A Very Basic Intro To Irish Dances

In my feeble attempt to prove I know something about Irish Dance, I have created another post for Antonio Pacelli, this time on the basic Irish dances. Meant as a primer for new parents, it may be a bit uninformative for a lot of you, but honestly, I picked up some things I didn’t know when I researched it so it might be worth a quick read. So, take a look at A Very Basic Intro To Irish Dances

Clan na nGael SummerFeis 2014 Grades Review

The 3rd annual Clan na nGael SummerFeis was held at the Shamrock Club in Columbus, OH on July 12th, 2014.

First things first: this feis is outdoors. In Ohio.  In July. This is not secret/privileged information. ;-) If the possibility of rain or humidity during a dance competition seems unappealing, this might not be the feis for you.   However, if you are lover of all-things-summer, combined with all-things-Irish-dancing, this feis can be a fantastic experience.


This was the most organized feis committee we have encountered thus far.  Communication via facebook was fantastic. The committee was upfront on both their website (http://www.clannnangael.org/summer-feis-2013/) and their facebook page about a $5 parking fee. In an age when some of us mostly carry plastic, I really appreciated knowing in advance that I would need paper money for parking.  I’m not a fan of the surprise parking fee that leads me to wander around an unfamiliar city searching for an ATM.  This feis filled very quickly and the committee was right on top of things, releasing stage assignments WEEKS before the feis. That deserves a shout out!  Volunteers at the feis were friendly and very patient with those who were….weary (to be polite) from the humidity that day.  The songs for the Treble Reel competition were also announced well in advance of the feis and divided up by age. Kudos to the committee for superior communication!

The posted costume rule was “No wigs or solo dresses” and there was a note about not allowing school letters or logos anywhere on costumes.  They posted examples on their facebook page of acceptable casual costumes. However, their website features a Ceili team in school dresses and large wigs. ?????  It seemed the costume “rules” were really just suggestions as I observed a grade level dancer in a wig and a school dress with her school letters boldly embroidered on the front of it.  I was curious, so I looked up her number where scores were posted and she took home a lot of medals.  So, if your teacher is hardcore about costumes and forbids you to compete in a feis requiring casual costume, come anyway.  Ignoring this “rule” won’t hurt your scoring.  Kind of odd to call so much attention to this rule but not enforce it, but it is what it is….but for those who followed the costume suggestions, this was feis was a breath of fresh air! No heavy, itchy dresses. No hot wigs. Just kids, who looked like kids, dancing freely and with a lot of joy.


This feis had a great outdoor space.  There were several practice stages set up around the Shamrock Club (including some directly behind the performance tent).  Camping was plentiful and there was very little opportunity for “feis shaming”, which was good as seating was at a minimum.  There was a playground for restless siblings and lots of open space for running around.

The stages were VERY slick.  This was in part due to the fact that the seating area was set up on top of very pretty, but very dusty, white stones. This made dancing shoes extremely slick and there were many slips and falls. In what I assume was an effort to keep the feis moving, the stages were not cleaned (that I observed) except at the beginning of the lunch break.   I heard a mom, very nicely, approach some volunteers about this issue, but nothing was done. Hopefully next year they will put a tarp over the stones before setting up chairs. That would have made for a safer competition.

The venue offered an outdoor bar with televised viewing of the champion competitions, which were held indoors.  The indoor space was VERY cramped. There were nice bathrooms in there and a nice little air-conditioned bar serving food, beverages, and offering more televised viewing of the champ competitions. But the key word here is “little.”

Judges and Musician–4

The low score reflects the quantity of judges and musicians, not the quality.  This is one area where this feis needs some major improvements. I loved that this feis truly felt like an outdoor summer festival. However, this feis needs to move MUCH faster to accommodate the judges and dancers.  There were exactly 2 stages, 2 judges, and 1 musician serving all grade level dancers.  Shared musicianship always leads to a slow competition, no matter how amazing the stage monitors are. When one stage is unoccupied due another stage having a large, last group to finish up the reels of the feis, it slows things WAY down.  I’m not “in the know” enough to understand why the shared musician is even a thing, but it’s obviously not uncommon.

Judge rotation was done by moving the dancers back and forth between the stages, but that simply meant for 6 dances my dancer saw only 2 judges.  Not good.  The judges were also very weary and did not even look refreshed when returning from lunch (which was a graciously short break).  They often had their heads in their hands during the competition and who could blame them? They were dressed in professional attire on a very warm July day at a feis that ran much longer than necessary for such a small cap.  Even those of us who love summer heat were feeling a little weary by lunch time.  This feis seriously needs to add more stages, judges, and musicians just to accommodate its current cap.


