· Beginner I
· Beginner II
· Preliminary Champion
· Open Champion
There are 4 soft shoe dances and 3 hard shoe dances. Reel, Light jig, Single jig, Treble jig, Hornpipe and Traditional set. These dances are competed in the grade level dancing portion of competitions. Once they get to the preliminary championship and Open Championship level, they retire the light jig and single jig and rotate between two soft shoe dances. Girls do either the Reel or Slip jig and boys just do the reel. They also switch between two hard shoe dances the Treble jig and Hornpipe. They rotate each of these dances depending on their age. If they do well in these two rounds and recall, they will then get to perform their recall dance called set dance.
Feis (pronounced ‘Fesh’) is a term which is comely shortened from the word Feisianna which is the name of an Irish dance competition. There are local competitions and there are more in neighboring states. There are also 3 regions in the untied states. We are in the western region. To move up your dances to the next level you need to place 1st out of 5 or more dancers. You can also win out with a. 2nd place if you have more than 10 people in your competion. It is beneficial and fun to travel to other places to see how your dancing is measuring up and get some feedback from someone besides your teacher. It is also fun to get to know other dancers from other places and make what we call “feis friends”. In our dance school you will sign up for a Feisianna on www.feisworx.com.
There are two stories told about why Irish dancers wear wigs. First, Irish dancers used to curl their hair for competition because they felt like it gave the optical illusion that they were getting more height on their dancing. They then got sick of curing their hair, so they started wearing wigs. The other story is that dancers performed and competed after church, so they were in their Sunday best which included curling their hair. This tradition has been passed down through the years. If you have ever worn curlers, you know how completely uncomfortable they are and curling long hair takes forever. The wig was a great solution for not having to curl hair, and it has evolved into quite the look!
Dancers love tape! They use electrical tape to keep their shoes from falling off their feet. They also tape the bottom of their shoes with duct tape, so they do not slip. They sometimes use white tape to give their shoes a different look on stage. It is not required, but it is a nice change from just their black shoes.
The best time to start Irish dancing is around 5-7 years old. We offer a pre dance class which will prepare younger dancers for Irish dance class. The dancer needs to have a good attention span and be able to listen and execute instructions. The students who can listen and understand and follow instructions will be moved into the beginner Irish dance class. They are usually in the pre dance class until they are around 5-6 years old which by this age they have usually mastered these skills.
Our beginner female dancers wear a red skirt and a black leotard. They wear white poodle socks that come up to the base of their calf muscle and Heavy shoes/hard shoes and Ghillies/light shoes. Boys wear a black button down dress shirt red tie and black pants. They wear black dress socks and heavy shoes/hard shoes and reel shoes/light shoes.
They can wear these costumes to competitions and performances until they get into the upper dance levels.
Male dancers wear black dress pants. The pants need to be comfortable and flexible so they can dance and kick high. Some like to wear tight pants and others prefer a little loser. They usually wear a dress shirt and a decorative vest or suit coat out of similar materials that girls’ solo dresses are made from. Some of them also wear a tie. Crystals have also been added to boys’ costumes in recent years. Each vest is like solo dress costumes in the fact that the style of the vest reflects the dancers personalities/likes/style just like the girls' solo dresses.
Female Irish dancers dresses are called solo dresses. They are all designed individually and are made for the specific dancer. They consider colors and style to go with their hair color, personality complexion.
The solo dresses are like snowflakes in the fact that not one dress is like another. Dress makers, teachers, and students take considerable time to carefully design and make the perfect dress for their dancers. Dancers do not get to wear these dresses until they get into at least the Novice/prizewinner level. They start out less expensive and less intricate, but as their dancing progress the dress tends to get more elaborate and sparkly as well.
In Primary competitions (grade levels) where there are 10 or more participants, dancers who place 1st with at least 5 competitors or 2nd with more that 10 competitors will move up to the next level.
When you go to a local, regional, nationals or worlds competition in Irish dance the judges are looking for certain things. You need to have good timing which means you know where the beat is and are dancing on it. They are also looking at your appearance and stage presence. You need to smile and look pleasant while you are dancing. You need to be well groomed and wear the proper attire. They also are looking at your execution of moves and how well you dance them. They are are also looking for how you carry yourself. Do you have good posture, straight arms, and straight legs with pointed toes?
