Surviving Your First Feis

If there is anything I did wrong, it was my daughter’s first feis! Yet somehow, we still survived it!

My daughter’s first feis was in April 2012. Instead of picking something close to home, where we would have other, more experienced parents to ask for help, I used it as an excuse to go visit friends in New England. I packed up four children and spent 8 hours on the train to Rhode Island.

I wasn’t nervous about it until two days before leaving for the feis, when some of the other mothers started telling me about their first experiences, noting how they were so scared they were throwing up, etc. After that conversation, I convinced myself I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I should be, so I ratcheted it up a few notches. I had to bring all four children to the feis by myself, and my three year old, probably reacting to my stress, decided to repeatedly throw himself down in the middle of the hall filled with hundreds of people and scream. I had no idea how to put my daughter’s school uniform on correctly. I probably looked crazy trying to drag those kids around the feis, wide eyed and frantically searching for the stage, and generally trying to figure out what the heck we were supposed to be doing.

In spite of everything, we made it through the feis, my daughter placed third in treble jig, and we even decided to continue competing!

I put this list together with the information I wish I had when I set off for my first feis.

1. REGISTER EARLY

Registering for feiseanna usually begins well in advance. For example, I just registered in late July 2012 for a feis that won’t take place until the end of October. You will register for most feiseanna online, though there are some that you will need to mail your registration in for. There are three main websites by which you will register:

I found it easiest to just take a few minutes and register on all three sites at once. You can also sign up for email alerts when feiseanna open up for registration. I would also recommend reading the message boards for your region, as someone usually posts notices when feiseanna open up for registration, when the stage schedule comes out, etc. For a link to your region’s message board, please see the resources page.

2. HAVE YOUR SCHEDULE

The stage schedules are usually released about a week prior to the feis. You will want to print out at least one copy. I’m a little crazy, so I usually bring two. At the feis, you will live and breathe by that schedule.

3. PACK THE NIGHT BEFORE

My dancer packs her stuff in wheeled carry-on luggage. Here is what we always bring:

Clothes:

  • Costume/Dress
  • Socks/Tights
  • Sock glue
  • Shoes
  • Cover up to cover the clothes when your dancer gets hungry
  • Change of clothes
  • Safety pins and/or ribbon for attaching your competitor number

Hair:

  • Wig
  • Hair tools (hair bands, bobby pins)
  • Hair spray and gel

First Aid Kit:

  • Bandages
  • Blister protection
  • Scissors
  • Ace bandages
  • Chemical ice pack
  • Tape
  • Q-tips
  • Pain medication (This goes for the feis parent as well. Stress headaches happen!)

Miscellaneous:

  • Snacks and water
  • Makeup
  • Pen
  • Cash

4. THE MORNING OF…

Expect to get to the feis early. It is always more crowded than you think it will be! When you get there, check-in and get your competitor number. Then make your final preparations and costume adjustments and have your dancer start warming up. There is usually a designated area for practicing hard shoes.

It is always a guessing game as to when your dancer will compete. You will need to get to the stage early and continually check the schedule vs. the dances posted at the stages. There are three steps for any dance:

  • Check in – 2 dances prior to your scheduled dance. You will need to have your dancer head over to the stage manager to check in.
  • Next – 1 dance prior to your scheduled dance. Your dancer will be sitting in a designated area waiting to go on stage. There are specific rules for behavior while waiting, so make sure your dancer knows them.
  • Now – Your dancer will be led onstage to compete, usually in groups of three.

It is also important to note that you may have to monitor more than one stage. I have never had this happen, but sometimes there will be an overlap, meaning you will be competing on one stage when they start a dance your are scheduled to compete in on another stage. This is more likely when your dancer is competing at different levels in different dances. I have been told that if that happens, the parent needs to go over to the other stage manager, explain the situation, and ask them to hold the competition.

After you have completed your dance, it usually takes a few minutes before the scores are posted. There is usually a designated posting area, and sometimes it is hard to find. If your dancer is listed, it means they placed in that dance. Head off to the award’s table and start collecting those medals and trophies.

Here is a link I found helpful:

A picture guide to your first feis offered by the Teelin School of Irish Dance

Most important of all, remember to enjoy yourself! It’s not important whether you place, it’s all about having the courage to get up there and dance!

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