There were some cool vendors at this feis and I, personally, loved the summery tshirt logo for this feis. (yep. “summery.” Remember, folks, you heard that word here first. J )There were some general Irish swag vendors and one who reminded me very much of a vendor you’d see at a County Fair offering random Irish and US swag (tshirts, sunglasses, etc.) on multiple tables under a tent.  We were in need of hard shoes and were really disappointed there was not a shoe vendor available.  In all fairness, there wasn’t a shoe vendor listed on the website, but we hoped that was an oversight.  There were also no wigs or dance gear vendors, which was a big disappointment and hopefully next year the vendors will be geared more towards the dancers than the spectators.


Could not have been better in this category! There was a good variety of food, from healthy, homemade selections sold by Daughters of Erin, to a local BBQ joint, to a burger/hotdog stand (with very family-budget prices), and also food at the bar areas.  A beverage stand was set up under the performance tent, which was great for hot, thirsty dancers.  Prices were very reasonable, as well ($1 for bottled water, etc.).  I wish more venues would use vendors who don’t charge stadium prices.


The speed of result posting was erratic.  Some scores were posted within 10 minutes of the competition. Others took much longer.  The feis was very good about getting things posted on feisworx and scores were often posted online before than they were on the results wall.

Feis Flow (see Judges and Musicians) –N/A

Much of this I addressed under “Judges and Musicians.”    Comps were spread out according to age and grade level. Youngest to oldest, first feis through prizewinner.   Trebel Reels were done during the judges’ lunch break, which was a nice use of time; even so, this feis moved much too slowly for such a small cap.

Overall Rating: 8

If you want to give this feis a try, be sure to bring chairs, lots of water, and a cooling towel for your dancer (available in sporting goods stores).  See you next year, Summer Feis!

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Baltimore Feis 2014, PC/OC & Grades

Always good to have a second opinion, although these guys seem to be on the same page pretty much. Please also see the Baltimore Feis Review from Corabelle.

27th Annual Baltimore Feis
Date: Saturday September 20th, 2014
Location: Brooklyn Park Maryland


A nice suburban school. The best part is the time of year and the outside space. If the weather cooperates, there is plenty of space to camp outside. There is a large walking distance between the grade stages and the open champ stage. The grade awards and food are downstairs which also helps cut down on the crowded halls.

Rating 8.


Some of our favorite potatoes! The mashed potatoes are wonderful! Other items are available to nibble on. Prices were reasonable.

Rating 8.


Typical vendors, except a necklace and charm vendor that appeared to be very busy. Everyone likes a new vendor!

Rating 8.


Nice and spread out which is good. Two grade stages in one room. Two grade stages and one champ stage in the gym and open champs in the auditorium. There was some limited seating for non-dancers which was nice. I saw Broesler parents sweeping stages regularly.  Only complaint would be at the start of the day and the confusion around ceili dancing. Stage monitors seemed confused about waiting for ceili dances to end or starting the champ stage and holding ceili dances open for a period of time.

Rating 8.


Seemed OK. It was hard for parents to hear the music but the dancers did not seem to have any issues.

Rating 9.


Champ awards and grade awards are great. There are sashes and lots of large perpetuals for champs and lots of grade trophies to take home. This feis does well in this category.

Rating 10.


Good, kept to schedule. Awards came out relatively quickly. Twitter updates were wonderful!

Rating 9

Overall score: 9

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Baltimore Feis 2014, Grades Review

Actually received two reviews for Baltimore within about an hour of each other so posting them both. Be sure to also see Mom O’Three’s review.

The 27th Annual Baltimore Feis, sponsored by The Kevin Broesler Parents Association was held on Saturday, September 20, 2014 with a start time of 8:45 am. It was held at the Chesapeake Arts Center / Brooklyn Park Middle School located at 194 Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park, Maryland. A cap of 850 was set and met.


Located about 6 miles from BWI airport, the location of the Feis is easy to find and plenty of hotels are within a 10-15 minute drive. For those traveling and needing an overnight stay, The Broesler school suggested 2 hotels on their syllabus: the Holiday Inn in Linthicum Heights and the Embassy Suites at BWI airport, however only the Holiday Inn had a Feis rate ($109.00) With the Feis being held near the airport there are plenty of hotel choices, therefore you can shop around for best rates. The Holiday Inn is where our family stayed- the hotel was clean, updated, and close to various restaurants. We felt it was worth the money and we would stay there again.

At the middle school where the feis is held, parking isn’t exactly ample but there are areas near the venue you can park if you cannot get a spot right at the school. The school was air conditioned, had multiple restrooms, but the hallways were somewhat crowded due to camping and vendors. A dress rack was located at the very end of the hallway near the area of Stage 6 where open champs danced.

