Attending Your First Feis

A contribution by my friend Mellie Wilkes who thought some of you would find it useful. Thanks Mellie!

So, an amazingly talented friend or family member has invited YOU to a feis?


The following are some suggestions and tips, to help in your first feis experience.

Packing List:

  • Water bottle
  • Snack bar
  • Peppermints
  • Chocolate bar
  • Highlighter
  • Ink pen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cash in small bills
  • Plenty of time
  • Sense of humor

Bonus points for packing the following:

EDITORS NOTE: I didn’t tell her to put that in here, but I do think its brilliant ;)

Try to arrive 30-45 minutes beforehand. Parking at any event can be a challenge. A feis is no exception. The competitions can happen very quickly. It would be a shame, to arrive at a feis and the dancer you came to see has finished for the day. So, arrive EARLY!

When you walk into the feis, and the surrounding area, try NOT to stare at people. It is rude, in general, and especially frowned upon at a feis. Yes, they are wearing wigs. So, yes, that would make it their real hair. They bought it. They probably still have the receipt. No, the dress has not been bedazzled. It has been designed to be more eye catching on stage. And, this is NOT Riverdance. That is a traveling Irish dance show, which has been around for 20 years. This is a feis. So, smile. You are obviously favored enough to have been invited. Behave yourself.

No snapping random pictures of people to post online, either. If you would not do it at a restaurant, church, or mall, then do not do it at a feis. Feis moms have high level radars. Photographing their dancers will set them off. You DO NOT want to set off a feis mom radar. Photography is also forbidden of dancers on stage, unless they are in the beginner levels.

So, eyes up. Cameras and phones down.

Pick up a schedule at the registration desk. You will want it while sitting in the audience. The competition numbers are posted, and rotated, at the side of the stage. Highlighters are the usual method of tracking the current competition on the stage. You can also draw a line through the number with a pen. Be sure to clap at the end of each competition. Those dancers have just done their best. Appreciate their work. You never know if one of their family members is seated right next to you. Also, NEVER say ugly, critical, or unflattering things about ANYONE at a feis. You are in tight quarters. Most everyone’s ears work. You will be overheard. Remember that behave yourself suggestion? This applies here, too.

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Smile and nod. Clap and laugh.

Sometimes all at once.

When watching the amazingly talented dancer who invited you on stage, pay attention. Watch their feet. The real work happens with a dancer’s feet. In Irish, the toes are to be pointed out. They are to be dancing high up on their toes. They are also to keep their arms down by their sides. If they have high kicks, lovely spins, or energetic jumps, remember those bits. Complement the dancer specifically on them. They have likely spent hours in working on that aspect of their performance. Show them you care and paid attention to them. After all, they invited you to the feis.

You are quite favored, you know. Not everyone is invited, after all.

Between dances, they may be searching for the bonus point packing items. You will be most appreciated if you can produce those items rapidly, in a moment of need. The dancer will certainly be impressed. If you did not pack them, no worries. Just try to be helpful and supportive while they search for them, between dances. Then, be sure to pay attention to their other dances. The hard shoe portion can be especially exciting. Sometimes for more reasons than just the dancing. If there are sound system errors, they usually show up in these rounds. Heels, tips, and entire shoes have been known to go flying.

So, pay attention. You never know what may happen at a feis.

If asked, accompany them to the results area. This will be an area frequented by dancers and non dancers alike. Usually, it is a lot of paper posted on a wall. Or two. It is very important paper, so don’t laugh! Be excited about any placement they receive. Be sympathetic if they do not place. Remember the chocolate bar and peppermints I told you to pack? Now is the time to offer those to the dancer.

Oh, you thought they were for you? No. You get the water bottle and snack bar. They just danced. They get the chocolate.

Walk around the feis. Check out any baking or Celtic art competitions on display. Be sure to visit the vendors. Don’t try on a wig, unless you plan to buy one. Many of the items are difficult to find, or are only available at the feis. A feis t shirt is a great souviner. It is also an excellent gift, if you would like to buy something for the dancer who invited you.

Enjoy yourself. Stay awhile. Meet their feis friends. Watch other competitions and award ceremonies. The feis is an experience. One to which you are fortuate to have been invited.

And be sure to tell the amazingly talented person who invited you “Thank you!”

Who knows? You may even receive an invitation to the Oireachtas.

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