Irish Dance In Heaven

Two aging Irish dancers, Marcie and Fiona, had been best of friends since the age of six.

Years later Marcie became deathly ill and both knew her time was coming soon.

They were constant companions throughout life and Fiona made it a point to visit Marcie everyday in the hospital.

It was on one of these visits that Fiona said, “Marcie, I have always cherished my memories of Irish Dance, the Feis, the shows, the Oireachtas… it was everything to me as much as it was to you. So I have one request: when you get to heaven, if there is any way you can let me know, could you tell me if there’s Irish dance there? It would mean my life to me.”

Marcie reached out her trembling hand from her deathbed and responded, “Fiona, you are my soul mate, if there is any way I could do this favor for you, you know I will.”

A few days later Marcie passed away.

The days passed by and Fiona heard nothing from Marcie.

About a month later, Fiona was wakened from her sleep by a bright light in her room and the sound of someone calling her name, “Fiona, Fiona!”

“Who… who’s there”, asked Fiona bolting upright and covering her eyes from the glaring light at the foot of her bed.

“Don’t you recognize your best friend’s voice, it’s me… Marcie!”

“Ma… Marcie? But Marcie is dead!”

“That I am,” the voice replied, “And I’m in heaven to boot!”

“Heaven?” Fiona replied squinting.

“Heaven indeed!” said Marcie adding, “And I’ve got some good news and bad news.”

“What’s the good news,” asked Fiona.

“The good news is that they have Irish dance in heaven and all of our old friends who passed away before me are here too! And I’m young again, we’re all young again! I’m sixteen and back Irish dancing like I never left off. I can dance for hours without getting tired or sore and there’s a Feis here every weekend. I’m over the moon!”

“That’s… that’s incredible,” stammered Fiona adding, “It’s more than I can dream! But tell me, what’s the bad news?”

Marcie responded, “You’re competing with me in two-hand on Saturday!”

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Glossary of Irish Dance Terms

A  basic primer of unique words and terms related to the art and science of “Feising”.

Association Rule: A CLRG rule that stipulates that any person, whether registered with An Coimisiún or not, who gives a workshop in any form to a class should be regarded as being associated with that class and any other dancing school in which they have an involvement, whether directly or indirectly. All classes associated with such a person should be regarded as being connected by association. This rule does not apply to shows to include cabarets, cultural events tours and folk festivals and full time College and University students. (Hope that clears things up).

Bloomers: also known as Kick Pants or Spankies. The  one item of clothing your daughter neglects to put back on in a last minute rush to dress for the awards ceremony (especially when she places and has to climb up a podium).

Duct Tape: The very essence of Irish Dance. Typically used to improve adhesion of dancer’s footgear on slippery stages. Also effective in quieting recalcitrant siblings at a Feis.

False Tan: A solution applied to exposed parts of female dancers to improve definition of muscular tone and appearance, especially of the legs. Also effective for permanently staining poodle socks and solo dress linings .

Feis: An Irish Dance Competition. (Note: “Fesh” is an acceptable alternative spelling in the Southern Region)

Feis Bucket:  The ultimate gadget in Feis-gear-hauling and Irish-dancer-butt sitting. An empty five-gallon container typically used in either the construction or restaurant business to hold drywall joint compound or bulk guacamole (available free from your local construction site trash pile or Tex-Mex restaurant dumpsters).  Available from Feis vendors for fifty dollars.

Feis Camp:  A semi permanent, structured area that serves as a  family “base of operations” at a Feis usually defined by a circle of chairs and/or blanket in which Feis related materials are stored for easy access and retrieval throughout the day. Location is the key and areas with quick access to the competition, food-concessions, and restrooms but in a nice upscale neighborhood with good schools are preferred.

Feis Pile:  A Feis camp thirty minutes after the first competition of the day.

Four Inches: A unit of measurement above the knee previously used by dressmakers to conform to skirt length requirements of dance dresses. Typically varied between four to twelve inches.

Growth Spurt: A rapid increase in the rate of growth during adolescence that occurs immediately after mailing out final payment for a new solo dress.

Irish Points: Scoring system used in championship competitions. Nobody knows exactly how it works and dancers generally accept the results without “quibbling” (the ultimate act of faith for Irish Dancers).

MAID: Mother Addicted to Irish Dance – A woman who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society renouncing all worldly pursuits in order to devote her life to contemplation of her daughter’s next solo dress.

MAR: Mid America Region (see MAR)

MAR: Mid Atlantic Region (see MAR)

Mass: Religious ceremony often held the morning of a Feis in which Feis Moms pray for divine intervention for their daughter in Hornpipe.