Score 7

Stages and Seating

Grades danced in the Cafeteria (stages 1 and 2) and Gymnasium (stages 3 and 4). Stages were raised wood and fairly large although I don’t understand why anyone older than 12 has to dance three at a time on the smaller sized stages. I watched a group of U13 dance their reel 3 at a time and the stage was too small forcing dancers to maneuver around each other without losing their concentration. Stage 2 danced up on the schools’ stage (think area of school chorus/recitals). I can tell you my dancer loved the idea of being on a “big stage” and having the judge looking up at her. In the cafeteria, spectators had to stand when watching the comps, while in the gymnasium there were 2-3 rows of folding chairs set up for spectators, but mostly people stood.

Score 8


Dancers rotated throughout all 4 stages and thus were judged by four different judges (providing they danced all “core” dances). Judges seemed happy to be there and attentive.

Score 8


Each stage had their own musician and each musician was fabulous! Acoustics were good, and mostly there were no issues hearing the music. (at one point the gym got very noisy due to loud talking parents and I couldn’t hear the music too well, but my dancer did not complain).

Score 10


Food was available on the lower level, away from the comps. Prices were average and portions were large (chicken tenders were huge). Typical fast food fare, except for mashed potatoes!! Yes, they offered mashed potatoes! We try to bring food when I can organize myself well enough so I didn’t experience firsthand the food this time around. In the upstairs area they sold ice cream (generic dippin dots) and also had a table with baked goods, chips, water and gatorade. I didn’t see fresh fruit, yogurt or nuts so the score I gave reflects that, however if someone bought these at the feis please include that in a comment!

Score 7


Good variety. Both Fayes and Rutherfords were there along with Head for the World (wig/hair accessories vendor), Goin Feisin, and a tshirt vendor offering Baltimore Feis T Shirts/etc.

Score 10


The front lawn of the school was a nice place to camp due to the shade from the trees. Many people camped outside and thankfully the weather cooperated. The lawn had been freshly cut (but the grass clippings were not bagged). Inside, people camped in the hallway leading into the cafeteria and inside the cafeteria, which was spacious enough to camp. The gym wasn’t a good area to camp as there were 3 stages (2 grades and Prelim). A rainy day might change the score drastically but for this year they earn the score.

Score 8

Feis Flow

The feis began on time (8:45) startin with ceilis which ended around 9:15 am. The feis ended (for grades) at approx 3:15 pm. The schedule was unique ( for novice/pw) in that set was danced after Reel, then they had a (planned) break for lunch. Immediately after lunch ( lunch was from 11:30-12:15) they danced the charity Treble reel, Light jig, slip jig, hop jig, treble jig and finally hornpipe. A lot of shoe changing went on but not having to rush from stage to stage earns the feis flow a decent score.

Score 8

Results and Awards

DfC_Re1XEGqhyLrvZoe8nugksBDInYn4voOzURzV8W2nN92Z4xLhuFfDsWOpR2EORZ3qQIfkmYpH3SIl-8MgG68D1aw=s2048The results were computed by Feisweb and as usual the waiting time for results was very short! Placements were given to the competitors in the top 40-50% of their group. Medals were awarded for Beginner/Ad Beginner while Novice/PW received trophies for first-third place; any placement above third earned the dancer a decent quality custom medal with the Broesler School logo and ribbon to wear around your neck.

nt6gxnn-cKU9UBAbOdG7b9z_YhgVaLGrdk0yBrcskd0jdiyQ2P3Q6aLw9Gq_zWg-YgKOyN4xsIN9XUJ8zO6s0yO5ENg=s2048The trophies were nice- there is a music note on the top of the trophy along with the words “Baltimore Feis”, “x” place written on the base .

Score 8.5


It was nice that the volunteers took advantage of the overhead intercom for announcements, however, continually announcing that lunch was available was distracting because it occurred while the dancers were dancing.

Social Media

Twitter handle @Baltimorefeis notified users the Champ awards time and also posted pictures of the winners and the results.

This was the first time we attended the Baltimore Feis. When asking other families their opinion of this feis the feedback was varied. Some liked it and some only went because of the location. Our experience was positive and it was a worthwhile feis to attend. Scanning the competitior list there seemed to be a mix of regions/dance schools represented at this feis. Thus, the competition was strong which is perfect for this time of year as many dancers prepare for their Oireachtas.

A final thank you to the volunteers who work hard and devote countless hours of their time to put on an event of this size and quality.

Overall Score 8

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Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2014 Review, Champs

The 2014 Michigan Feis was held on September 13, 2014 at Muskegon Central Catholic High School in Muskegon, MI. This is the 4th time the WTF famila has attended this feis, and honestly, it is one of our faves. Jeanette did an awesome job for the over all feis review so I will just be adding notes for some things she did not cover from a champs perspective or other items. I do suggest reading Jeanette’s review along with this one for the big picture.

