they were shiny and the judges had trouble with light reflecting off of them.  Newer holders have a matte finish and there is less glare, but some feiseanna have banned them.

Times:  A stage schedule will be posted at the door and on occasion you will receive it ahead of time with the numbers.  Generally the syllabus has a tentative schedule so you have an idea of the time.  These things almost never run "on-time" and any schedule you receive should be considered a guideline and not definative.  Some competitions even start early so plan to be ready to dance up to 1/2 hour ahead of time.  Each feis will have dancers on several stages at one time.  Some of these stages are in the same room (such as a gym) and others are spread around the venue.  Out-door have several stages that are appart from one another.  Sometimes the dances are held one after the other at the same stage.  This is very easy if all of your dances are in the same grade level.  Often a dancer is in Novice for a couple of dances and Adv. Beginner for others.  This would require two line ups. 
Sometimes you move to a different stage for each dance.  This seems a little dicey when you are new to "feising", but you learn to figure it out.  In this case holding on to the syllabus is handy.  You can always get one at the door if you loose yours.  On the syllabus each dance is given a number.  The stage schedule will list the dances by number.  For example:  If your syllabus said: Reel: 141, Lt Jig 142, Slip Jig 143, Treb Jig 144 and Hornpige 145, you might do your reel and slip jig at stage 1, your lt jig at stage 3 and the others at stage 4. From time to time it will look as if two dances will be held simultaneously.  Don't panic!  You are never alone in this situation and the stage-hands who help to line up the competitors can tell you what to do.  There are always veterans in the crowd who will gladly give you advice...maybe even more than you wanted! 

**regarding "stages"...sometimes the dancer is on an actual stage but more often than not a "stage" means an "area" that is cordonned off and designated as Stage A, Stage B and so on. 

Costume: Refer to the costume page to know what you should be wearing.  If you are curling your hair, wear the curlers to the feis and give yourself time to take them out, fix and spray the hair in to place and still be ready 1/2 hour early to line up.  If you take the curlers out at home, try to use a hair-net to keep the hair in shape in the car.  If you are "wigging it" same plan...give yourself time to attach the wig properly before dancing.  Dancers change in to their costumes in a variety of places.  Some use the bathrooms but some venues have a small number and the lines get long.  The best plan is to wear a bathing suit or other clothing that will allow you to change in the hall.  Some competitions have changing rooms and/or practice rooms.  If you dance both hard and soft shoe dances it is generally soft-shoe first.  Special competitions such as Traditional Set or Treble Reel are the exceptions.  (novice and PW generally)

Dancing:  Once you have made it to the right stage at the right time the dancers will line up to dance.  They have practiced their dances in class or feis practice and are ready to go.  Beginners and sometimes advanced beginners are given a "start" by the stage hand, but they will learn to start on their own early on.  With the exception of some beginner or pre-beginner competitions they dance two at a time.  You should not line up next to someone from your own school because you probably have the same steps.  You mustn't crash into the other dancer either.  This is practiced in class also.  At the end of your dance, you bow to the judge and go quickly back to the line without getting in the way of the ones who just started.  Stand tall and smile while you are waiting and you are considered part of the competition until your row is dismissed. 

Results and Awards:  Most feisenna will post the winners on grids in a hallway or other open space.  When the results are posted, find the number of the dance you did, and look for your number on the list.  You may place in some dances and not in others.  Good sportsmanship must apply here at all times.  If you place, take your number to the awards table and they will present your with your prize.  At the beginner - novice levels it is usually a medal.  Traditionally you should be in full costume to get your award.  Some competitions announce the winners right at the stage.  In this case they start at 4th or 3rd and go up to first.  This isn't very common at the lower levels either. 

Reporting: Remember to let Clare know how you did!  It is a good idea to track results at home so that they can be referred to when deciding when to move up a level. 

What should I bring?
Costume: refer to our costume page for details.(click here for costumes)
Shoes (try to polish them the night before)
Duct tape in case the stages are slippery (hard shoes)
Hair acessories: wig/curlers
Earrings
Poodle socks
Extra poodle socks
Sock glue (holds the socks up...can usually be purchased at the feis)
Most indoor ones have chairs or bleachers--  For the outdoor ones you need to bring your own chairs, tent etc.
Many dancers have assembled "feis kits" that they bring every time.  These can include the number holder, ribbon, an emergency sewing kit, comb or brush, hair gel, wet-naps, bobby pins, something to read or play with and more. 
$$$ Money  There are vendors at most feiseanna that sell dance supplies, shoes, wigs, music, clothing and just about anything else you can think of.  Some have more vendors than others. 
**remember that wigs etc must be approved by the school. 
Some have rules about food and coolers: refer to your syllabus. 
Most sell food--or have a canteen truck that does. 

**It is a NAFC rule that there is no video photography allowed during the competitions at all.  Also prohibited during competition is flash photography.  Some digital camera or camera phone owners have been questioned recently.  Please respect this rule.  It stems from the rights to the choreography. 

If you have anything to add to this list, please e-mail the web-moderator.  Thanks!

Have fun feising!