Monday, December 4, 2006

Oireachtas update

So many thoughts, so much input into my head this past weekend, it almost hurts.   Quite the experience:)   Even a mix of pros and cons for it being so close.   At least we'll have a clue for any away Oireachtas.  

All those southern accents, lol, different drawls from the Carolinas to Tennessee was it, and then Texans, a lot of them, and the Floridians don't have much of that drawl.   I hadn't thought of Oklahoma as being in "the south," but in the midwest.   Guess it's a combination really.  For ME, it's west and south, but for the nation, it's south.  Maryland sticks out as if a sore thumb pointing northward comparatively.  Interesting the different styles, too, a girl with a John Deere cell phone, but mostly in the dresses, some with feathers or puffy material, or high contrast colors in "modern" styles, such as polkadots.

For M's school, 4 figures teams, 9 soloists with 7 of the solo dancers first time O-competitors.   One is qualified for Worlds, beaten only by thee reigning world champion (I was SO happy for him, such a good kid, so happy, yes his 8th time at The O so comparatively quite the experienced one we all asked information from, and he's wone first place previously, too, and does currently have a goal of beating that other guy,), two others would have but are too young (have to be at least U-10 for worlds, which frankly, I think is a fine rule).   Therefore, 4 of the 5 qualified for Nationals (and one of those 4 is also qualified for Worlds).  (The guy has actually placed between 1st and 7th, with a few 2nd places in there, too, all years he's competed, with 1 year off likely as the "penalty" year for having switched schools albeit I'd have to ask to verify that.)

Figures teams don't move on to Nationals or Worlds, only solo dancers.   I still like that figures teams were included, for many reasons, including carrying on the traditional set (figures) dances (I really liked Trip to the Cottage 8-hand).   Out of the 9, 5 were recalled (and in the Southern Region, all who recall are placed, just only so many qualify for Nationals and even less qualify automatically for Worlds).   Four of the 5 recalled were first-time O-competitors, too!    For solo dancers, they compete twice, once in soft shoe and once in hardshoe, and then if recalled, they dance a third time.   This third time, they chose a particular traditional "set" dance, such as St. Patrick's Day, or Black Bird, or the one Ma likes to teach which is actually my favorite of those three but whose name escapes me right now, lol.   BTW, Nationals is another name for the North American Championship, this year they'll be held in Ottawa, Canada.   One dance school represented was "de Mexico," i.e., from Mexico (or at least named that).

Ma told my mother that M just needs more practice.   Hey, she's only been Irish stepdancing for 3.5 years now, and last school year, she could only get to class and rehearsal (same night then) every/other week (C refused to switch nights with me, other than a permanent switch that was ridiculous, anyway, and refused to take her other than about twice).  

M LOVED this, disappointed that her teams didn't even place.   I don't know why the 8-hand didn't.   Even Ma thought it looked good and she thought they'd recall / place.  (They don't actually dance a second time, but it's still referred to as recall for some reason.)   Their 4-hand looked nice, also, to me, but there were 44? teams and many looked excellent, and a couple were not so good, one was horrible not even stepdancing to their 4-hand reel (as in, not high stepping, or high arms, the precision required).   My dance group would have looked better than they did, sadly.   M's team did cross-reel for their chosen 8-hand figures dance, as did two other teams, one did well and the other really didn't so much, it can get so tricky to stay lined up and moving around well).  

Figures choreography was fantastic, really neat to see, all the line ups and such.  There was a drama section as well.  Three dramas, the best IMHO was possible the Watters School performance of Cinderella "Once Upon a Time" they called it.   It was as if an actual performance they figured they'd bring to the O as well, patterned a mite on how a fine ballet performance would be done.  A very well done "traditional" Irish folk story done to Irish dance was performed by the Maple School.  These sections may not have been done in the regional where Ma grew up, not sure, as she didn't think they'd have these.  

Much more, even bloopers.  :)   I don't count the guy who slipped and broke his foot doing a reel as a blooper, however.   This IS a sport, IMHO, yet I wouldn't wish any injury on anyone, or at least if it had to happen, AFTER he finished competing.  

In the U8 girls, one fell......   U8 means the girl was under 8 years of age on January 1, 2006, so likely turned 8 years old sometime in 2006 or will be.   MegMAID and I looked at each other after 3 of the girls danced their softshoe? solos and both said WOW.  (There are some absolutely amazing younger dancers, better than many older dancers even.  For the record, MegMAID's daughter not only held her own, but placed well wow! yeah K.)   Most are in their little glittery dresses that poof out, some with light makeup on only, just a touch, hair all done up with those curly wigs, and tiaras / headbands.   A group of three girls happened to do their dances and traveled on the stage in such a way that they were close to each other.  The stage was also slippery.  One girl fell and the the dance "called" (stopped officially, meaning all three got a chance to rest and re-dance later).  She got up, turned her head around towards her backside, which faced the audience, rubbed her bum, and said "Owwww."   It was very cute, and she seemed not too sore later when redancing.