One thing I do not think she mentioned is that each dancer gets a free ticket into the Michigan Irish Music Festival which is a savings of $15 to $20 if you are going to it, which I highly suggest.


We were at the other end of the school on Stage 1, in the far gym, the one Jeanette did not get too. The stage was very large, over 30 x 30 but the gym was very warm. One large fan at the front door was not cutting it keeping the room cool. NOTE: I am not the large fan that was trying to be cool.

Stage condition was great and I only saw one near slip, by TGC actually, and that was because of trying to avoid a collision with the other dancer.

Everything else Jeanette says is spot on, except, although George the Shoe Guy’s company was well represented by Betsy, his daughter, George is still recuperating from his surgery, and according to Betsy is doing well.


Typical for Champs, three judges, all attentive, no special comments.


For stage 1 there was the ‘standing fiddle player’ I have mentioned in the past. There was some issues with sound before TGC danced but they got it all worked out and things went smoothly the rest of the time we were there. The stage is so far away from the others that music bleedover in literally impossible at normal volume levels.


We took advantage of the coffee and morning items. All reasonable and the coffee wasn’t terrible.


I have to concur with my co-reviewer, things move pretty quickly awards wise, so fast in fact TGC needed to do a quick change back into her dress as we got back to the gym right when her comp announcements were about to start. I would say it was less than 30 minutes from the completion of her dances to the presentation of awards. Admittedly, this was one of the smaller comps she has competed with in a while, but that was still really fast.

Regarding the Champ awards, they received medals if they placed top three in their dances, and then a nice gift for overall placement. I saw crystal and china items, not sure what else was handed out. A negative, they only gave sashes for 1st.

Since this feis runs in conjunction with the Michigan Irish Music Festival, top finishers get to participate in the Parade of Champions at the festival, AND one parent gets a free ticket. Sure we had to scalp our ticket at the gate since we bought in advance, but hey, it worked out great :)

Feis Flow

Pretty good, but it took a lot longer for TGC to dance then we assumed based on the number of comps and dancers that went before her. For champs, they took 2 – 3 age groups and rotated through the dances for them before moving to the next age groups. When she started however, start to finish was less than 30 minutes (remember, small comp but the comp that was running with hers had 15ish dancers).


I am with Jeanette on this one, a few little nits like the temperature in the gym and only giving sahes for 1st, but this feis is easily a 9.

What did you think?

Want to rate the feis or have an opinion? Please visit the Grades Review page and use the poll at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

Michigan (Muskegon) Feis 2014 Review, Grades

The 2014 Michigan Feis was held on September 13, 2014 at Muskegon Central Catholic High School in Muskegon, MI. This is the 2nd time we have attended this feis, and we have had a very pleasant experience here both times. This review is mainly aimed at the Grades experience at this feis.


The feis was held at Muskegon Central Catholic High School.

Parking was free, plentiful & close – which was a nice change from many other feiseanna we have attended recently!

Because this feis is associated with the Michigan Irish Music Festival, there was an admission fee for adults at the door (I believe it was $8/person), but dancers were admitted free. There was a bit of a bottleneck getting into the school because people were paying the admission fee, but those who checked in the night before at the feis hotel & got their admission wristbands paid for then were able to walk right in. We had not prepaid, but still waited less than 5 minutes to get in, which is quick compared to other feiseanna we’ve been to with a similar setup.

Registration and awards were right inside the entryway, and my dancer was checked in quickly and easily.
The feis had 4 stages this year – 3 for grades & 2 for PC/OC. The PC/OC stage was off on its own (and I never ventured over to see it, to be honest). Stage 2 was housed in the school’s auditorium, which made for a nice experience for the dancers on it – quiet, calm & out of the way. My dancer was on this stage when we attended in 2013 and really enjoyed it. The other 2 stages were in the gym, separated by a decent distance. All stages were of a reasonable size & the quality seemed great – I don’t think I saw a single fall on the 2 stages in the gym all day.

I really liked this setup, as I didn’t feel like I was crammed into a room with 1,000 of my closest friends (as I often do at feiseanna), but if you had dancers on multiple stages, it might have been difficult & tiring to run back & forth between them.

I did not check out the vendors, but I understand that George the shoe guy was there, along with a t-shirt vendor & a wig/bling vendor.

Restrooms were convenient & relatively clean. I never had to wait in line in the ladies room, which was nice.

There was no camping, but there was sufficient room for everyone’s gear at the stages. The auditorium was large enough to hold people & bags in the chairs provided, and the bleachers were adequate for everyone & everything in the gym.

