Parents Guide to Feisanna

What is a feis?

A feis (plural: feisanna) is an Irish dance competition. Dancers from schools far and wide gather to compete in categories based on age and skill level. Your dance teacher will let you and your dancer know when they are ready to compete for the first time, and what dances they can compete in. At Knock O’Hogan, signup sheets for upcoming feisanna are available at the front desk.

What are the categories?

For their solo dances, dancers start in Beginner, and move up through a series of categories depending on their previous placements in that particular dance. The levels are:

  • Beginner
  • Advanced Beginner
  • Novice
  • Prizewinner
  • Preliminary Solo
  • Open Solo

Your dancer’s teacher will be able to advise you on what category your dancer belongs in for each of their dances. Your dancer’s level can vary from dance to dance depending on their past performance: ie she could be in Novice Reel but Beginner Light Jig. Dancers must qualify to compete in Prelim and Open categories.

How do the age groupings work?

All dancers “under” a certain age, who dance at the same skill category, will compete against one another. U6, U7…U12, U13, U14 and so on through to adulthood. Your dancer’s category will be based on what age they are on the first of January of that calendar year. A dancer who is age 10 on January 1st will compete in U11 and up for the rest of that year, even after their eleventh birthday. Sometimes when individual competitions don’t have enough entrants, the organizers will have to combine categories. The above-mentioned 10 year old might compete in U11 for a given dance, but may also compete in U12 or U13 if categories have to be combined. She won’t, however, dance in U9 or younger.

What does my dancer need to compete?

You should always check with your teacher first, but in general dancers will need:

  • For beginner through novice, a school dress or vest (Knock O’Hogan dresses and vests are provided by RINCE, and your dancer will be fitted at the school before the feis).
  • For girls, a bun wig or other hairpiece, matched to their hair colour, along with bobby pins, hair spray, a bun donut, and volumizing powder if needed.
  • Clean, WHITE Irish dance socks. These can usually be purchased from vendors at the feis venue.
  • Sock glue.
  • Appropriate Irish dance shoes.
  • A clip or elastic to hold the dancer’s competitor number card.
  • Note: makeup and tanned legs are limited to dancers of certain ages/categories, so check with your dancer’s teacher to see if they are allowed.

As feis day approaches…

Once you are registered for a feis, make sure you pay the attached fee by the deadline. Book your room in the feis hotel (or nearby) if needed, and remember to check the feis’s website to see if there is a special block room rate for competitors. Download the feis syllabus online to find out what days your dancer will be competing, what age categories there are, and if there are any specials or trophy dances they may wish to compete in.

On the day of the feis…

When you arrive, stop by the registration table to register your dancer and pick up their number card. This is the time to correct any errors in the registration, or add last minute dances your dancer would like to compete in. The feis organizer will have a rough schedule of when and what order dancers will dance in, as well as on what stage, but any of these factors may change so make sure to stick close to the competition area and stay aware of any updates. Always be dressed and ready to dance early, but prepared for things to run late.

Stages will be numbered or lettered, and each will usually have a board behind the stage with a list of upcoming competition numbers. As they run through competitions, the numbers will often (but not always) be removed so you can follow along with progress. Sometimes a competition will be delayed, or will be put on pause for another competition then resume again, if there are scheduling conflicts. Typically your competitor number card will have the dances you are competing in listed on the back. It can be helpful to write what competition number corresponds to what dance.

After you have competed, stay in your full costume including shoes or you will not be allowed to take your place on the podium if you win any trophies or awards. Trophy dances are announced on stage, one by one, at a designated time. Results of non-trophy dances are typically posted on paper by competition number throughout the day as results come in. Only dancers who have placed in their competition will be listed on the results board. If they are, congratulations! Take note of what competition number they placed in and you can generally collect medals somewhere nearby. Stop by the registration after the feis to request a printout of your dancer’s complete results to find out where they placed in each competition, their scores, and sometimes notes from judges.

Feis Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO stick around for trophy presentations your dancer didn’t compete in to cheer on your school and the other competitors.
  • DON’T approach judges or sit in seating reserved for teachers.
  • DO be a good sport, win or lose.
  • DON’T photograph or film dancers as they compete. The only exception is for the First Feis categories. After that, no recording is permitted.
  • DO keep noise to a minimum in order to avoid distracting dancers and musicians on stage, or talking over any important announcements.
  • DO bring lots of healthy snacks for the day. There will generally be food for purchase, but the only way to guarantee it’s something you like or feel good about eating is to bring it from home.
  • DON’T eat in your costume!
  • DO get there early, give yourself time to get ready, get acquainted with the competition space, find out where/when your dancer will be on stage, and get some last minute practicing in.