Irish dancers preparing to dance at a feis.

What to Expect at your First Feis

Checklist of what to bring:

  • Class costume and/or solo dress
  • Poodle socks/tights
  • Sock glue
  • Both pairs of shoes: ghillies (soft shoes) and hard shoes
  • Wig(s)
  • Hair bands
  • Hair spray
  • Bobby pins
  • Safety pins
  • Makeup
  • Snacks (you don’t want to bring anything that will make a mess on the dance outfit)
  • Water bottle
  • Change of clothes
  • Pen or highlighter to mark your dances on the stage schedule
  • Cash/credit card (for vendor purchases)

Prior to the Feis

You will register for most feiseanna on Feisworx, Feisweb, or EFeis. You will need to create an account on each of these sites in order to register. When registering, be sure to sign up for email alerts so you will be notified when feiseanna become available for registration. Many feis fill up quickly so registering early is important. Register your dancer by the feis cutoff date. Check the feis registration website and/or the feis website for the stage schedule, which is usually released a few days prior to the feis. It is helpful to print a copy of the schedule, highlight your competitions, and bring the schedule with you to the feis. You can find your competition numbers by checking your registration information on the feis registration website. Please be aware that the schedule is subject to change so keep a close eye on your stages. Make sure to pack everything the night before as feis mornings can be stressful!

What you can expect to see when registering for a feis online.

What to Expect at the Feis

Expect Crowds! Try to arrive at least 45 minutes prior to the feis start time. Many feiseanna offer the option of printing out your competition number card ahead of time through the feis registration website. Try to take advantage of this option as the line can be long to pick them up at the feis, especially first thing in the morning.

The competition number card is to be worn with the number facing outwards toward the judges. Attach the competition number using safety pins, ribbon, or insert it into a plastic number card, which is usually sold by vendors at each feis. Information regarding which dances you are registered for is printed on the back of the card. If picking up the dance card at the feis, you will often receive a duplicate. This is for convenience, in case you lose one, and is a helpful guide for the parents to make sure  your dancer is getting to their stages on time.

Schedules vary by feis. Many feiseanna start with figures, but some start with solos. Some feis will keep your dancer on the same stage for all their dances, but you should be prepared to do quite a bit of rotating between stages to keep your eye on the competition order if your dancer is dancing on different stages.

At each stage, there will be a stand or table identifying the stage number. There will be a sign identifying which competition is going on now and which one is next. The sign may look something like this:

The schedule you can expect to see at a feis.

Note: The dance competition numbers are NOT the same as a competitor number. They are not to be confused with each other. Each dancer has their own competitor number which the judges use to identity the dancer when scoring. A dancer will get a new competitor number and card at each feis they go to. A feis will usually start with reels and then go to light jigs and other soft shoe dances. Once the soft shoe competitions are complete, they will go on to hard shoes.

When you see your competition number under check-in, it is time to go check in with the stage manager. You will need to show them your number card, and then go sit down side stage to wait for your competition. When you see your competition under next, you should be sitting down side stage. When you see your competition number under now, the dancers from your competition are on stage competing.

If you are waiting for a competition on one stage and your next competition number comes under check-in on another stage, don’t panic. A parent or fellow dancer may go to the stage manager and explain the situation. This happens all the time and they will do their best to hold the stage for you.

How to Know When Your Child is Going to Dance

Compare the dance number on your child’s card to the schedule and what is on the board at the stage. Sometimes they move slowly through the competitions and sometimes they move very quickly. It depends on the number of competitors in each competition among other factors. It can even vary by stage at the same feis. It is very important that you monitor the progress of all the stages your dancer is due to dance on.

When it’s Your Turn to Compete

  • Check in at your stage when competition number is up on the board. The stage manager will check the dancer in, she/he will line the dancers up, will tell them when it is time to walk in a line onto the stage, they commonly will help the younger and/or beginner dancers get started when it is their turn to dance.
  • Try to look as secure as possible walking onto the stage!
  • Walk onto the stage with your feet crossed, and shoulders back. This makes you look more confident and makes the judge think you know what you’re doing.
  • Stand in line with your feet crossed and shoulders back. Look like the champion you are.
  • DON’T TALK IN LINE! DON’T WAVE TO ANYONE!
  • Dance your heart out!
  • Don’t look at the dancers next to you. He/she will not be doing the same steps so this could distract you and keep you from doing your best!
  • Eye contact with the judge is important especially toward the end of your steps.
  • When you are finished with your steps, point your right toe in front of you and bow to the Judge (making eye contact) and then to the musician.
  • After your nice bow, give a great big SMILE and walk back into line with your feet crossed.

Feis Tips

  • Be early. It gives the dancer a chance to stretch, warm-up, and a chance to practice. It gives you time to see the vendors if you need anything. It will also give you the opportunity to deal with any last minute issues. Many competitions say that the dancer should be there and ready to compete 1 hour ahead of their scheduled competition.
  • If the dancer forgets their steps they should continue. If they fall and aren’t injured, they can get up and complete the dance as best they can. If they are slightly injured and don’t think they should continue dancing at that time, just stop. This may let the judges know something is wrong and they may let you re-dance if possible. If dancer believes they are injured and don’t think they should try to get up, they need to stay put until help comes.
  • DOUBLE KNOT those shoes. You don’t want laces coming untied in the middle of a dance. It’s not safe.
  • If something falls off, keep dancing and retrieve it immediately after completing the dance and bowing to the adjudicator.
  • There will be vendors at the feis. That is a good time to buy items if you need them.
  • There will be plenty of parents and dancers from the studio there who have been to a feis before. Don’t hesitate to approach them if you need help with anything.
  • NO Photography/Video recording of any kind inside of the ballrooms where the dancing is taking place except for beginner dancers. If you are approached, your dancer may get disqualified.
  • Have FUN! All of us have been in your position and know it can be confusing. We want this to be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dancer, so please don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Things the Adjudicators Look For

  • Pointed toes
  • Turned out feet
  • Timing
  • Arms straight at the side with a light fist
  • Upper body not moving/twisting/etc.
  • It doesn’t hurt when the dancer smiles