Wednesday, May 30, 2007

closing down the stage(s) / Comhaltas Feis 2007

M and L doing their Job of Journeywork (Traditional Set) in unison.

Memorial Day weekend, the traditional summer kickoff.  The weather turned hot and muggy last Thursday as if on cue, as if saying both open those swimming pools, and start your feising.  I'd given Daisy an extra long walk in the comparatively cooler early a.m. air, printed off our ZandB Moonpie certificates, and we headed north to the Comhaltas C...... E........ Feis, beautiful Gaelic words commonly summarized as the CCE Feis.  I smiled to see various groups of motorcycles headed south, Rolling Thunder came into town as they do annually.  M sometimes slept in the back, sometimes asked me something to do with the Irish music cd she'd requested I play for her.  Beautiful drive albeit, yawn, early, start to the day. 

Behind the scenes of any feis is a lot of preparation, meetings, paperwork, computer work, and physical work.  Please check on this link to view ZandB's photos of the stage set up inside the arena at Mount St. Mary's. - The Stages are Ready and Waiting at CCE! (6091626) - Read article: Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop, Tap, Irish, Dis...  You may have to scroll down a little bit for the photos.  He was also the official CCE Feis 2007 photographer.

Comhaltas Feis was M's very first one 4 years ago (I'll try to scan that photo, she looks so much younger!), and it's still our favorite.  A ceili/set dance friend is the Chairman, and a northern Virginia branch of CCE sponsors this one, with assistance from the different local Irish Dance schools.  I help out every year, even the one year M was with her dad hence she couldn't come.  There's knowledge, patience, and comaraderie that come with helping out.  This year, I was one of the stage managers, mostly as the judge's liaison (including getting her coffee at one point).   There is a folder for each competition, with a list of competitor numbers (but no names, and no dance school names).  Beside the competitor number are boxes, one for the score, and the other for potential comments.   This judge was real nice, professional, liked all competitorsfor a particular competition to be on stage even if in two rows, and seemed to write comments down for every dancer.  Runners come by each stage to pick these folders up, and take them to the awards room, where they are reviewed before scores are posted and any awards are given out. 

M would walk the dancers onto stage, and back off stage when the judge okayed it.   Two dancers come out at a time (for solo competitions), and then are to retreat to their same position in line that they came from.  Dancers from the same school are not to be next to each other.  M and a high school dancer would also count out the beats / time for the youngest and beginning level dancers.  One 15-year old was a beginner and very nervous.  She kept asking me basic questions about how a feis and stage run.  I had the high schooler help count when to start dancing for that class.  The girl was just beaming afterwards, second place out of two, but she'd done it!  I assured her that she wouldn't have gotten the 2nd place if she hadn't danced it.  

One young girl was so nervous, she told M that she was going to throw up.  M asked the girl if she saw her parents, and said she could leave if she wanted to.  Another first feis girl wiped away a tear, her pale face matching her blonde hair under her perfect white crown.  She'd stayed in the second row when her group moved up to the front row, and when I motioned her to move forward, also, she ended up sitting so she'd dance first.  The other stage manager told me this girl had a stomach ache from nerves.  Two others from the same school needed to be split, so after asking if nervous girl was okay, I took her hand, and had her switch spots with "same school" girl, telling nervous girl it'd let her not go first.  Then again, some prefer to, but I had to split the others, anyway, and this seemed best.  M said she had one dancer go out in the first two for that competition, start, stop, and come back to M very upset.  She thought it was one style of dance, but she recognized that the music was for another style.  She'd started dancing the wrong thing.  M told her it was alright, that she could restart and dance again.  I did remind M later that really it'd be up to the judge to decide that, but obviously as the judge did not stop this girl from dancing again, the judge was okay with howMhandled it.

