Helpful Feis Guidelines
Welcome to the wonderful world of feiseanna! A 'feis' (pronounced 'fesh', Gaelic for festival; plural: feiseanna pronounced 'fesh-ee-ah-na') is a competition for Irish dancing. There are plenty of local feiseanna held throughout the year. Dancing at feiseanna is a lot of fun and a great experience for goal setting, stage presence, and making new friends. However we also know that sometimes they can be a little confusing, especially the first few, and thus potentially slightly overwhelming. We have decided to make these nifty 'Feis Guidelines' to help you all decipher what is necessary, and what isn't.
Firstly, for reference, the feis levels are as follows:
Pre-Beginner (usually 5 and under)
We have broken down the Feis Guidelines into the following helpful categories: What to Wear, Hair, Make-up and Tanner, Socks and Shoes, Moving Up the Levels, Judging and Marks, and What to do Next!
What to Wear
As we are sure you are aware, each school has different school costumes. Some have skirts and blouses, some have dresses and some even have different costumes depending on the level of the dancer. Here at Brennan-Lucey we have our own set of costumes and we have broken it down into the following for you:
In these levels girls should wear the black leotard and the black skirt with the Brennan-Lucey patch or the black velvet handmade skirt with the Brennan-Lucey logos embroidered across the bottom. Girls should consider wearing the cape/cuffs to complete the outfit. Boys should wear a plain black button up shirt with the Brennan-Lucey patch on the chest, tucked into plain black pants, and a pair of cuffs.
In these levels girls should be wearing the black leotard with the handmade velvet skirt with the Brennan-Lucey logo embroidered across the bottom. You should also include the cape for the back and the two cuffs for the sleeves. Boys should wear a plain black button up shirt with the Brennan-Lucey patch on the chest, tucked into plain black pants, and a pair of cuffs.
In this level, while girls continue to wear the school skirt, we will begin the excitement of looking for a solo dress. These are the embroidered, sparkly, one-of-a-kind dresses you will have seen at the various feiseanna you have attended. Solo dresses can be custom made for your dancer, but we recommend finding a pre-loved dress for your first one as they can be on the expensive side. When you get to this stage we will provide you with a list of websites and Facebook groups to search for dresses and you can always look at each feis to see what is for sale. You will need to consult with Stephen and Meghan before purchasing a solo dress so that we can use our experience to help you determine if it is a good deal, of good quality and style, and a nice fit for your dancer. At this level, as the boys continue to wear a plain black button up shirt with the Brennan-Lucey patch on the chest, tucked into plain black pants, we can begin to look into the more decorated vests/waistcoats. These are usually custom made and paired with a tie of a matching color and a button up shirt underneath of any complementary color. We will consult with you at this stage to see what 'look' is best for your dancer!
Preliminary Championships/Open Championships
In these levels girls will wear a solo dress and boys a waistcoat/vest. As per feis rules, school costumes are not permitted on any dancer in this level. However, should you be between dresses, the black leotard and a plain black skirt (no Brennan-Lucey logos) is allowed.
Even when your dancer graduates to a solo dress, they will be in need of their school costume as we will continue to wear them at performances throughout the year. Also, should your dancer compete in a team competition, they will be required to wear their school costume as solo dresses are prohibited in team events as per feis rules.
Hair, Make Up and Tanner
We like to keep it more natural and simple here at the Brennan-Lucey Academy! This is why we have Pre-Beginner through Novice levels wear pony tails (or half up, half down) to compete and perform. Your dancer should wear the teal Brennan-Lucey bow clipped in just above the top of their pony tail. Girls may also consider one of the bun wigs once you reach the Advanced Beginner/Novice levels. They are $35 and can be found online and at a feis. Boys should have hair neatly combed and hair-sprayed/gelled to keep out of their face.
