Feis Na Tara, Champs 2015 Feis Review

e0a4210058da1cb28f5b092e3b8bce4dThe 20th Annual Feis Na Tara was held on Friday & Saturday, February 27th & 28th 2015 by the Mulligan School of Irish Step Dance and the Tara Dance Company, at the Marriot Atlanta Airport, in Atlanta, Georgia. This was our first trip to this feis.

I am attempting to make this a Champs review, in the hopes another reviewer who also attended will be providing a Grades Review (no pressure), but I have included some Grades notes below, just in case :)

Venue

A hotel feis, if you guys have followed for a while, you probably know how I feel about hotel feiseanna. Generally, I am not a fan, but truth be told, this one wasn’t that bad for the reasons that usually irritate me about hotel feiseanna.

There were three rooms used to house all the feis-tivities, the PC/OC stage area, the Grades stage area, and the Results/Awards/Used Dress area. All were very close to each other for those folks who had to be in two places at once :)

Temperature wise, the rooms ranged from comfortable to ‘do you want to build a snowman’. Mrs WTF had to go get a sweater for the Awards room.

Vendors were set up in the hallways, which is usually where I have issue, but this wasn’t bad. The hallways were wide enough to house the vendors and still have enough room for a flow of people. It helped that the vendors were set up on the way into the the awards and grades rooms, so that once you were in, there wasn’t too much back and forth traffic, if that makes sense.

I only saw one restroom for each gender, and they were in the hall that connected the main lobby to the feis area, but still not to far away. I did see lines at the womans room, but never really at the mens, go figure ;)

The hotel was also the feis hotel and the rooms were nice, relatively cheap at $89 compared to other feiseanna I have been to, and very quiet considering the airport was literally RIGHT THERE and there was a constant flow of planes.

The hotel had a nice restaurant ($$$$) and a small convenience store where you could buy SBux drinks and other things. They also set up a cash and carry food stand for the feis in a separate room.

I can’t speak to the parking for people who attended that day, but those that stayed over paid $10 for in-and-out parking. I can imagine that parking was hard to find close, because even for guests the lots were very full.

For a hotel feis, I prefer this over Saturdays in Pittsburgh (see Pitt or WV feis reviews) or the St. Louis feis I attended at one a few years ago.

Camping

Camping, what’s camping? I understand that designated camping areas are not common at Southern Region Feis, so suffice it to say, there were none. People lined their stuff up against hallway walls, and took up as many chairs as they needed for their stuff. We put ours in a back corner and were always able to find chairs to sit on, so, even without ‘camping’ it wasn’t bad. A smaller cap then we are used to probably helped.

Stages and Seating

There were 5 stages designated, but in my opinion, it was more like 2 and a half.

Stages 1, 2, and 3 were in the grades room and were actually one really big stage divided with tape into 3 smaller ones. If I had to guesstimate, I would say it was about 48′ wide by 16′ deep making each ‘stage’ 16′ x 16′.  The issue, they were backed up to the back wall, so there could be two or three lines of dancers waiting to dance. Mix that with the occassional ‘handlers’ for younger comps, and there could be LITERALLY 50 people on the stage(s). Not a lot of room to dance.

Thaats a lot of dancers, and thiese were NOT some of the bigger groups I saw.

That’s a lot of dancers, and these were NOT some of the bigger groups I saw.

Seemed like there was a lot of seating for the grades room, but I only breezed through that room a few times. There were a lot of people standing, which made navigating the room difficult. Lets just say, it was kind of tight in there.

The champs room held stages 4 & 5, which like the other room was actually only 1 big stage(which is how it was used for the champs), divided in half by tape. I estimate it was 36′ wide and 20′ deep, and was a nice size for champs. I wondered why they had it split but TGC informed me they had done some sets on both halves earlier.

Seating was adequate, I refer you back to my Camping mention above.

All stages were  neither plain plywood, or marley covered, but were painted with something that appeared to me to be somewhere between chalkboard paint, and the non-skid paint we used on the Navy ships I was on, to keep people from slipping on wet decks. OK, so these were not gritty, but that is what it reminded me of. Whatever it was, it worked. I saw no slips or falls during any of the dancing I observed.

Feis staff appeared to be on top of stage maintenance. While I did not see any sweeping (granted I was not near the stages during the lunch break), I saw staff pick up anything that had fallen off dancers numerous times between dances.

Recommendation: As I think about it, I am not sure how much room was between stages 1, 2 and 3 and the wall behind them, but if they could pull the stages out a few feet, it would give the dancers more room to stand off-stage, and more room to dance on it. This would cut into spectator area though.