Si danced her treble jig on "our" stage when I was there.  Si was so excited, she was practicing her hard shoe treble jig while waiting and watching the soft shoe slip jigs finish up (which distracted the judge, so Sh had Si sit on Sh, feet off the floor).  FiguresTeacher's oldest daughter was dancing her slip jig (very nicely).  FiguresTeacher's youngest daughter, CB came by, and I hugged her, and then she hugged me, and she sat on my lap for a bit.  I tried to sit when I could, not because I felt the need to sit, but to keep from blocking the view of those watching.  M had already left to get her dresses and supplies, and put on her wig, being sure to return in time to watch Si from higher up.  We'd seen Si dance her reel on the adjacent stage earlier, bowing hugely and adorably.  A group of girls from another dance school exclaimed, "Oh, there's the little girl in the red.  I just love her."  They stayed and watched, also.  (There were 3 in Si's treble jig, an age group higher and a dance level higher, and Si tied for 2nd.  Very admirable considering she's not yet 5 years old and this is her first year of Irish stepdancing which typically doesn't even include hardshoe.  I think she got first in her other three dances.)  To move up a level (other than moving up from beginner which is automatic after 1 year), there needs to be at least 5 dancers in a competition along, along with the placement.

M was in a combination of Novice and Prizewinner dances, plus Treble Reel, and Traditional Set, for a total of 7 solo competitions.  No figures (team) dances this time.  Mom didn't need to come before noon and she'd still catch everything M would dance.  M was excited to wear her solo dress this time.  Hmmm.  I was content with her wearing her ID school dress, maybe switching for her Prizewinner.  There wouldn't be dress change time, and, well, talking with L's mother and others, I relented. 

Mom took M to buy the gold bloomers that'd match.  My first look was when M danced and did a kick I think in her first dance, the light jig; wow they are gold.  She seemed to warm up as the day went on, soft shoe dances done first, hardshoe later on.  M is really holding her own now in Prizewinner reel, looking beautiful.  I remember her first time in Prizewinner.  This time, she got fourth place (also got afourth in the light jig).  M complained that she didn't do her butterflies correctly for her slip jig.  She usually places 2nd, but this time placed 3rd.  Her friend, L, got first!, yeah L.  (This means L can move up to Prizewinner in her slip jig, something M is also hopeful to do soon.  A few more feiseanna and more work, M will, too.)  One girl was dancing very well, and likely places 1st in her other softshoes, but seemed, as M said, too stiff for a slip jig.

This shot is from my mother's cell phone.  A bit dark and grainy, but, she's never tried a cell phone photo before, and then to get it as a computer photo, yeah, it worked!

I kept plying M with whatever mostly healthy food she'd eat lol, and "happening" to have a sports drink with me at all times, handing it to her occasionally or her reaching for it.  I even told Sh that M gets too pumped to just sit and eat, and to stay offering her food throughout a feis to keep her energy up or she won't remember to eat.  Heck, I had to go back to the car to get the bag of food, as M didn't bring that bag in.

C, Sh, and Si left after a few of M's dances.  As C said to me the next day, that many hours was enough for him as it was.  It IS a long day.  Maybe sometime he can drive separately from Sh and Si, though, so he can watch all of M's dances, too.  I'm glad they could watch some of them.  I told him later that he really should have seen her Treble Reel.  I'm getting ahead of myself....

M's hardshoe dances were hornpipe, treble jig, treble reel, and traditional set.  She did great.  In M's hornpipe, she got every single click, and one of her dance school friends got most of her clicks, and no one else who danced it did.  Okay, so there are only so many things I personally know to look for, lol.  Danceschoolfriend didn't feel so good about how she danced.  M felt fairly good, and should have, as she placed 2nd which is the highest she's placed for her Novice hornpipe.  M also placed 2nd (again) in her treble jig.  (She needs a first in both of these to move up to Prizewinner, but 2nd is still really great.)

At some point, I told M she had to at least let me know what shirt she wanted, as her last two dances are at thee very end of the feis. Nicecolors and designs this time, and as always, the nameson the back of all thecompetitors from her school.  Mom liked it, too, but they are "teen" cut, not "regular t-shirt" cut.  M told me she'd made a couple new friends, too, not that she remembers now even what school the girls were from.  This is still a very support each other type of feis, and type of ID school M is in.  That she feels good making friends with whomever, is good.   We actually sat for a bit with a family who used to dance for M's ID school, and in the performing troupe with M, but switched in the closing of the more local studio.  This girl also got fourth in her Prizewinner Reel, really happy about that, and her wee sister a bit scared about her first feis.  We'd peek at various stages, so often I wasn't even positive where M WAS, as she tried to watch this friend, or sit with that one, trying to catch all of her friends dancing, so many overlapped with hers.  I did see OHBoy dance twice, once he was practically facing me directly.  A feis is sensory overload for him so he doesn't come often.  I can entirely understand, especially when a crowd roared in clapping for champions on one stage, while he finished up one of his dances on another.