Mass: (Alternative use in the Southern Region) “Do these bloomers make mass look big?”

Oireachtas: A large regional Irish Dance Competition which occurs the weekend before the arrival of your daughter’s new solo dress.

Oireachtas: (Alternative use in the MAR and MAR)  Where you spend Thanksgiving.

Oireachtasm:  Medical term used to describe the sensation felt by those overwhelmed by the whole Oireachtas experience.

Podium

Podium: (< Latin: elevated place, balcony < Greek “pódion”: little foot) One small step for a man, one giant shrieking, sobbing, grinning, crying, happy leap for an Irish Dancer.

Second First: Because the “First First” just wasn’t good enough.

Sock Glue: Definitive proof of the absurdity of Irish Dance. A type of roll-on glue used to affix garments on a dancer. The use of sock glue became very popular in the late 1990’s following the ban on surgical fasteners and staple guns.

Solo Dress: A particularly ornate dance outfit worn by girls competing in upper competition levels. Purchasing a solo dress should not be attempted until you are at least a 3rd degree Feis Mom as the process requires advanced knowledge of financing, fabric care, international monetary rates, dressmaker negotiating skills, international customs law, airline carry-on baggage limitations, and odor removal techniques.

Spike Curls: “Wig in a bag” kit for do-it-yourselfers typically applied in a ratio of 25 spike curls per glass of wine.

Stage Presents:  An important aspect of the “Irish points” system as higher scores are given by adjudicators based on the dancer’s stage presents. Dark chocolate for female judges and simple, assertive ties for male judges are considered appropriate presents.

TCRG:  Irish dance teacher. PronouncedTeagascóir Choimisiúin le Rinci Gaelacha” (Even they can’t pronounce it).

Toes Tans:  Prohibited in competitions for dancers U-12 and under. Exceptions are made after September 1, of each calendar year for 11 year old dancers in U-12 competitions as it is typically the beginning of a new class year in most Irish dance schools.  This allows the U-12 dancers to practice their toes tans for the following Feis year.

Whilst In Motion: A designated competition period created by An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha during which parents may take illegal photographs of their children.

Wristband Nazi

 Wrist Band: A paper strip identifying those individuals that have paid the appropriate Feis-entry Fee as opposed to those that enter through the back door.

Wrist Band Nazi: An overzealous wrist band checker at Feis.

Note: This glossary is a “work in progress” with frequent additions anticipated, so check back periodically.

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The Road to Oireachtas – The Game

Board

Finally, the Irish Dance board game everyone can play! (And you don’t have to know a slip jig from a hornpipe).

Now you can compete against all comers on equal footing in a mad dash to be the first to make it to the Oireachtas!

Setting up the Game:

1. Set up the game board on a rudimentarly flat surface such as a table, the floor or, if at a Feis, on top of a wadded down Feis pile.

2. Place the red, “Ouch” cards and the “Oh Oh, What Did I do Now” cards on their corresponding squares on the game board.

3. Find one half of a pair of dice, commonly referred to as a “die”, which can be commonly found in your household junk drawer or, if you have a cat, under the living room couch. As a last resort you can raid other popular household board games such as Parchesi, Monopoly, or Yahtzee. Just remember to return the die where you found it, especially if stored under the couch by your cat.

Rules of the Game:

1. Each player throws a die to determine their playing sequence. Highest number goes first and so on. There are no Irish Points here, it you tie with someone, throw that die again

2. Each dancer throws the die in sequence and advances the number of spaces indicated on their die. Players continue advancing their pieces until the first player “Ascends the Oireachtas Podium” and is declared the winner of the race to the Oireachtas.

3. It sounds easy, but watch out when you land on a Green square with a question mark “?”, a Red square with “Ouch” or a square with “Big-T” on it. These squares are the speed bumps, road blocks and detours on the way to your goal.

4. If you land on a Green Square, you must select the top card from the Green stack of cards labeled, “Oh Oh, what did I do now?” Landing on a Green Square equates to committing an “Irish Dancer Faux Pas”, with a corresponding outcome or penalty. The player must follow the instructions written on the Green Card as their punishment for their error in judgment or Feis Etiquette. For example:

Oh-OhA sampling of some of the “Oh Oh, What Did I do now?” cards include:

– Wig falls off “whilst” in motion – Go back one space

– Feis dad gets into a minor altercation in parking lot after fender bender with, Oh my God!, your adjudicator! – Go back four spaces

– Oversleeps on Feis day and arrives just in time to watch the award ceremony for your competition – Go back two spaces.

