Feis (pronounced fay-sh or fesh) or the plural feisanna is today the Irish language word for an Irish dance competition. Dowds Irish Dance Academy is part of a larger worldwide organization called An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha or CLRG or An Coimisiun. The CLRG is governing body over feisanna including the rules governing competitions, the certification of Irish dance adjudicators and instructors like Marty Dowds. In our area of the United States we are part of the Irish Dance Teachers Association of Mid America or IDTAMA. Often you will hear people refer to this as the Mid American Region. The United States is broken up into five regions, the Western region, the Southern region, New England, Mid Atlantic and the Mid American region.
Each competition or feis is run under a standardize set of rules known as a syllabus. The syllabus for the Mid American region can be found at the North American Feis Commission website or by clicking the link
The levels of competition are First Feis, Beginner I, Beginner II, Novice, Prizewinner, Preliminary Championship and Open Championship. Each level has particular dances to perform, costume rules and qualifications to achieve that level. For example, Novice is defined as follows:
A dancer moves into Novice as a result of placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in a dance at the Beginner II level. A dancer who wins a 1st in Novice must move into Prizewinner in that dance no later than January 1st of the next calendar year or with teacher’s permission as soon as the next Feis.
Where and when are the competitions?
There are two main websites used for competitions governed by the North American Feis Commission. Those are Feisworx at www.feisworx.com and Efeis at www.efeis.com. Parents should register their children at both websites. Each website lists competitions you can register for in our region. BEFORE you register you should be aware that in the Mid American region only recognizes competitions in our region and the Mid-Atlantic region. For example a dancer who achieves a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a region other than Mid America or Mid Atlantic will not advance to the next level in the Mid America region. Often parents never sign up for competitions outside of the Mid America region because of that.
Students competing in First Feis, Beginner I, and Beginner II should wear the Dowds Irish Dance Academy costume. After the student begins competing at the Novice level, an Irish dance dress is recommended and by the Prizewinner level is required. The dresses are often sold at competitions including used dresses. Traditional Irish dresses can also be purchased online and are sold by several vendors. In all cases Marty Dowds should approve the dress worn by the student before its purchase. For boys the attire is black pants, with a black shirt, tie and often a vest, but the vest especially at early ages is optional. Older boys wear vests many of which are embroidered in a variety of patterns and colors.
Wigs also can be purchased online. Often parents will organize a wig buying week. Trends in wigs change from time to time. Presently the bun wig is making its presence known in competition circles, but the traditional curled wig is also good. The wig color should closely match your student’s hair. There is a good video at Diddlyi on how to put on a wig at http://my.diddlyi.com/video/how-to-put-on-an-irish-dance-wig
How do I register for a feis?
Most of the time you will need to go to www.feisworx.com or www.efeis.com. You will need to create an account on their website in order to register for a feis. You can do this once Marty registers you with his school. Once you create an account you will go to register for a feis and click on add dancer. Once you add your dancer’s name and birthdate it will always bring up the correct age group for your dancer. What you will have to do is click which level your dancer is going to compete in. If your dancer qualifies for First Feis that option will pop up, if not it will start with beginner and for all of you new to competing this is the one you will click on. You will have to sign up for each dance your child wants to compete in (jig, slip jig, reel etc…) If you have questions Marty is there to help you. You pay for each dance and there is also a family fee. For example a feis may charge $9.00 for each dance and a family fee of $20.00. At the feis websites you can register to receive your child’s personal results for an extra fee. Personal results show you what score your child received in each dance and they may also have some comment if any was written down by the adjudicator. Feel free to check out the websites and get familiar with them, there are lots of thing you can look at without creating an account.
What is a double feis?
This is when there is a feis on Saturday and Sunday at the same venue. If you want to do both you do need to register for each feis separately.
How do I know what level my child will compete in?
Most dancers will start at beginner. If you are ever unsure as to what level your child is, ask Marty.
How do I know how my child did at the feis?
Each feis decides how many places they will give awards to, it could be 3 or it could be 6. They will have a designated area for results and you will look under your child’s dance competition to see if they placed. Some feisanna use the child’s name and others only use their personal competition number. If you see your child has places you will need to show them your child’s competition number tag in order to pick up the award. If your child did not place the only way to see how they did is by ordering their personal results on feisworx or efeis. As a family you will need to decide if you want to check results throughout the day or after your child has competed in their last dance.
What do I need to bring to a feis?
Dress, Poodle Socks, Sock Glue, Shoes, Shoe Polish, Wig, Brush & Comb, Bobby Pins, Hair Spray/Mousse, Band-Aids, Ibuprofen, twist and shake ice pack, hand wipes/baby wipes, black Sharpie, single hole punch, safety pins, and black yarn or ribbon.
Most competitions have an area to “camp” in or an area with chairs set up by the stages. This is the area you can set your stuff down in. Sometimes there are chairs there, but many parents bring a blanket or stadium style folding chairs to sit on.
Food at Feis
Most feisanna have food vendor. You can purchase food from them. If you decide to leave the competition to get food, your child should not wear their dance attire. If your child is in the first competitions after lunch be sure you return early. Often you are not allowed to bring a cooler, but certainly water bottles and small snack foods are permitted.
When do you need to leave home for a feis?
Most of the time the day/night before depending on how far away the feis is. Some feisanna you can leave early the morning of the feis like the ones in Des Moines or Kansas City. However I would recommend going the night before if you are going to Kansas City and it is the first time you are going to a feis, just so you can make sure you are on time and your dancer isn’t too tired.
Where do you stay when going the night before?
Most feisanna, if they are not at a hotel, will have recommendations of where to stay and may offer a discount. You do not by any means have to stay at these hotels not even if the feis is at a hotel. You can stay wherever you feel comfortable.
When should I be dressed and ready?
At first I would say be ready by 7:30 AM with your wig, dress and socks on. If you are staying at a hotel get ready in your room it will be less stressful and only have your shoes to put on once you are at the feis.
What time do I need to arrive at the feis?
Most of the time the feis will begin at 8:30 AM and registration will open at 7:30 AM. In the beginning you may want to get there between 7:30-8 AM. Most of the time beginner dances are early so you will want to get there, set up camp and find your stage(s) and be ready to dance. Older dancers are often later in the morning but should still arrive early until you are comfortable with how the whole feis thing works. There is no magic way to know what time you will dance and what time you will be done for the day. Some stages run more quickly than others just as some feisanna do. If you only have two dances you will be done earlier than someone who has 5 dances. You could be done at 10AM or 4PM or somewhere in between.
What do I do while waiting to dance?
Practice and listen to the music. If you are the third group to dance your jig listen to the groups before you and either practice off to the side or say the steps in your head. All music is live and played on a variety of instruments so it’s good to listen to what is being played on your stage.
Can I take pictures or video tape?
You may NOT take pictures or video tape any dancer that is on stage. If you want to take pictures of your dancer you can pictures at your camp area or any other area that is not on stage.