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A Feis is an Irish Dancing competition, pronounced FESH. The plural of Feis is Feisanna. There are local feisanna through out the year on a weekly basis, and a full listing can be found at the link listed above.
No. Nobody is required to compete in feisanna at Pender-Keady, but we do like to encourage kids to “test the waters” so to speak at our own school feis in January. As a beginner in the PKA feis, dancers all receive a placement in their Light Jig and we tend to focus more on the accomplishment of getting out on a stage and dancing in front of a crown rather than the competitive aspect of it. Everyone can individually choose for themselves how involved in competing they wish to get.
It is up to the individual parent to enter their child in a local feis. The best way to go about it is to look though the feis listing on the website listed above, pick out the one’s you would like to attend, and follow their individual instructions on entering. All Feisanna have a cut off date for entries, so you need to check out this date and enter before the cut off to avoid the subsequent late fees. If your child will be competing in the Oireachtas (see the Oireachtas button for information on what this is) then you do not need to take care of their entry yourself, we take care of them for the whole school.
If your child is a beginner at PKA, we have a very simple feis uniform, which also doubles as their recital costume. It consists of a black jumper which is embroidered with PKA and our swirl logo, a white blouse, poodle socks (Irish Dancing socks), and the standard pink bow that girls wear in their hair. This outfit can be ordered online through the website, just click on the PKA wear button on the home page and it will bring you to the order form.
Children can continue to wear this simple feis uniform for as long as you choose and they are really never required to purchase a costume unless you decide to get involved at a higher level. If you decide you would like to get a costume for your child, you start off by getting a PKA school costume. If your child is “Feis Age” Under 10 or younger, you should get them the “baby pink dress”. If your child is “Feis Age” Under 11 then you should get them the full pink school costume. Dancers competing in the beginner and advanced beginner level at feisanna can only wear a school costume and are not permitted to wear a solo dress.
Determining what level to enter you child in at a feis can be a confusing thing because their competitive, feis level may not coincide with their PKA class level.
At PKA, your child’s class level normally changes from one year to the next year as they progress with their learning. In a feis, they need to “earn” their way out of one level and into the next level.
For example, a dancer who has been taking class at PKA for 4 years is probably taking a class level called Prizewinner 1. However, if that same child only attends 1 feis a year, they could very well still be competing at the Advanced Beginner level in feisanna. On the flip side, a child who has been dancing at PKA for 3 years would normally be in the class level called Novice. However if they compete on a regular basis and have won 1st prize in some of their Novice level feis dances, they may move on to the Prizewinner level at a feis while still taking the Novice class level at PKA.
This Class Level vs. Feis Level subject can be very confusing for parents and is solely based on the individual child. If you are unsure what to enter, it is always best to ask your teacher. If you click on the STAFF button on the top of the home page of our website, you will see individual email addresses for our staff and can directly contact your child’s teacher, or contact Kathleen Keady as well, to make sure you are entering the right category.
Your child’s “feis age” is another confusing topic in Irish Dancing. “Feis Age” is determined based on what age your child was on January 1st of whatever year we are currently in. For example, if your child was 6 years old on January 1st of this year, then their feis age is called “Under 7”. Their feis age will remain “under 7” for the entire calendar year until January 1st of the following year comes around. So even if that child turns 7 on January 8th for example, they will still enter into the “under 7” age category in feisanna for the remainder of the calendar year, regardless of the fact that they may already be 7.
At PKA, beginner’s start off by learning the Light Jig, so at their first feis, which is usually the PKA feis in January, they would do only the light jig competition, in their corresponding age category. As beginner year progresses, they also learn the Reel, but if you are going to another feis during the year as a beginner after the PKA feis you should ask your teacher if they have learned their full reel yet.
In Advanced Beginner class year at PKA dancers stay fluent in the light jig, learn more of the reel, and learn the slip jig. By the time the PKA feis comes around if your child is in Advanced Beginner class, the goal is that they will be able to do the Light Jig and the Reel in the feis. Normally, students do not yet know all the steps they need to learn to do the Slip Jig in the PKA feis when they are Advanced Beginners, but there are always exceptions so you can always check! Dancers in AB class level start learning their hard shoe immediately following the PKA feis in January, but will most likely not be ready to compete in hard shoe until the following year as it takes time to learn and perfect.
In the Novice class level, children continue to perfect light jigs and slip jigs, they learn more reel steps, they work on getting their hard shoe jig down pat, they learn their hornpipe which is also a hard shoe dance and by the third trimester usually start learning the traditional set dance St. Patrick’s day. The goal by the time the PKA feis rolls around in January of their Novice year is that they will be ready to compete in the Light Jig, Reel, Slip Jig, and hard shoe jig. They may have started the hornpipe already at this point but usually are not ready to compete in it by January (again there are always exceptions so if you aren’t sure, check with your teacher).
In the Prizewinner 1 class level, children now are ready to compete in the light jig, reel, slip jig, treble jig (also called heavy jig), hornpipe and possibly St, Patrick’s day which is a dance that falls under the category called “Traditional Set”. Some feisanna offer a Traditional Set competition and some do not, you just need to read the feis syllabus to find out.
When in doubt, ask your teacher and they will be able to guide you!
This is always a confusing part of “feising” when your child starts to move up through the levels.
Both the treble jig and the hornpipe can be danced at a choice of 2 different speeds. This only happens once your child is competing in the NOVICE or PRIZEWINNER level in a feis, if your child is in beginner or advanced beginner, you do not need to worry about this because they are not given a choice, they dance their treble jig and hornpipe at the fast, or “traditional” speed automatically.
Once your child starts to compete in Novice or Prizewinner, they will be asked side stage when lining up for their hard shoe at a feis if they are doing either the Fast or the Slow, or sometimes these can also be referred to as Traditional (fast) or Oireachtas (slow) speed. You will notice on the feis syllabus that there are numbers listed next to the names of these hard shoe dances. These numbers represent speeds on a metronome that the musician will be using as their guide. You don’t need to be too concerned with these numbers as long as your child knows which to ask for, “fast/traditional speed” or “Slow/oireachtas speed”
Throughout the Novice class level year at PKA kids work on learning their Fast treble jig and their Fast hornpipe. It is only once a dancer has mastered these dances that we move on to teaching them the slower versions of these dances. Logically it doesn’t seem to make sense that they would learn the fast dance before the slow dance because in our minds we equate “fast” with being more difficult than “slow” but in Irish Dancing this is not the case. The terms “fast” and “slow” are simply referring to the speed of the music that is being played for the dance, and has nothing to do with the level of difficulty. The slow dances are actually harder.