– Adjudicator notices your TCRG giving you hand signals – Go back three spaces

– You spill Coca Cola on your major opponent’s Solo Dress and didn’t make it look enough like an accident – Go back five spaces

– You left your ghillies on the living room floor and your dog chewed them up – Go back two spaces

5. In addition to the Green Squares, try to avoid the Red “Ouch” squares as these represent typical injuries that plaque Irish dancers from time to time. Each player landing on a Red square must follow the instructions written on the Red “How bad Does it Hurt” card to determine the severity of their injury and recovery time. For example:

OuchA sampling of some of the “How Bad Does it Hurt?” cards include:

– Twisted ankle in Cheerleading – Go back five spaces

– Injured toe while trying to kick the dog after it ate your ghillies – Go back three spaces

– Slips on stupid &#@*%@ linoleum stage! – Go back two spaces

– Ignores mother’s warning about eating too much junk food and ends up doing two hand reel with a toilet – Go back two spaces

– Injury was “Only a Feis Wound” and not serious – No penalty.

6. In the event that the penalty imposed by a Red or Green card lands you one another Red or Green square, the penalty for that square, in this circumstance, does not apply. Life is rough enough for an Irish Dancer without having to undergo a “double or triple whammy”.

Finally, avoid the spaces labeled with “Big-T”

Big_T

The Big-T is the ultimate Oireachtas roadblock. You are transferring schools! We don’t care why it happened nor how much whining you do, you have to face the music and the “restyling period”. Follow the arrow to the indicated space and just “deal with it”.

“Oireachtas – The Game” Coming to a Feis vendor near you soon!

Posted in Oireachtas | 2 Comments

Bob the Feis Mom

So there’s Bob again, day before the Feis, manly tool grasped firmly in his hand, hanging out with the boys and building stages for the big event.

His heart suddenly begins to quiver and he clutches his chest in terror. “This is it!” he stutters, a visible panic setting in. “This is how it all ends boys, this is…this is…is…uh, my cell phone vibrating?”

“Yes dear? Yes, unh hunh, yes, aw so sorry to hear that! Of course I will! Ok, Monday, maybe Tuesday? Fine! I’ll take care of everything here.”

“Who was that?” his friend Brian asks as Bob puts the phone away.

“Oh, that was Marcie. She’s been called out of town on a family emergency, nothing serious, she’ll be back Tuesday.”

“Who’s taking Bridget to the Feis?”

“Bridget?”

“Your daughter, are you taking her to the Feis?”

Bob’s heart suddenly begins to quiver and he clutches his chest in terror, a visible panic setting in…

Meanwhile, back at the homestead:

“Hey Fiona, it’s Marcie, listen I need a big favor. I’m going up to my folk’s house like we talked about to watch over things for a few days while mom is in the hospital.”

“No, nothing serious, but I was wondering if you can keep an eye on Bridget at the Feis. I mean, God I love that man, but you know how Bob is…”

“Thanks Fiona, I knew I could count on you.”

We join Bob again, now surrounded by stage wranglers:

“Looks like this Feis suddenly got a little more entertaining folks,” Brian announced to the gathering stage crew, “Bob’s gonna be a Feis Mom!”

“Just like Driscoll!” another chimed in.

“Druh… Driscoll?” Bob asked.

“Couple three years back,” Brian rejoined, “Before your time, same situation though. Wife got called out of town the weekend of the Feis, Driscoll had to pitch in. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine! Just lace her ghillies tight, remind her to do a bloomer check, and bring plenty of duct tape!”

“Duct tape? What’s the duct tape for?”

“Duct tape is the chicken soup of an Irish dancer’s soul Bob!”

“You don’t know either.”

“No, but I’m not the Feis mom then.”

On the same stage eighteen hours later, an even larger crowd gathers:

“Ok, folks! Come on! Move back a bit and give the girl some air!” the Emergency Medical Technician gestured with his arms as he forced the swarm of onlookers away.

“My feet! I can’t feel my feet!” Bridget whimpered somewhere from the middle of the throng.

“Well there’s the problem, her shoes are laced too tight!”

“Ghillies,” Bob meekly responded.

“Say again?”

“I think they’re called ghillies.”

“Ghillies, dance shoes, whatever, we’re gonna have to cut them off at the ankle. Frank! Get the Jaws of Life!

“NOOOOOOO!” Bridget moaned in terror.

“Just kidding sweetheart. Frank! Hand me the bandage scissors there.”

“Haven’t we seen that knot before? Couple of years back?” Frank mused as he passed the scissors.

“We have indeed! It’s called a Double-Driscoll.”