Judges

I cannot speak to the grades level judging, other than the fact there was one on each stage. How often or if they rotated I do not know. Hoping for a Grades Feis review to help with these details.

There were three judges for the PC and OC stage, whom seemed attentive. I also saw that they accommodated a judge conflict very smoothly, with a quick judge change and no noticeable interruption to the feis flow.

A list of the judges can be found here.

Musicians

Combined stages, so only two musicians for the feis, one in the Champs room, and one in the Grades room. This caused some VERY NOTICEABLE stage delays in the Grades room where I saw dancers standing on stage because their comp had finished, but larger comps of other one or the other (or both) stages were still dancing.

No musical confusion because of the separate rooms which was nice.

A list of the musicians can be found here.

Food

I did not feel the hotel was ready for the onslaught of dancers and fans. The cash and carry (I understand) was a nightmare at lunch time, and the times I went in there before lunch, it seemed like they had a standard sandwich, salads, drinks type selection, but it was all expensive. We paid $3 for an 8oz bottle of water.

The restaurant was not staffed for lots of people. We had 45 minutes, but did not have time to order a meal, and settled for appetizers and drinks. The restaurant food was excellent, even the appetizers (we had eaten there on Friday night too), but was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY pricey, especially if you wanted to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with your meal.

The small store had salads, wraps (I think) etc… but very limited selection. The coffee was reasonably priced.

There was nothing close to the hotel if you wanted to venture outside at lunch.

Vendors

All the necessities, two different shoe options, wig and hair stuff, the tshirt guy, etc… There was one table that remained cover until after all the other vendors had opened, and I was very happy to find they had not only Lucozade (an early memory from my Grandmother’s store in Ireland), but also Smarties. These came in very handy later in the day. Facebook followers probably know what I am talking about :)

A list of the vendors can be found here.

Feis Flow

Slow start, at least on the Champs stage, but I found out that was because there were Figures dances going on in the other room and they were waiting for those to finish before they ramped up on the champs stage. They probably started 20 – 30 minutes after scheduled start.

Once they got going though, they kept things moving, made announcements on what was coming next, made announcements when people were missing, giving them a chance to get there, etc… Remember, this is on the champs stage. I cannot speak to how the flow was in the Grades room.

Awards and Results

Results

Results for grades were posted along the two walls towards the back of the Awards/Results room. You would need to go back and check, and could get your awards at the table near the door on the way out. They had place holders for each comp until the results were posted, and had placeholders for Champ results on the walls, but I never saw them replaced with any actual results. Champ results were announced like I am used too.

One thing I did notice was that names and numbers were on the results for Grades. I am not a fan of that necessarily, check out my safety posts for my reasons.

This is where I usually say how fast the results were announced, but I do not know how long it actually took as they took a lunch break and announced them right after lunch. So, they could have been 30 minutes, or it could have been closer to 105 minutes, not really sure. If it was closer to 30 when they were ready (even though we did not know), that was great. If it was the other extreme, that is average to meh.

For Champs, they called out the top half of each comp who placed, much like I am used to. There was no individual rounds results, instead they went right to the placers, starting highest to lowest. I find this VERY NERVE-WRACKING, especially since individual rounds were not announced to give ‘a clue’ of the potential results. With each name called, you are both happy and concerned, not hearing your dancers name, because they either placed higher, or not at all ;) If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know how TGC did.

There was a 3-tier podium, always a nice touch.

Awards

In case I don’t get a separate Grades review, I saw the medals for grades level events and they looked nice, but I was not able to see one up close. I did notice they gave just the medal, and no ribbon for the dancers to be able to wear them. Points off in my opinion there :(

For Champs, there were some nice crystal awards, BUT NO SASHES! SASHES, YES WE NEED STINKIN’ SASHES.

IMHO, sashes is THE appropriate award for top placers, at least the top 3. Other things are nice, but a sash is ‘the’ sign of success.

I am also used to champ level dancers being able to pick up their results at awards, which did not happen here. Not sure if this is the norm in the Southern Region, just not what we were used to.

Misc/Social Media

No real social media effort that I saw, but to be honest, I did not look.

Feis Na Tara, Champs 2015 Overall Score – 8.25+

From a champs perspective, I think this was a pretty well run feis with a few nits, that may be regional. Still say they need Sashes, but maybe that is just me. If I had to score the entire feis, including Grades, I don’t think it would have faired as well.

What Did Y’All Think? (see what I did there? ;) )

What did you think of the Feis Na Tara, Champs 2015, (on a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being lowest)?

  • 6 (33%, 2 Votes)
  • 8 (33%, 2 Votes)
  • 7 (17%, 1 Votes)
  • 10 (17%, 1 Votes)
  • 5 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 4 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 3 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 9 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • 1 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

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