Practice space was pretty much non-existent. There were signs up all over the place asking that dancers not dance on school floors. Dancers in the auditorium had some carpeted space at the back of the room that they could practice on, but the dancers in the gym were limited to a small corner.

Overall Venue Score: 8/10.


My dancer danced 6 times and was seen by 2 judges. That’s not overly great rotation in my opinion, but it is relatively typical for a feis run by level. My dancer’s judges seemed attentive & provided detailed & helpful comments, which we appreciate, as that doesn’t always happen.

Judge Score: 7/10


On the grades stage in the auditorium, the music was great. The musician was excellent & there were no sound/tempo issues that I noted. On the 2 stages in the gym, one had a violin & one had an accordion. My dancer danced on both stages & said she had no issues hearing either musician & really didn’t note much bleed over between the stages (and she is usually the first to complain about issues with hearing music), but sitting in the bleachers, I could only hear the accordion. I did see one dancer on one stage start her traditional set dance at the wrong time, because the song was being played on the other stage as well. At one point, one of the judges stopped the dancing on his stage & had a discussion with the accordion player & a feis volunteer & then rearranged speakers so he could hear the music better, so at least there was a willingness to adjust things as needed.
My suggestion in this area would be for the feis to take a cue from the Missouri State Championships and use a single musician for both stages. It might slow things down a little bit, but it would eliminate the bleed over issue altogether.

Music Score: 7/10


The feis had a concession stand with hot dogs, chips & other similar items. Not much variety or much of anything healthy, but prices were quite reasonable. More importantly, unlike most other feiseanna we attend, there was no restriction on bringing in your own food, so we didn’t even need to visit the concession stand. Volunteers even smiled at us as we walked in with our cooler & asked if they could share the Jimmy Johns sandwiches we brought with us, which was a nice change of pace!

Food Score: 8/10


This is where this feis really sets itself apart from others, in my opinion. Instead of crowding around a wall where results are posted (although I believe they are posted on a wall somewhere too), you simply hand your number card to a volunteer at the awards table, who looks you up in the computer, prints out all your results (including comments & exact placements!) and hands you your awards.

We don’t check results until our dancer is finished with all her dances, so I don’t know how fast results were posted during the day, but she got in line to pick up awards within 10 minutes of finishing her dances & was able to get all her results immediately.

This year, the feis was also posting results online. I believe they were updated every 30 minutes or so, so it was probably faster to simply walk over to the awards table, but it did allow folks who weren’t able to attend the feis to see how friends had placed. My dancer was thrilled to receive a congratulatory text from a friend at home who saw her results.

Placements appeared to be generous – I am not sure of the exact formula, but it appeared to me that the feis placed either through 5th place or half the dancers, depending on level & the size of the group. I doubt many (if any) dancers went home empty handed, which I like – it’s nice to see the dancers have a little something to show for their hard work, in my opinion.

Medals were awarded for all grades placements, and trophies were given out for 1st place in Open Prizewinner. The medals were very nice quality & were unique – not your typical cookie cutter circle with a sticker slapped on. And best of all, they came with the ribbons already attached (other feiseanna, please take note – parents LOVE this!!!). The trophies were also nice quality – small, but well made.

Results/Awards Score: 10/10

Feis Flow

For grades, this feis was run by level, which meant people were in & out fairly quickly. My dancer had dances in novice & open/prizewinner both. She started dancing around 10:30, and we were done by 2:15, which included a fairly long lunch break.

One thing I found odd was that there was no timeframe given for the lunch break. When my dancer asked a stage monitor how long the break would be, the answer was “we’ll start again whenever the judge comes back”.

Volunteers did move dances from stage 3 to stage 4 (both in the gym) in order to keep the feis moving quickly. However, no announcement was made (at least not that I heard), and it was just luck that my dancer noticed that 2 of her dances had been moved. Clearer communication about that & about the length of the lunch break would have been nice.

Feis Flow Score: 8/10

Overall Score: 8/10 – Great job Michigan Feis!!!

This is one of our favorite feiseanna – we will definitely be back again next year!

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American Pride Feis 2014 Review, Grades

4-231x300The American Pride Feis was held September 12 and 13, in Nashville, TN. The feis was located inside the Convention Center of the lovely Gaylord Opryland Resort. This feis was sponsored by the Tennessee Irish Dance Organization. The school behind the feis is the Southern Academy of Irish Dance. The feis offered multiple competitions, including baking, art, instrumental music, Tir Na Nog, First Feis, and charity treble reel competitions. This year’s charity treble reel proceeds went to the Navy Seal Foundation. (Go Navy!) This year’s feis was very well organized and well run. It may well become one of the top Southern Region feisanna to attend, much like Nation’s Capital and Rhythm of Ireland.