Bob slowly tried to edge back into the anonymity of the crowd only to be confronted by Fiona threading her way through the flock of onlookers.

“Laced her ghillies a little tight hmmm, Bob?”

“Well I uh, Brian, uh I mean Marcie always said,” Bob began to sputter.

“No harm done. Now then, how’d you do in the slip jig, Bridget?” Marcie asked in a comforting manner, a new pair of laces in her hand.

“Great! I had good arch and point!”

“No doubt with that lacing technique! How’s the wig feel?

“It feels tight, but I don’t know, different kind of.”

“Like it’s upside down? Come here child let’s get it twisted back around straight, maybe the judge didn’t notice.”

“Now that I think of it, Marcie did say the tag went on the back,” Bob recollected in a brief moment of lucidity as Fiona put the finishing touches on Bridget’s poof.

“There you go then, now off both of you, she still has four more dances. And Bob…”

“Yes Fiona?”

“Hand over the duct tape.”

“But…”

“No buts Bob. Duct tape in the wrong hands is, well… you’ll just have to let your imagination roam on that one…”

A short while later, a duct-tape-free Bob had gradually recovered from his initial embarrassment and was watching with no small amount of pride as Bridget “pointed her toe” to begin her next competition.

“Maybe this Feis mom stuff wasn’t so bad after all,” he contemplated.

Two days after, Bob sat quietly at the kitchen table as Marcie plopped down her suitcase in the living room.

“So how did everything go at the Feis?”

Without looking up from his paper Bob replied, “Fine, just fine! Why, what have you heard?”

“Are these her results?” Marcie said picking up Bridget’s marks sheet from the counter.

“Wow! Second place in slip jig! That’s quite an improvement!”

“And a second in treble jig and hornpipe too!” Bob added with obvious pleasure.

“Hmmm… What’s this one slip jig comment, ‘Wig LOL’?”

“I uh, well…BRIDGET! Come on up here, Mom’s home!”

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Motivational Poster # 3 – Dance Like There’s Nobody Watching

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Why Don’t the Judges Write Anything on My Stickies?

The late afternoon sun cast an ever-deepening shadow across the gymnasium floor below as the din of the Feis gradually subsided for the solitary figure lumbering up the bleacher steps.  Abandoned by her daughter hours before, she was weighed down like a pack mule by all the standard trappings of a Feis: dress bag on her shoulder, shoe and wig bag clutched in her left hand, and the tell-tale bags of exhaustion under her eyes.

Her right hand grasped a scrap of paper of some significance, her eyes affixed on it struggling to discern some sacred meaning from the cryptic words and numbers written thereon.

“Hi Marcie!”

The familiar voice startled her momentarily but she quickly recovered with a smile for an old friend, “Hey Fiona!”

“What sort of hieroglyphics are we trying to translate here?”

“Huh, oh these? They’re Bridget’s marks.”

“Great! How’d she do?”

With a visibly frustrated sigh she responded, “I don’t know! The judges didn’t write anything on her stickies!”

“Oh that’s a shame then, and Bridget dancing so well,” Fiona consoled.

“It is at that, Fiona,” she mused, adding, “You know everything, just how do you score with the judges?”

“Are you talking in the biblical sense?” quipped Fiona.

“No, you know what I mean,” she added chuckling, “But I must say that Beaton fella is rather fetching. In truth now, why don’t the judges write more than they do on our stickies?”

“Some try,” Fiona reflected.

Fiona was regarded by the other Feis moms as “The Source”. She seemed to have a deeper understanding of the mysteries and wonders of the Feis that most could only accept on faith. Other moms listened in quiet awe when she dispensed the wisdom of “The Rince Code”, as she called it.

“You need to look at the ‘forty-second drill’ from the adjudicator’s perspective.”

“The forty-second drill?

Forty Seconds. That’s about how long a Beginner Reel lasts,” Fiona continued almost hypnotically, “Seconds 1-10, there are three competitors on the stage finishing their dance and, as the adjudicator, you tally their points and try to scribble a quick comment for each while making sure to take one last glance to verify their competitor numbers. Meanwhile, you are in ‘dancer acquisition mode’ trying to figure out which of the new dancers is which on the score sheet (one is wearing a non-glare name tag despite the new rule; you make a mental note to talk to the stage manager). Was that a ‘3’ or a ‘5’? Needless to say this is a distracting time and you’re hoping one of the dancers will do something that will separate herself from the others, even if it’s just smiling. You try to appear attentive.”