Wigs will be required once you purchase a solo dress in the Prizewinner level. Natural hair doesn't compliment the elaborate solo dresses and wigs are very helpful in that your dancers hair will look perfect every time they put it on! Just like solo dresses, please consult with Stephen and Meghan before you purchase a wig. These are an investment and there are a lot of varieties to choose from. We like to consult with you and your dancer to create the best 'look' for them! Some dancers look best in a full wig, some look great in a bun wig; each dancer is different and it can be fun to create your individual look!
As we mentioned before, the Brennan-Lucey Academy 'look' is on the more natural side and we like to show off all of our dancers natural beauty! There is no need for any make up until your dancer gets their solo dress or is over the age of 13. Then we prefer a more natural look. A good guideline would be foundation, bronzer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick and some natural eyeshadow.
As per feis rules there should be no make up on any dancer 10 or under however we understand if your dancer wants to wear it on stage as a treat and to have it be a part of the performance process. Should that be the case we trust your judgement to be as natural as possible. Tinted chapstick is great for younger dancers!
As for tanner, you may have noticed dancers with very orange/tan legs walking around! This is also not necessary until your dancer has a solo dress or is in the Prizewinner level. The reasoning behind the tan legs is that stage lights are very bright and tend to wash out the dancers; the tan allows the dancers legs to stand out and the judges are better able to see the fancy footwork. When you need to tan we can recommend some good brands for you to use. Neutrogena has a great tanning foam that can be put on in a few coats, isn't too orange, and washes off easily with water!
Boys do not need to tan or wear make up.
Socks and Shoes
If you are in the 'Pre-Beginner' category, you can wear the black soft jazz shoes you may currently wear at class. Once you hit the Beginner category, however, you will need to purchase 'ghillies' (Irish dance soft shoes). We recommend the brand 'Fay's' which usually have a vendor at each feis but you can also get them online or at 'Centre Stage' in Monroe. Boys can continue to wear jazz shoes, but we will add a heel to them for clicks. Please note that all black soft shoes are required. They do sell colored ones but they are banned from competitions so should you purchase them they would only be allowed to be worn for practice at home. Shoes (both ghillies and boys jazz) should fit the foot snugly as they are leather and stretch out with constant wear. When shoes are too big/floppy your dancer could easily trip on them and not be able to complete their moves properly and safely. Don't forget to check the 'Pre-Loved' shoe bin at class before you purchase new ones!
Once your dancer starts to learn their hard shoe dances they will need them for practice, performances and competition. Again we recommend the brand 'Fay's Shoes' however there are plenty of other brands to choose from and you can shop around to find cheap prices. Please note that once again all black leather is required. You may see other dancers with white leather or tape on their shoes. This is not something Brennan-Lucey dancers need to do unless you are in the Championship level and we can discuss it with your 'look' then. You may see other dancers with buckles on their shoes; this is something to be considered when your dancer gets a solo dress! Hard shoes should also fit the foot snugly as they are leather and stretch out with constant wear. When shoes are too big/floppy your dancer could easily trip on them and not be able to complete their moves properly and safely. Don't forget to check the 'Pre-Loved' shoe bin at class before you purchase new ones!
We know there are a lot of options for poodle socks out there. Tall, short, sparkly, tie dyed etc. White socks are required for competition; colored socks are only allowed for practice. As for sock height, a good rule of thumb is to have the sock to come up to the base of the calf muscle. Sparkly socks are fine for both competition and practice in the Pre-Beginner-Novice levels however when you get your solo dress we will discuss it with each dancer's individual 'look'. Please try to find socks with more subtle, smaller stones versus the bigger ones that tend to look like polka dots on stage! Also note that once your dancer reaches the Novice level they should be using roll on 'Sock Glue' to keep them up and at an even height on their legs. This can be purchased at any feis, is safe to use, and can be easily washed off with water.
Boys should wear tall, plain black socks.