Venue: 10

Some of you may remember that I am NOT a fan of hotel feisanna. Thankfully, the Gaylord Opryland is a Hotel, Resort, and Convention Center. So, this feis actually falls under convention center feisanna. The convention center rooms are much like those of Union Station in St. Louis. Large, plenty of seating, room for camping, and room for walking. The only bottle necks occurred in the Awards Room. Please see Awards for further remarks.

The venue makes this feis an experience, not just a competition. It is large enough to handle an enormous influx of people. It is also a treat to visit. For those staying in the resort overnight, there are a number of things to do. In addition to practicing steps on the stages, which the feis volunteers had ready for use by 6pm – well done, again, Recruits – there are the gardens, the fountain show, arcade, indoor riverboat, shopping, restaurants, several pools, spa, and 24 hour fitness center.

We did not have a problem finding seats at any of our stages. There was also room for camping inside the feis halls. The Southern Region is not known for feis camping, so the room available seemed more than adequate. There were 5 vendors at the feis. A local photographer, Eagle Sports Shirts, wigs and hair doodahs, dance shoes and poodle socks, and portable speakers. The hallway outside of the feis halls was situated very well for the feis vendors and feis traffic.

Parking: 7

Since it is a large venue, parking is designed for a large number of cars. Think theme park sized parking solutions. So, parking is not fun. But, it is not impossible or a pain. Just not fun. For those so inclined, you can park at the Opry Mills Mall, and one other lot, for FREE. Free is good. The walk to and from the car may be more cost than some would prefer. Self parking at the resort is $20 per day, plus tax. Which is quite the jump from FREE. Or, you can pay $35, including tip, for valet. The Wilkes family checked ahead and budgeted for the self parking at the resort. We found it to be a reasonable solution for our family. If we had not known ahead of time, and budgeted, it would have been quite a shock.

Feis Flow: 5

They get an A for effort. The Recruits certainly did all they could to keep the feis running on schedule. The feis started on time. 7:55am with the presentation of the flags and singing of the anthems. The feis ended about 4:15pm. They were tearing down stages by 5pm. Between that time, it was an adventure. Stages 3 and 4 were stalled for over an hour because of champs and judge rotations. Stages 1 and 2 experienced stage schedule changes, due to that unplanned break. See also Results.

Judging: 4

Everyone of our little darlings had very little judge rotatiion. Or, the judges were rotated, but the dancers were also rotated. So, they were dancing for the same judge on a different stage. The ideal is a different judge for each dance. It did not happen at this feis.

Results: 5

Part of this score comes from the Awards room itself. More than one dancer missed a special because their awards were being announced for a championship, while their special was being loaded on the stage. The results time also depended on the stages. 1 and 2 posted in about 30 minutes from the dancing, before lunch 3 and 4 were between 10 and 20, before lunch. After lunch, it was catch-as-catch-can. Average wait time was 20 minutes from dance to posting. The results did go online very quickly. You could almost check your phone as quickly as the room. Which was nice, if there was a large awards ceremony ongoing, when you came to the door. The paper replacement system on the wall worked well. With lunch being pushed back, the stages were pushed back, which pushed the results back. See also Flow, which affected Results.

Awards: 6

Overall, the awards were well done. Sashes for champs placing in the top 3. Stuffed cups, bowls, and china plates for awards, in addition to trophies. Champs were awarded in the results rooms, with a red, white, and blue podium. Prizewinner and Champs received distinctive trophies for top 3 placements. The medals were roughly the size of the bottom of water bottle. This feis also included the medal ribbons, which was certainly appreciated by the younger set of dancers. Many grades dancers enjoyed the sound of clinking medals, as they walked.

Several families were met with confusion and delay in the awards room. There appeared to not be clear communication about who was to receive what award and for what competition. My suggestion would be to have a list by each distribution volunteer. Or, to have each award on the table clearly labeled. This does NOT have to be complicated. Feis ATL used Post Its last year. Simple, but effective. Also, 3 of the treble reels were to have been awarded on stage. But, the awards never made it out to the stages. So, they were picked up. Also, a couple of the competitions were labeled Trophy Specials in the syllabus. When it came time to pick up awards for those competitions, dancers found out it meant a trophy for 1st place and medal for 2nd and 3rd. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved in time for next year.

The Awards room was the only crowd causing problem area. Thankfully, that room also had multiple doors. So, just by going down one door, you were able to enter the room. You did still have to wait to get to the walls, depending on when you were in the awards room. The grades results were on walls in a corner, which created obvious problems. Who wants to be put into a corner, anyway?

Music: 10

Let’s sing the Doxology! It had to be a miracle! Every stage had a wonderful accordianist. Such joy, to hear the melodious sounds of the accordion from every stage. Was there music carry over? Yes. But only when one musician stopped playing, while the musician in the next room continued. When the music was resumed on that stage, there was no carry over at all. I did not see any musician related timing errors on either of the grades stages.