Grade exams are for all dancers no matter what level and age they are. Since grade exams are rubric based, dancers are not ranked against each other. Each dancer is required to perform certain given dances for each grade and are given feedback and a grade on their performance. Grades 1-10 can be taken at any age, but grades 11 and 12 need to be taken when the dancer is at least 16 years old. Once they have taken all 12 grades, they are ready to sit for the TCRG exam. You need to be at least 21 years old to take the TCRG.
Practice makes permanent! Make sure you are getting lots of practice and the right kind of practice. If you practice with your feet turned in, you will dance with your feet turned in at a feis. If you do not straighten your legs while you leap when you practice, you will not straighten them at the dance competition. You need to have a lot of body awareness while you are dancing.
Make sure you have a checklist, and you have everything you need. Remember to pack both pairs of dance shoes, all costume pieces: your dress, bootie shorts, pants, tie, make up, tanner, toner or whatever else you need. You can make a detailed list to check off if you need to. I suggest you bring extra safety pins, bobby pins, electrical tape and duct tape if needed.
Food is also a good idea. When you are nervous sometimes certain foods don't sound good, especially spicey or acidic foods. Try and think of some mild tasty foods that you can eat when you are nervous.
The best thing to bring is a positive attitude. Do your best, but also know that if you don't win, whatever place you get the judges will provide some good feedback and you can continue to improve. Irish dance takes time to perfect, and it is ok to not win every time. Sometimes we come to a competition to get some feedback from someone other than our dance teachers. We need to keep our emotions in check and cheer for others who did win. Good sportsmanship makes the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone. It is ok to have a few tears and be disappointed but don’t forget that we can share others victories just as much as we
There are many Irish dancers that started when they were older. It is such a fun way to meet new people, stay fit, and relieve stress. You are never too old to learn something new and it is very good for your brain to keep learning.
The Oireachtas (oi rock tas) is the annual regional championship competition. In Gaelic, the word Oireachtas means “assembly”; it also stems from the word airch which means nobleman. So, putting the two meanings together the word translates to gathering of the elect. Each dancer can go to one of these competitions when they are around Prizewinner or Championship level. They can also go at lower levels on a 4,8 or 16 hand team with teacher discretion. While at this competition top placers will qualify for nationals or world competitions. If you don’t qualify for nationals at Oireachtas there are alternative ways to qualify: you need to be an open champ automatically qualify for nationals. Most open level champion dancers go to these major competitions and use local feiseanna for practice and feedback.
You can sign up for first feis on www.feisworx.com for your first competition . This gives you the chance to dance with other dancers who are also dancing for the first time at a competition as well. You will most likely be first thing in the morning and they will help you through the process.
You will get a competition number that will have all your signed listed on your competition dance card. You will need to wear your costume with the appropriate hair and shoes. It is not necessary to wear a lot of bling or makeup in these lower levels. It is discouraged.
You will be counted off when it is your turn to dance. Someone will be there to help you know where to go and what to do. You will then get the results either online on feisworx or they will put up the list of competitors with their raking on the wall around 30 minutes after you are done dancing. Scores are tabulated and posted throughout the day.
To move up a dance you need to get first place or f you get 2nd place and there are more than 10 competitors this will also count as moving up. Once you get to upper levels of dancing the rules might change a little according to your region when it comes to moving up.
An Irish dance team dance is called Ceili dancing. The teams is made up of 2-16 dancers. They are called a 2 hand, 3 hand, 4 hand 6 hand 8 hand and so on up to 16. 16 hand dances are usually called a choreography routine. There are specific team dances that have been passed down for generations. There are 30 traditional ceili dancers that each TCRG has to know to pass their certification. Each of these teachers will send teams to competitions. It is a fun way for these dancers to work together as a team. It is also a fun way to get to know other dancers better within your school. There are many great lessons learned from working as a team. It can also be a great way to get to the major competitions even if you are not yet an open champ. Team dancing takes a different set of skills than solo dancing. You need to still have good timing, pointed toes and nice lines, but you also need to know how to work with others, stay in line, and know your place.