Moving Up the Levels
Depending on age, your dancer will either begin in the Pre-Beginner level or the Beginner level. In both of these levels your dancer is guaranteed to get at least one medal in one of their dances, so they will always walk away from the feis with something! Once they move up to Advanced Beginner this is not the case and medals are only given to those based on judges discretion.
Moving from Beginner to Advanced Beginner
Your child will be ready to move to this level if they meet one of the following criteria:
1) They have been in the Beginner level for a full year (start date of your first feis, not Jan 1st)
2) Are consistently getting 1st place in all of their dances/teachers discretion
3) They are ready to compete in their Heavy Jig and Slip Jig but these dances are not offered in Beginner at the feis
*Once you move up to Advanced Beginner you may not go back to the Beginner level even if the next feis offers the Slip Jig and Heavy Jig for Beginners!*
Moving from Advanced Beginner to Novice
Your dancer will be ready for Novice once they have received a 1st place in all of their dances (Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Heavy Jig) *Note all of the 1st's do not have to be earned in the same feis* Please note that in order to compete and practice effectively at this level and up students must attend class twice a week.
Moving from Novice to Prizewinner
Your dancer will be ready for Prizewinner once they have received a 1st place in all of their dances (Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Heavy Jig) *Note all of the 1st's do not have to be earned in the same feis*
Moving from Prizewinner to Preliminary Championships
Your dancer will be ready for Preliminary Championships once they have received a 1st place in all of their dances (Reel, Slip Jig, Heavy Jig, Hornpipe) *Note all of the 1st's do not have to be earned in the same feis* We do not require your dancer to compete in Light Jig in the Prizewinner level.
Moving from Preliminary Championships to Open Championships
Your dancer will be ready for Open Championships once they have received two 1st place wins overall. This level consists of one competition with two rounds; a light round and a heavy round. Depending on age your dancer will either dance their Reel and Hornpipe, or their Slip Jig and Heavy Jig. When your dancer is ready for this level we will help you know which dances they will be competing in. They will also compete with 3 steps at a time.
Judging and Marks:
Irish dancing is very subjective and each competition is a unique experience with different dancers, judges, musicians and stage conditions. Anything can happen and as you know, we never dance the exactly the same way at every feis (we strive to!) so placements will fluctuate from feis to feis. Please do not get discouraged should your dancer not place or only receive one medal in one round; Irish dance is a great sport to teach the importance of hard work, practice, consistency and subjectivity. The most important thing to us is that your dancers have FUN! There are enough feiseanna in the immediate area that should you not place in one, the next one is right around the corner and you'll have another opportunity to place then!
Most of the feiseanna you sign up for will be through FeisWeb.com. This website has an area on it where you can find your dancers scores and marks from each feis they go to. Here you will find the score, their ranking and any comments the judge may have given for each dance. These are extraordinarily helpful both to your dancer and to us for honing in on the specific things we need to work on and to make sure we are all on the same track. Should you think of it, if you wanted to screenshot your dancers marks and email them to us that would be great! You can also print them out and bring them to class. Should you forget, no problem at all. We know what we need to work on in classes and most of the time the judges write comments on things we are already working on with your dancer; it just helps solidify to your dancer ways to improve!
What To Do Next
All of the information for school costumes can be found in the 'Performance Outfits' area of the 'Parent's Area' of the website. Please email us to discuss and clarify which skirt option you are planning on purchasing before you do so.
To sign up for a feis, first locate the feis syllabus online and follow the directions. You will most likely need to create an account on https://feisweb.com . This should be a straight forward process but if you need any help please do not hesitate to reach out!
Both Stephen and Meghan will be at the competitions they indicate in the monthly newsletter; we generally try to attend one feis a month between September and June, and would love to see you at those! We encourage you to compete as often as your dancer would like and do not limit yourselves just to the ones listed in the newsletter!
A complete feis list can be found here: https://www.love2feis.com
This is a lot of information so please email or call us anytime with any questions you may have! GOOD LUCK and above all, HAVE FUN!
As always, if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact us!
We're always happy to answer any questions you may have!