In addition, a local Irish pub provided the soloists for the anthems. It was wonderful to see the room in which the anthems were held come to a respectful stillness and silence. It was awe inspiring to hear the other feis halls become silent when the alto soloist sang our National Anthem.

Feis Food: 8

The food options were tremendous. If you could not find something to suit your taste, it is your own fault. The Wilkes family ate at STAX. The burgers were HUGE. Our little dancers split a combo meal very happily, with left overs. That turns into $6 per dancer. Considering the location, we found it to be very reasonable. Especially when I think back to paying $3 for a PRETZEL at Queen City. So, $12 for a meal large enough to split between our two youngest dancers was a feis meal deal. Ash Wilkes also had multiple options for his feis coffee. There was a pay per cup machine just done the hall from the main feis area. It was a very short walk for a fancier cup of coffee. In 7 minutes, he was able to walk to several cafe options for his coffee. So, while not inexpensive, the venue offered many options at several price points.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10

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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.

Rock River Valley Feis 2014, Grades Review

downloadThe 2014 Rock River Valley Feis was held on September 6, 2014 at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. This is the 2nd time we have attended this feis, although the venue was different when we attended 2 years ago.


The feis was held at the Megacenter right next to the resort.  It is a small building with an open ballroom type area.  There was a small food court area near the front of the room.

Parking was free, plentiful & close – which was a nice change from many other feiseanna we have attended recently!

Registration and awards were right inside the entryway, and my dancer was checked in quickly and easily.

The feis had 6 stages this year – 4 for grades & 2 for PC/OC.  Stages were definitely on the small side, and even dancing 2/time, I saw several collisions due to the tight quarters.

Stage quality was a HUGE issue this year. My dancer’s stage saw many slips and falls, including one dancer who had to be helped off the stage & couldn’t put weight on the foot/ankle she injured.  I never saw an attempt at mopping or otherwise treating the stage to make things less slippery.  I know there were slips/falls on at least one of the PC/OC stages as well.

The stages were also FAR too close to each other.  With 6 stages playing music all at once within such a small area, it was impossible for dancers to hear their music clearly.

Vendors were the usual suspects – George the shoe guy, a t-shirt vendor, 4Irish dancers (who thankfully sold me a card of bobby pins when I realized we had forgotten ours!), and another hair/bling vendor.

Restrooms were plentiful, but were not restocked well, and several dispensers were out of soap for a couple of hours mid- morning.  One of the paper towel dispensers had stopped working by lunchtime as well.

There was no camping at all whatsoever.  Zucas and dress bags were piled all over the place & there was a lot of feis shaming going on in the minimal seating provided.

The bottom line is that this venue was simply too small for the entry cap.  Either the cap needs to be reduced, or a new venue with more room needs to be secured.

Overall Venue Score:  3/10


My dancer danced 5 times and was seen by 4 judges.  That’s very good rotation, in my opinion, especially for a feis that runs by level.  My dancers judges also provided detailed & helpful comments, which we appreciate, as that doesn’t always happen.

Judge Score: 9/10


I honestly could not hear the music from my dancer’s stage (and I was not THAT far back).  My dancer said she had trouble hearing the music meant for her stage over music coming from other stages & she said most of the judges seemed to be having trouble as well.

Music Score:  5/10


The feis had a small food court with hot dogs, chips & other similar items.  Not much variety or much of anything healthy, but prices seemed relatively reasonable.

Food Score:  6/10


The speed at which results were posted varied throughout the day and by stage.  One dancer from our school waited over an hour for results for 2 dances both danced in the morning.  My dancer’s results were up much faster, but she danced later in the day, so perhaps whatever issues plagued the tabulation room in the morning were resolved by the afternoon.

The feis only placed approximately 30% of the dancers, which is low even for Mid America feiseanna (which typically place around 40%).  I personally like to see a little more generous placement, particularly given that entry fees for this feis were higher than fees for other area feiseanna.  Especially for younger novice/open dances who can become easily discouraged, to only place 6 dancers in a group of 23 (which works out to only about 25%) just seems a little stingy to me.  I’m not one who believes every kid needs to go home with an award of some kind every time, but I think this feis could stand to loosen the purse strings on the awards a little bit.

Results/Awards Score: 4/10

Feis Flow

For grades, this feis was run by level, which usually means most people are in & out fairly quickly, but the Rock N Reel (a soft shoe reel special danced to popular music) wreaked havoc on the flow.

