We thought it would be fun to recall all the
things we went through in years past.
There were no rosters on the feis website.
Actually, there were no feis websites! We didn't know what was going
on until we got there!
There were no stage assignments on
the feis website. You got them when you picked up your number at the feis
in the midst of chaos. Oh yeah, there were no websites.
The Chicago Feis was so cold, the judges
and musicians were wrapped in blankets.
The Chicago Feis was so hot, you
couldn’t get your jeans on and off when you had to go to the portapotties
because they were stuck to your sweaty body.
The Cincinnati Feis was held at the “snake
pit”. (That was JO’s name for it.) It always seemed like it
was 150 degrees out. There was no shade. The stages were placed
around a cinder track and you, invariable, were supposed to be dancing
on two stages across the track at the same time in different shoes.
The Cincinnati Feis was our favorite feis in spite of the location because
the volunteers that worked it were definitely there for the competitors.
One year, our dancers were supposed to be on two stages at once.
When they finished the first dance, they started to run around the track
to the other side. The stage monitor ran to them to tell them to walk and
take their time. When the dancers got to the stage, the stage monitor
got chairs for the dancers to sit and change their shoes. The stage
monitor then told the dancers to let her know when they were ready and
the competition would start then. We will always remember how wonderful
the volunteers were at the “snake pit”.
You could find JO at any feis because
he had the infamous yellow feis hat. He was busy entertaining the
nondance siblings. The parents could find him because of his hat.
The dancers had to learn all the dancers
for the Oireachtas. When the dancers checked in, the stage monitor
would draw the soft shoe to dance and the hard shoe to dance. You
knew who was happy and who was not by the cheers and groans in the room.
Every dancer had to be ready to dance reel, slip jig, hornpipe, treble
jig, as well as a set. The older dancers had to learn two sets.
The Dayton Feis was held in the school
that only had one air conditioned room and the open solo dancers were the
lucky ones to dance in that room. The wrestling room was very hot
and it smelled like gas. Every year, the novice dancers thought they
were being asphyxiated.
The Dayton Feis where a dancer ‘filled
in’ for the PC competition (so there was always two dancers at a time)
and she got hurt – we heard she broke her leg. There weren’t a lot
of dancers that wanted to ‘fill in’ after that.
Feisanna gave out the awards at the stage
following the competitions.
The lights went out at one of the stages
at the Milwaukee Feis and the judge did not let the dancers in the dark,
The St. Louis Feis in February had two
stages with one musician and two judges for the entire feis.
You needed your mountain climbing gear
to get to the stages at the Pittsburgh Feis.
The Toronto Nationals when the awards were
still being given out at 2am. Some of those dancers who had done
ceili competitions had to do solos at 8am.
The Akron feis was held at the fair grounds
and you had to go from barn to barn for competitions. When
it was raining the competitors had to get from building to building in
their costumes. You could sit on the floor of woodchips or on a bale
Dancers danced on scalding stages because
the sun had been beating on them for hours. The dancers shifted from
foot to foot to keep from having their feet burn.
The first Wisconsin Winterfeis only had
4 judges to start the day because the airports were fogged in and the other
judges couldn’t get to Milwaukee.
The Cleveland feis had the vendors
and the portapotties outside. It, of course, rained there, too.
The bathroom inside invariably was clogged so the dancers had to go outside
in the rain.
Spending hours setting hair and more hours
taking the curls out in the morning. Listening to girls crying because
their moms were ripping their hair out and pulling their hair. (Lucky
we knew how to do it right).
Summer feisanna were held outside and we
all survived without air conditioning.
Summer feisanna were held inside and we
all survived without air conditioning.
There was no email or online registration.
You sent in your registration and showed up at a feis and hoped that you
were in the feis. There was a feis that people drove 6 hours and
other people flew there and were told they were not in the feis.
The monsoons hit the Maryville feis.
The older PC and Championship dancers competed in their spankies &
tshirts because everything was full of mud.
Before the Irish Point system, the scores
would be announced judge by judge with the 12-5-2 system, and was usually
written it out on a board for all to see. There would be only 3-5
awards (about 20% placement) and for everyone else, it was a treat to get
"a point on the board".
The Pittsburgh feis where there was
a swimming pool outside but we weren't allowed in it. It was over
100 degrees and all we could do was stare at that pool on the hill (Isn't
that a Beatles song?).
Remember when it was okay for Mom
to make the solo dress?
Remember when we use to dance on
concrete floors at class but not have a personal physiotherapist?
When having shin splints meant we weren't working hard enough?
Someone must remember when the Cleveland
Feis ran so late that the committee pulled up their cars and turned on
the headlights to light up the stages--it was before my time but a story
I always hear about.
Remember when the Detroit Feis was in the
Seminary grounds and it went on until after dark and some of the Championships
were danced under the stars, with Headlights of cars as the stage lighting.
Remember when some Dance Drama's, as they
are now called, had live animals as part of the cast.