Seconds 10-35, the previous dancers have cleared the stage and you try to focus on the next  three  dancers, two of which appear to be dancing identical choreography because they’re from the same school and constantly glancing at each other’s feet.  And, My God, will that one girl stop looking at the ceiling; I’m down here for crying out loud! You relax a bit and take a sip of coffee which has gone cold,” Fiona noticeably grimaced, “You continue to watch the dancers, ‘Solid presentation from dancer 114,’ you think to yourself, dancer 612 is a little off on timing in the second step.’ Dancer 841 (or was that 341) needs to improve her turn out and look down from the overhead lights occasionally. Don’t any dancers smile? There are still 15 more dancers in the group so you give dancer 114 a score of 84, 612 an 81, and dancer 841 a score of 78. You’ll be sorting out placements later, and you put a couple of plus or minus signs down next to each dancer which only you can translate.”

Marcie is mesmerized as Fiona continued with her litany.

Seconds 35-40, and whoosh! Time flies and the next three dancers are already pointing their toes and 114 (they are no longer faces, but numbers now) just danced past her finish step despite the musician’s obvious cue. A quick minus sign and you’ll try to remember to adjust the score in a bit, now which of the two new dancers is which?”

“All of this in forty seconds. With twelve dancers in a set, you go through this same routine four times in a period of just under three minutes. The average adult can only write 25-30 words a minute when fully concentrating on the paper in front of them. A lot less when having to glance up and down to check competitor numbers. And remember, you are watching the same dance over and over and over and over!”

“Nobody knows the treble they’ve seen!” Marcie concluded.

“Given all this, it’s rather amazing that there are only two documented cases of adjudicators standing up, screaming incoherently and poking their eyes out with their pencils!” Fiona concluded her tale with an obviously relished crescendo.

“That would explain the adjudicator with the seeing-eye dog at the last Feis then!” Marcie squealed.

“Indeed it does child, and there you have it.”

“Thanks Fiona! But I have one last question.”

“What’s that Marcie?”

“Bridget’s teacher said she needs better ‘stage presents’, do you know what kind of presents adjudicators like?”

“We’ll think of something before next Feis.”

Posted in Feis Stories, Marcie and Fiona | 2 Comments

Excused Absence From School For The Oireachtas

Oireachtas Sick Note
Dear ZandB
School is back in session (school school, not dance school) and my daughter’s school district is cracking down on “excessive absenteeism” and “unexcused absences”.

The school district does however allow excused absences for “Attendance at special events of educational value as approved by the school attendance officer”.

I talked to the vice principal (who is the school attendance officer) about our Oireachtas travel plans in December and she said all I have to do is submit a letter documenting the educational aspects of the Oireachtas and she’ll approve it.

I can barely spell Oireachtas, let alone put an educational spin on it and can use your help!

Distraught Feis Mom

Dear Distraught Feis Mom,

Most Feis moms have to resort to the bad case of “Acute Viral Oireachtal-Nasopharyngitis” absence note after the fact and hope for the best.

You’re lucky to live in a school district that allows for “educational absences.”

Here is a sample letter I created for a Feis Mom to help her comply with this requirement for the Southern Region Oireachtas being held in December this year..

September 10, 2014
Mr. Pouter Bullard, Principal
Blue River Central High School
1234 Central Street
Carriere, MS 39426

Dear Principal Bollard;
I am writing to inform you that Bridget will be absent from school on Thursday and Friday, December 4 – 5. She will be traveling to attend a regional ethno-cultural, educational event in Florida  that weekend.

The primary purpose of this event is to advance the understanding and appreciation of Irish cultural identity, heritage, and traditions through use of various media. Events of this nature include enrichment-based activities such as, music, costumed dance, and drama competitions. In addition, craftspeople and vendors from throughout the United States will be displaying products, artifacts, and supplies related to these activities.

Bridget will be participating in both individual and team competitions demonstrating her competency and interpretation of certain terpsichorean aspects of Irish folk traditions.

A panel of adjudicators will evaluate these presentations and provide guidance and feedback to our Bridget as regards to her demonstrated expertise and proficiency.

Our aim is that this absence from class does not affect Bridget’s academic performance. Please let me know if she will need to complete any assignments before she leaves. My wife and I will make every effort to ensure that Bridget completes her schoolwork while she’s away.

Please e-mail me at zebadiah_beauregard@yahoo.com with Bridget’s assignments for the dates that she will be absent. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Sincerely,

Zebadiah Beauregard

Zebadiah Beauregard
1040 Forsythia Blvd
Picayune, MS 39466


Hope this helps!

Good luck to you and your daughter at the “Big O”

Posted in Advice for Distraught Feis Moms, Letters and Forms | 2 Comments