Too many times, lights would go off.   Each competition, other than choreography and drama, were held in their own separate ballroom on elevated stages.   People were filling up the seats, and lining the walls, and occasionally, someone would lean back along the wall or brush it, and turn off the light switch.   It was actually rather funny in a "oh my sure glad that wasn't me" moment, the FIRST time.

Last memorable blooper -- for the 4-hand figures on Saturday, which only some teams did the actual 4-hand reel I found out -- one team was all lined up and waiting.   The lovely Carolina lady near me knew that time, her daughter part of that one? (they'd won first last year, and in solos, had gone to Nationals, said M dancing was very pretty and surprised M was "only" in prizewinner so far, well, 3.5 years of Irish stepdancing, that's good).   The girls were chatting, waiting expectantly, all ready to go.   The woman than motioned frantically to the one girl -- hand me your pants!  LOL, the girl still had on her flannel dance pants under her dress / over bloomers and socks.   The judges wouldn't have liked that too much:)

Yes, it's an honor just to be there / here.......   a girl sitting next to us at Sunday nights awards, who placed but 1/2 a point away from qualifying for Nationals, with a teammate who won 2nd place, felt crushed and upset with herself.   As she left, just a preteen girl, who'd traveled far and had loving parents who were also disappointed as if "wasted trip," (per their words to me) but I didn't see them express that to her.  They just told her, honey, so next year.   I told her she should be proud, that she'd done GREAT.   I do believe that most of them "get" that.   The parents, in general, are SO much less competitive and pushy on their children than I'd have anticipated at this level.   Or, I missed it.   Most dancers and parents are happy and excited, the awards "celebratory" as described.   One of "our" dancers had that happen, and we're all thrilled for her, finishing in the top 40% out of about 110 dancers, her first O, she's thrilled.  


We're so tired.   Dance schools really seemed as if teams for their schoolmates, and people supported those, of other schools even, who they sat next to, too.   Some dancers would become friends and cheer for each other and play with each other.  M saw at least one girl she's been friends with from another dance school and we searched her out.   I have two adult ceili/set dancer friends who competed, and placed well! in their respective figures teams.   One of them has a teammate who I have only seen at feisana, and, lol, we saw each other and said hi and chatted briefly (and I watched one of my favorite local adult male dancers, also). 

Great venue for this, the ballrooms huge, and the partitions opened up each night so it made for one really huge ballroom.   Very readily accessible to one airport, very close to another, with the Nation's Capital moments away.   Hopefully some enjoyed Friday visiting in town, too, on the nice weather day.  (It's turned arctic again today.)  Indoor / underground shopping for food and other things right there (and metro), nice rooms enough there and nearby for the over 1,000 registered dancers, family, judges, teachers, and other staff.  

Two people in track suits were in the elevator during one long "local" ride.   They stood out against the sea of tank tops and bloomers or shorts, wigs and bubble socks or boys all dressed up in silk ties, sometimes relaxing with their shirts hanging out and sneakers on, lol.  (I love watching the male dancers, not often I get to, dancers here ALL very good to excellent, and, admittedly, that one boy who is world champ, man, he did the best click I recall seeing.)    These two in track suits didn't know each other but bonded over sweatyworkout clothing, started talking.   The woman was thrilled, for she anticipated having to run in on smoggy city streets.  Nah, Crystal City / Arlington is near the Potomac and GWParkway, etc.   There is a real nice trail that runs all the way down to Mount Vernon.   She ran 8-10 miles and loved it.   Even "the" mall would have been nice for her, a few extra moments away if she'd wanted.   The parking was "only" $7./day special arrangement instead of the typical $16./day (even on weekends wow!), and adults / anyone 12 and over not competing paid $10./day entry fee which I find too much.   $10. is not unusual but then give a discount for both days, IMHO.   $10. for the THICK and detailed programs, also, but, we'll keep that so wth.  