Remember when the best part of going to
a feis was the trip and the family fun! (Gone feis'n) (Bus trips
with our dancing school).
It was not about winning #'s
of 1st places in order to go to the Oireachtas. Your dancing teacher
decided when you were ready and back then they didn't send you until you
were ready. You went to a feis to go to a feis not ever thinking
of what region you were dancing in.
My mom would hand me and my sister our
numbers and it was our responsibility to be at the stage when the competition
was up. I could always look out from the stage and see my mom out
there smiling at me. I used to think that you won medals if you smiled
at the judge and pointed your toes. (that's what mom told me).
You were considered lucky when you came home with medals.
A feis day always ended with the Choreographies
(usually around 9:00 p.m.). Only boys danced the treble reel.
Figures were important and danced at all feisianna.
A feis was a social gathering for our parents
(a lot of our parents were born in Ireland).
Mom only curled your hair when you
were little. As teenagers we wore our hair with headbands (only one)
and styled it the way we would in everyday life (yes even in Championship
We earned our solo dresses and wore class
costumes until we danced in open solo. Mom would bring home embroidery
patterns and material swatches and we designed our dresses and got to pick
out the colors.
Remember when our moms would just pass
down class costumes and not sell them. My mom just passed away a
couple of years ago and when one of my former dancing friend's mother gave
me one of my old class costumes that my mother made and embroidered it
meant the world to me to have it again. Do solo costumes mean that
much now? I try to make dancing "real" or "reel" for my 12 year old
daughter. I try to be like my mom and tell her to do her best!
I wish my mom was here to see her fly! She would be proud.
Remember when the moms would be sitting
at dance class hand embroidering the solo costumes for their daughters.
A lot was accomplished by the moms while the daughters were doing classes.
Remember when we had fun at each feis we
went to and didn’t spend our time complaining about the judges, the musicians,
the venue, the temperature, the food, the medals, the parking, and anything
else people can whine and complain about. Remember when we appreciated
all the feis committee did and didn’t write nasty things about the feis
and their committee members on the message boards.
The dancers didn't "have to" curl their
hair, and just wore it however it suited them best.
There were no fiberglass tips, and
the hard shoes had layers of leather with little nails pounded in them.
Sometimes you had to buy the shoes BEFORE they were nailed, and if you
had not had time to have them nailed, you danced in them with just the
leather on the bottom. And you could still win!
You had to set your own music for your
set, from the center of the stage, waving at the musician to signal a little
faster or a little slower. No specific metronome tempos to make it
easy. If you set it too fast or too slow and started dancing, you
danced to it, all the way through, and made the best of it. If you
were lucky, you did a lot of feisanna, and the musicians who played championships
and preliminaries (the only places you EVER got to do sets except for the
Oireachtas) got to know your speed pretty well. If you were unlucky,
and your nerves got the best of you, you spent a lot of time dancing to
music that was way too fast or way too slow. But that is the way
EVERYONE danced one at a time.
I remember camping at the Youngstown feis.
You were allowed to actually bring a tent and camp right on the grounds.
With one car, the whole family had to go to every feis and with 6 kids
and parents from Ireland, we never stayed in a hotel. You could see the
feis from the Ohio turnpike. There was a swimming pool that was really
just a mud hole but we thought it was great.
I remember going to a feis in Hamilton,
Ontario that was held at a football stadium. It was cold and rainy so the
feis moved to the area underneath the stands. My parents had brought a
Coleman stove because we were camping somewhere. They set up the Coleman
stove and made tea for whoever wondered by.
I remember when most feis's had a beer
tent. My dad was from Kerry but not too interested in the dancing. He went
to the feis's to meet up with his friends from home. Most feis's also had
activities for the non-dancing sibs to do and if there was any Irish football
being played, that's where you could find my dad and brothers.
Here's how I got my hard shoes. My mom
traced my foot on a piece of paper and sent it to my grandmother who lived
on a little farm in the west of Kerry. I cannot imagine how my grandmother
did it but somehow she procured a pair of shoes that were relatively close
to my size. There was, of course, no returning them and you just learned
to live with blisters. Then, I had to take the shoes to our local shoemaker
who was from Italy and try to explain to him that I wanted him to put layers
of leather on the toes. No fibreglass then. I don't think I EVER had a
pair of hard shoes that really fit right.
When I was buying my daughters hard shoes,
I fell hard for the ones that guarenteed they were blister proof. And you
know, she has worn them for almost 2 years and has never had a blister.
Remember when it only cost $4.00 to enter
each solo dance?
Your Oireachtas number was held up
next to you as you stood on stage for your intro. The moms had worked
way too hard to have pins go through those velvet dresses.
Dancers didn't wear "poodle socks",
they wore matching colored bobby socks to their dress, then knee highs
to match became popular. There were no ghilles, only regular black
ballet shoes with the single strap!
If you would like to submit a "remember
when" email us now!