The last two dances looked like a potential stage conflict from when I first got the stage schedule.  Yep, traditional set was right before treble reel, but that stage was going slowly.  Treble reel stage was going more quickly (on the stage we'd helped at all morning).  Treble Reel is also done en masse, each solo then all together.  (insert link here)   I talked with the stage manager at traditional set stage, and they would have the others dance that competition, and hold it open until the three with conflicts could come over.  A bit of confusion for L, racing from another competition, but it all worked out.

M was standing next to a friend, who talked about which particular treble reel to do.  LCGirl had tried to coerce Friend to do a moonwalk or a lean over and blow kisses  in her treble reel, but nope.  LCGirl may have done one of those in HER treble reel, she has before at a feis, but we didn't get to see it.  M debated, Acapello (sp), or Chitty Bang?  M was the last one in the horseshoe lineup, last to dance her individual treble reel, and chose the harder Chitty Bang.  And nailed it.  Then danced the "unison" treblereel backwards while she rejoined the horseshoe line and everyone finished up together.  I figured M would do this dance for the fun of it.  WOW, she won first place treble reel out of 26 dancers.  She is quite excited about that one:)  The stage was done, last dance of the day, going out with a bang (oops, a Chitty Bang ha).

Three girls then raced over to the other stage for their traditional set, the second to last dance on this stage.  These are, as the name implies, very traditional dances, and have to be done in a particular manner.  Both L and M had signed up to dance Job of Journeywork, not surprisingly as TCRG Ma has been focusing on that one.  Actually, M didn't even KNOW a traditional set until this year.  (I still laugh to remember overhearing Ma saying to her students, "I have dances with hats, and dances with drums, I should have something traditional.")  lol   Both girls have likely danced Job of Journeywork in their performance troupe; I know M has.   For traditional sets, dancers still come out two at a time, but only if dancing the same dance.  The third girl waited to dance whatever Traditional Set she'd chosen.  Oh, my, M sand L looked fantastic together, as if completely in unison.  They are also well matched size-wise and build.  L said later, "Good thing we're doing a two-hand, then [at another local feis later this summer]."  I'd have hated to be the judge and have to find some small difference in the two of them.  In the photo above, this half-milisecond in time, M's feet might be in better position, but, did that last?  Eh.  I didn't notice any difference, and apparently neither did the judge.  Then again, the judge wrote in M's comments "heels closer," and didn't write any comments for L.  They tied for second place (within 1 point from each other).  It was awesome looking, their faces lit up.  The photo also shows L's beautiful new (used) solo dress, bought that day after a while trying, with a purple lavendar underdress and bloomers

After, finally, in the awards room with friends by 5:45 p.m.  M was getting tired, confused about her trophies and medals.  Nicely, an awards helper helped us sort it out.  Her daughter had danced in the morning, placing twice for her first feis and having a good, long, day, too.  (Those dresses get HOT, so girlsoften unzip them and relax when not dancing, hence why M's is hanging off of her, and we see her tanktop instead.)

 It was starting to rain when we headed outside around 6:05.  I pulled around my vehicle for Mom and M.  Driving away, I saw MegaMAID, who danced in the a.m. and helped with stages in the afternoon, her oldest beautiful dancer also dancing.  Closing down.  

We ate at Cozy Inn Restaurant, in Thurmont, while it poured outside into the goldfish pond and down the windows.  One lady finally asked M why M was wearing a tiara (with sweat pant capris).  M smiled.  I think she doesn't truly mind being asked.




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  1. Sounds like a great few days, Robin. Up in Scotland we've got similar things in the shape of Highland Dancing. If you check back through my archives (to July 2006), you'll find a diary entry 15/07/06, with pictures of Highland Dancers. There is also the annual Royal National Mod, which focuses on music and culture of the Gaidhealtachd.

  2. Maybe Si is as interested in this as she is because of M?  Kicking gold ;-), what a sight, I am sure. ~ Mary ps I hope you 2 slept soundly upon your return.

  3. Aw, I know it's embarassing for the girl that was sick with stage fright, but it's kinda heartwarming. I like that M took the initiative and gave her another chance. Screw the judges, fair is fair.