What is a feis and when do I enter?

Check with your teacher before entering any feis.

The word feis (pronounced fesh) comes from a Gaelic word meaning “festival”. In the context of Irish dance today, it means “competition”.

When and where are these feiseanna held?

Dance schools and other interested Irish organizations hold dance competitions throughout the year, all over the country and all over the world. The North American Feis Commission is responsible for registering the competitions in North America. There web site is northamericanfeiscommission.org where a complete list of feisanna can be found.

How do I register?

Check with your teacher before registering for any feis.
Only students of registered teachers may compete. Each feis will offer a syllabus that lists the pertinent info for that event. Forms are available at the studio or on our website. Pick the ones that you might like to attend, ask your teacher how to fill them out, and mail them in. Some allow on-line registration through e-feis but when you are beginning you should talk to your teacher first.
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What are the fees?

Each dancer is charged a fee per dance, typically $8 – $12, depending on the hosts. If your dancer dances a reel, light jig and slip jig for instance, the fee could be $24-$36. There is usually a family cap. There is always a family door fee which is paid when entering and allows anyone with the dancer to enter the day of the feis.  Some feisanna collect the door fee the day of and charge for each non dancer coming into the feis.

What level do I belong in?

The solo levels are:
  • Beginner Grade: A beginner is a competitor who is in their first year of dance. This period goes from September of a given year to the end of the following December, thus giving a beginner 15 months at this level. A Beginner must move into the Advanced Beginner category the next year.
  • Advanced Beginner Grade: This is a competitor who is no longer a beginner. It is the next level and a dancer remains in this category until they win a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a given dance. Wins in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place will advance the dancer to the Novice category in that particular dance in the new year.
  • Novice Grade: This is a competitor who has completed the requirements of the Advanced Beginner level. A novice dancer stays in this level until he or she wins a 1st place in a dance and then will advance to the Open (Prizewinner) category in that particular dance.
  • Open Grade (Prizewinner): A competitor who has completed the requirements of the Novice level.

After Prizewinner there are two more levels: Preliminary and Open Championships. At this point a dancer is well seasoned to competition. The rule for Preliminary is to have won a first in a light and heavy dance not including the light jig. We require that the dancer has won in all four dances (Reel, Slip Jig, Treble Jig and Hornpipe.) A dancer moves onto Open Championship after two first places in one calendar year or after the second win in the next calendar year.

What dances are offered?

  • In the Beginner level, Reel, Light Jig and Slip Jig are offered. Most dancers learn the Reel and Light Jig in the first year.
  • In the Advanced Beginner level, Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Treble Jig and Hornpipe are offered. The Treble Jig and Hornpipe is the traditional speed only.
  • In the Novice level, Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Treble Jig and Hornpipe are offered. The Treble Jig and Hornpipe are offered in both the traditional speed and slow or Oireachtas speed.
  • In the Prize Winner level, Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Treble Jig and Hornpipe are offered. The Treble Jig and Hornpipe are offered in both the traditional speed and slow or Oireachtas speed. (This is a New England rule. The Mid Atlantic [NY, NJ, PA] competitions ony allow the slow speed.)

General Rules:

  • Check with your teacher before entering any feis. This will avoid judging conflicts and entering the wrong dances.
  • A dancer changes age and category on January first of every year.
  • Your Feis Age is your age as of January 1 of that year. It does not change on your birthday. If your birthday is 2/2/04 your dance age for the whole calendar year of 2016 is age 11 or under 12.
  • In addition to the “grade level” the competitions are separated by boys and girls and by age.
  • With the exception of the Beginner level, you only move in the dance that you have won the necessary award.
  • Each category is a little harder than the previous level.