(Nicely, my mother bought M the souvenior sweatshirt, which had a price hike up from the cost of a similar one at a regular feis, and dance flannels and matching Oireachtas shirt, lol, and HERSELF a nice sweatshirt, also.  I did buy M food and such, and also a new brooch, a nice silver celtic knot that she and I both like, and as her clashing horse one broke, anyway, it worked just in time.   C did show on Sunday, not Saturday, with Sh and Si.  Si has extra tiny feet, and is also young for starting hardshoe which she'll start likely January or early Spring, believe it or not, at 4 years old.   Oh, she's capable of starting, expecially with M helping teach her, just that is not typical so ID hardshoes Si's size are tricky to find.   Some were found, Si actually hesitant to try them on a break-time "big" stage, but she did with M.   C joked about needing a deposit to remove them from the vendor to try them on the stage.   I think he was shocked at the cost (M's a few years back were $120/125 internet from the vendor in Ireland, at a feis is pricier, and I think the cost has also risen, probably about $140-150? not sure, got M's "new" ones barely used for wow $35. last year from friends).   I said to him, "Merry Christmas" and he said something like, "No kidding."   Otherwise, he as is his typical didn't say one word to me.   We were sometimes around each other, tho I more around with Sh at times than C, not that I really cared one way or the other, really.   They were there to see M, sure, but also to expose Si, intentionally or not, it is a great experience, what fine dancing.  Si did not get the shoes, yet.  Just wait until Si's ready for a solo dress (those run into the few thousands hand designed and sewn, seriously).  

 Mom had M relooking at various solo dresses, too, one just beautiful on M, magenta/pink and white, great color for her, cut out sleeves M liked, a great fit, but $1,000 OBO.   I really think my mom should just go for the traditional green velvet-like one of our friends, that M so likes and is "only" about $400. instead.  (I told her I'd pay towards it, too.)   It's interesting that something supposedly so traditional and that does have some specific requirements can vary so, and have styles that evolve over time, also.  For example, white lacey collars were popular, but have gone mostly out of vogue, and many don't even have traditional-Celtic-like patterns, some do, some do not.

Don't know where else in this rambling bit of notes from my tired out brain, but for each stage, there were three adjudicators (i.e., judges), one stage announcer / coordinator, and two musicians.   This event merits that, IMHO.  Sometimes at a feis, there is just one judge and one musician plus 1-2 volunteer stage coordinators.   Also, at a feis, one "checks in" the dancer at a registration table, receives the competitor number and competition #'s, plus checks in at the stage previous to each dance/competition.   Here, at the Oireachtas, one checks in simply at the stage.   Solo dancers have the one competition and hence one competition #, just split into two sections (plus the recall hopefully), and team competitions are, well, teams.   The top man (or dancer in the top man's position, M was in that for one of her figures teams), wears the competitor / team # and is the one to receive it, but can only check in if all the dancers on the team are present.   Solo results can be printed out from an on-site computer if desired, for $5.   We'd have not known this if "the guy" hadn't raced off his 2nd place podium spot, to give/receive hugs andask, "have you seen my mother?"  "Mom, I need $5 to get my results," as he goes into her purse for the cash and darts off.  LOL.   It works.

Have to admit, it was rather nice to be in a place, where it's NORMAL for ones kid to be non-stop dancing, constantly, everywhere.   And, others knowing instinctively that Irish Dancers kick :)   Cuz, well, they do, and they aren't thinking about you, they're possibly not even thinking consciously about their dancing, they just ARE dancing.  

It is a lot of commitment involved for a family to support this passion and travel this far, heck, it's been a lotfor M and I even.   Oftentimes, it's one parent who becomes the "dance parent," with the other typically meaning to be supportive and is in his or her own way, but it takes a lot of patience, and some ability to withstand Irish music.  (My dad, the Irishman's son, doesn't, which I suppose is why I didn't grow up with it, for he loves other music.)

This weekend was a celebration of that internal drive to just DANCE, and the commitment many have to support that.   Or, as Zand B says in his blog in the "excuse letter to the teacher," it's a cultural experience.   Yeah, that, too. 

M's teachers cleared her last week from requiring homework today and could take off today if she needed to, wishing her good luck.  I let her sleep in some, and she had done about half of her homework.   Getting ready to leave so I could drive M to school, she puts on her Oireachtas sweatshirt with her name, and others in her school, on the back.   She's feeling really proud again, and has a right to.  "I'm going to wear an Oireachtas shirt everytime I go to another feis now."   She told me how she'd see an Oireachtas shirt and think, wow, that must be a really good dancer.  Not that I'm certain she knew what this was until last Spring, lol.   The cost?   Um, don't make me calculate, albeit the actual entry fee was $10./dancer / team competition.   The experience?  Priceless, apparently.

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