The Rhythm of Ireland hosted their annual feis the weekend of October 15-16, 2016 in Williamsburg, VA. This review covers the Ceili/Grades competition on Sunday.
What The Feis Editors Note: Thanks to new contributor DD Feis Mom for this review. The review is the opinion of the reviewer, and does not necessarily reflect those of What The Feis, especially since I was not there.
The Rhythm of Ireland (ROI) feis is hosted at the Doubletree by Hilton in Williamsburg,VA. The ballrooms were spacious and organized around 2 central hallways on the opposite side of the hotel from the occupant rooms. A feis rate was offered at the host hotel for those attending this feis.
The Doubletree by Hilton is centrally located to all of the area’s many attractions. Busch Gardens has an entry point just outside of the hotel property, all of the historic attractions are within a 15-20 minute drive, and there are shopping options galore. A discounted rate was offered to all 3 of the historical sites—Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, and Yorktown Victory Center.
There were 6 stages, arranged 2 per ballroom with a piece of yellow tape demarcating the line between the stages. The stages were pressed wood about 1 ½ inch off of the floor covered in Marley. Ceili 4 hand teams dance 2 teams at a time. Due to the smaller size of these stages there were a few instances of teams having to squash their figures so as not to bump the other team. Grades dancers danced 2 at a time as well.
There was a judge assigned to each stage and judges rotated after the soft shoe dances. Most dancers danced for 2, sometimes 3 judges. Each judge on our stages were very attentive to the dancers and their safety. Most parents reported seeing the judges writing notes during the dances, however, at the time of writing, score sheets had not been distributed.
Score: 7/10 (if scores are received with comments I’d definitely change to 9/10!)
Each set of 2 stages shared a musician. Our musician seemed poorly prepared for the types of music required for ceilis and grades dancers, however other parents had no issues with their musicians. I’m willing to strike it up to a bad day for our musician.
This feis was unusual in regard to flow. Ceilis started 15-20 minutes late, and due to confusion of scheduling and what information was given to the musicians there were many “breaks” in between ceili competitions. Grades competitions started about 75 minutes late and the judges took a 5-10 minute “break” in between each type of dance ie dance reels, take a break, dance slip jig take a break, dance light jig, take a break, dance single jig, take a break, etc. There was also a break after all soft shoe dances to rotate judges between stages. This made for a very disjointed feis experience. I feel for any first timers who attended this feis.
There were 2 on-site restaurants and a small Starbucks within the hotel. The Starbucks was clearly not used to such large crowds in short timespans (as feis goers tend to be) and there were significant wait times during peak periods. Many food options were available off site within a short drive for those feis goers with long breaks between dances.
There were 4 vendors at ROI 2016. Two vendors for ID gear (hairpieces, wigs, socks, bling, etc), a custom T shirt vendor, and a photographer. These vendors were located in a central hallway between stages 1-4 and 5-6 with lots of room and easy access. If you needed a basic ID supply you could certainly find it here, but if looking for a more specialty piece this was not the feis for shopping.
Results were posted in a separate, medium sized conference room. All of our dancers results were posted 20 minutes after the last dance was completed! Lightning speed! With the spacious hallways, good signage, and large space for postings it was very easy to find results. There was also a volunteer stationed in the room to help feis goers find what they needed. The champ podium was also stationed in this room if grades dancers wanted to do pictures with the podium, a nice touch on the feis’s behalf. Awards were in a separate, very spacious room just down the hallway. Medals were given for Beginner through Novice for 1st-3rd placements. Prizewinners received trophies for 1-3rd placements and a medal for 4th placements.
The stage schedule and competitor lists came out less than 24 hours prior to this feis. This was attributed to a hurricane that had minor effect on this area about 10 days prior. After travelling to this area for the feis, and having experience with hurricanes in Florida, I saw no signs of hurricane damage. In the time since the feis, there has been poor communication through all means provided to reach the feis committee/dance school. We are 5 days post feis and a proper score card is not available, despite promises of being distributed. With a feis this close to Oirechtas it would be greatly appreciated to receive any comments the judges saw fit to give. The overall experience of this feis was such that I doubt I will give ROI a second chance, which is such a shame because many parents I spoke with who have attended for many years stated that “it used to be such a great feis”.