For some reason, the Rock N Reel was scheduled to start at 9:30 (our prior experience with specials like this is that they typically run at lunch or at the end of the day), which appeared to be when the feis expected Beginner 2 dances to end & novice dances to start.  However, stages were not moving at an even pace, and some stages were ready for the RNR before that, and some weren’t ready until well after.

Because the RNR was simply grouped by level (& not by age), the fact that it ran at different times on different stages created stage conflicts for many dancers, which then slowed down all the grades stages considerably.  Additionally, the music was blasted & overpowered neighboring stages which were still running regular dances, making it virtually impossible for dancers to hear their music.

Some stages did stop altogether until the RNR dances were finished, but others continued to move dances through.  A consistent decision on how to handle this would have been helpful.

My dancer was one with a stage conflict due to the RNR & when I asked the volunteers how they would prefer we handle it, all I got was a shrug & a “do whatever you think is best”.  I assume they were just as frustrated with the lack of consistency as I was, but a pleasant response would have been nice.

There were inconsistencies in how many dancers at a time danced, which made some stages move faster than others, too.  On stage 6 I saw dancers dancing 3/time, but on stages 3 & 4, I only ever saw 2/time.

The feis did take only a 10 minute lunch break – they delivered lunch to the judges at the stages & allowed them a few minutes to eat & use the restroom & then things started right back up.  This was appreciated by everyone & is something other feiseanna could stand to try.

In the past, when my dancer has straddled 2 levels and we’ve attended a feis run by grade, we have  typically been in & out in 4 hours.  We were there for 8 hours this time, so double what is normal for a feis run in this manner.

Feis Flow Score: 3/10 (and it would have been lower had it not been for the quick lunch break)

Overall Score:  4/10

Sorry Rock River Valley, but the venue & the poor flow made it difficult to do any better than this.

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Great Lakes Feis 2014, Grades Review

image001The 12th Annual Great Lakes Feis was held August 17th, 2014 at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI.

This was our first trip to the Great Lakes Feis and we really enjoyed it.

We did the Feis as a double Feis with Rose City. I was saddened to hear this feis was moving dates in 2015 to the last weekend in July. Several of our friends from our home studio wanted to try the double feis in August like we did. Not sure how July will work for our family.

I am adding the grade viewpoint to compliment the PC/OC review from WTF himself.


Stages and Seating

My dancer didn’t say anything about the Grade stage being slippery. She did say it didn’t have much spring to it and felt it the next day. I didn’t see anyone slipping on our stage.

Chairs seemed adequate; we actually gave up our seats and used our Zuca in the camping area. Plenty of space to watch our dancer each time.

Camping and Access

Lots of room to camp. We are bringing a blanket and chairs next time. Just having some bags and a Zuca made our spot prime crossing for everyone else. If you come, bring a blanket to claim your spot and limit others stepping close to your dress bag. Coming from a region with lots of small venue competitions, it was a treat to be able to spread out and not find other people piling on top of your bags.

It was easy to stand close to the chairs and watch each dance. The space works so that everyone can see their dancer.

Awards and Results

Medals for the Grade awards were nice. Bright, shiny and included ribbons. Yes, we have been to a Feis where you had to purchase a ribbon for your medals.

Results posted quickly but a few were skipped. My dancer discovered she could ask at the laptops so she skipped waiting for 1 or 2 to be written on the results wall. When we left, they still had not been written up on the wall. We like being able to get a printout of results and comments. My dancers poured over her comments on our drive home.


Arriving early, we were able to park on the street. Weekend free parking is great. Parking rates were typical but we were able to skip it and park on the street.


Judges rotated throughout the day. Even though my dancer stayed on 1 stage, she had 2 judges. Nice and helpful comments too. She received comments on everything except for Traditional Set. She entered the Art Competition and received handwritten comments. The Art Judge took him time and really judged each piece. She finished dancing before lunch break but waiting an hour or more after lunch break for the Art Competition to post. We always wait for something to post, we were amused that it was Art this time.


Music was good. My dancer had no trouble hearing her music. The set up worked with each stage and very little bleed in music between them.


We stopped at Tim Horton’s on the way in so didn’t try the food. Our friends tried the Nachos and said they were typical Feis food and happily munched away.


Nice selection of Vendors. The t-shirt vendor added the touch of a shamrock to mark your dancer on the list of names. My dancer was thrilled with the little shamrock by her name.

Feis Flow

Feis flow on our stage was awesome. We were done by lunch since my dancer was Novice hardshoe and Prizewinner soft shoe. Even the hardshoe after lunch went quickly. One group of Prizewinner had to dance Hornpipe followed immediately by Treble Jig. The judge and stage monitors gave them a couple minute breather between dances.


Scoring seemed reasonable. My dancer was happy with her results. Lots of places posted so plenty of medals to go around.

We will go back if this Feis fits into our schedule.

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