Feis information for beginners

Are you new to feiseanna?

Below is some advice for those trying feiseanna (Irish dance competitions) for the first time. This page is under construction and more information will be uploaded in due course. If you are unsure of anything, you should ask your teacher. Please note, this information is based on conventions commonly used in the UK. If you are based anywhere else, things may be done differently.

How and when to enter feiseanna

Your teacher will let you know when they think you are ready to try a feis. Often, you will start with a ‘Class Feis’ which would be run by your dance school and geared toward new dancers. At a class feis, only dancers from your school will compete, and there will be lots of other dancers who have never done a competition before. There is usually lots of help available and the competition is very friendly.

The other type of feis is an ‘Open Feis’. These are open to dancers from other dance schools. They are often a bit bigger and busier than class feiseanna. But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of other beginners, and the people running the feis will help you with where to go and what to do.

Once your teacher decides you are ready to try an open feis, you will need to enter. Feis organisers usually send round a ‘syllabus’ (which tells you all the details about a feis) to dance teachers and your dance teacher will pass the information on to you. They will ask for your entry form and entry fee by a certain date so they can send this off to the organiser. You can often enter on the day of a feis, but this normally adds a small admin fee to the cost of entering. Feis organisers like to receive entries early to help them to plan the timetable. Your dance teacher will tell you more details about how to enter each feis. Don’t try to enter a feis without consulting your teacher as entries from anyone who is not a registered teacher will not be accepted.

As it gets nearer the weekend of a feis, the organisers will issue a timetable. This details when each competition will dance. Dancers compete against others of the same age group and grade. You need to look for your age group and grade on the timetable to see what time you are on, and where. Novice grade dancers will usually be dancing in a Sports Hall area. It is advisable to give yourselves plenty of time to arrive at a feis. You will need to find the feis, park (if travelling by car), get your competitor number (for which there may be a queue), find out where to go, and warm up. This might all take up to an hour, so if your competition is scheduled for 11am, you should aim to arrive by 10am.

What age group am I?

In Irish dance competitions, your age group is usually based on the age you were going into the 1st January each year. Typically, you are always in the same age group as those born in the same year as you. For example, all those born in the year 2009 were 8 years old going into this year (2018) thus they are in the ‘Under 9’ age group. They stay in this age group all year despite turning 9 years old during this time. Below are all this year’s current age groups.

You may find that in some feiseanna, some of these age groups are collapsed. Often in the “grade” competitions (novice, primary, and intermediate), there are single-year age groups up to around the age of Under 12 or Under 13. Thereafter, there are ‘double age groups’ whereby Under 13 and Under 14 may be collapsed into one competition called something like ’12-14′ or ’12 and under 14′, and U15 and U16 may be grouped together similarly. Then, there may be an ‘Over 16’ category for all those aged 16 or over going into the start of the year.

The youngest age group is usually Under 5, or sometimes Under 6. Here is a quick birth-year-to-age-group translation:

2013 – U5
2012 – U6
2011 – U7
2010 – U8
2009 – U9
2008 – U10
2007 – U11
2006 – U12
2005 – U13
2004 – U14
2003 – U15
2002 – U16
2001 – U17
2000 – U18
1999 – U19
1998 – U20
1997 – U21
1996 or earlier – Senior

Please remember that if you’re 12 or over, you might well be in a double age group – always check the feis syllabus (and with your teacher) to make sure you dance in the right age group.

What grade am I?

There are four grades in Irish dancing:

  • Novice
  • Primary
  • Intermediate
  • Open (split into ‘preliminary’ and ‘open championship’)

If you are attending a feis for the first time, you will almost certainly be dancing in the ‘Novice’ category. You just need to look on the timetable to see when the Novice grade of your age group is scheduled. Once your competition starts, you be called up for each dance in order and line up side-stage. Your Reel will almost always be your first dance, followed by the Light Jig, Single Jig (commonly known as the Hop Jig), Slip Jig, Heavy Jig and Hornpipe. You might not know all these dances yet, but that is fine. When you’ve finished the dances you know, you can just relax and wait for your results.

If you are attending an Open Feis, there is the opportunity to move up grades depending on where you place in each dance. For example, in order to move from Novice to Primary grade in a dance, you must place 1st, 2nd or 3rd in that dance. Once you start moving up the grades, you may find you have different dances in different grades. This is fine, you just need to be aware of when each grade is scheduled, so you can dance in the right category. Most often, Novice, Primary and Intermediate competitions of the same age group will run alongside each other in one large sports hall.

Any more questions?

If you are unsure about ANYTHING, it is best to ask your teacher!