I've checked the NAFC (North American Feis Commission) rules (Dancing Comp. Rules), and the ones specific to the Southern Region. One first place win in an Open (Prizewinner) hard shoe, and one first place win in an Open (Prizewinner) soft shoe competition (in an official NAFC sanctioned feis with 5 or more competitors and yadda yadda), seems to be the only required qualification for a competing Irish step dancer to move from Prizewinner level to Preliminary Champion level. Without anything I can see indicating that a competitor MUST move up levels (perhaps by January of the following year, or is that not applicable to Open Prizewinner? conflicting info there).
Memorial Day weekend, 2006, after going to class only every/other week (C refused to take her or switch nights that school year yet that was thee night for M's specific class), with not a lot of extra practice, M attended the CCE/Comhaltas Feis. This was her first time at the Novice level. (A competitor, if qualified, moves from Beginner, to Advanced Beginner, to Novice, to Open Prizewinner to Preliminary Champion to Open Championship.) M was just beaming. I'll never forget that man at the award room who handed over the paper for M to sign, indicating taht she'd picked up her award, "Congratulations, young lady." Many dancers who move to Novice, stay there for years. Bamn, M got a first in her reel, did great in her other dances, and had so much fun, she was sold on competitive dancing.
So, now she feis'es (more than 2-3 a year -- we even traveled last year to Delaware Feis and Rhythm of Ireland, both a first for us, traveling "just" for a feis.) And, Si started feising partway through this past school year (technically qualifies for Novice now, her first year of dancing, in at least three dances, at 5 years old this summer, often having to compete in the U7 instead. This means that if M is with them, and Si is in a feis, they rather have to allow M to feis, also (albeit the 2 times so far, M's been signed up for half of her dances).
Fast forward 14-15 months from that CCE 2006 Feis, to yesterday's ICCD (Irish Culture Club of Delaware), aka, the Delaware Feis. M was coming off of last months Nation's Capital Feis, one she'd not been able to attend previously (as she'd been with C), and Sh signed M up for about half of M's dances (but the feis somehow let me pay tons and add Treble Jig, M's last Novice dance, and add/upgrade her Hornpipe from Novice, which she won 1st place in at Celtic Fling Feis, to Prizewinner, and had her second time for Prizewinner slip jig as she just got first in Novice slipjig at Old Dominion Feis earlier this summer). Meaning, yesterday was M's first time at all Open Prizewinner level for the four types of dances that "count." (She'd not always competed the light jig and had always placed but didn't get first in, at Novice. M did win first place Trebel Reel at a combined Novice/Prizewinner at Comhaltas/CCE Feis in 2007. Figures don't count for this, either.)
More background, at Nation's Capital, M nailed the Treble Jig, getting 1st to move to Prizewinner (and 1st in her 2-hand reel with L.) She got 2nd place in her Prizewinner Slip Jig (only her second time dancing Slip Jig at this level), and 2nd place in her Prizewinner Reel, both 2nds to a boy who swept her age group's Open Prizewinner at this competition, and had recently earned 15th at NAN's (Northern American something or other, but the North American competition, the best on the continent yet others attend, also, somehow). M's first time at Prizewinner hornpipe was "in and out of rhythm" per the judge. Ma told M, C, and I, that M's timing was off, previous to this feis.
"The twins" joined M in Novice Light Jig. The girl seemed so happy to see M (she was looking for M or L), and pulled M over with her. Her and her twin brother both danced great. (M finally got her 1st in that one, "Why does your mother even sign you up for light jig?" Well, to be honest, why not, even if it doesn't "count," besides, then it gives her something extra, something she doesn't have to worry about. And, it tends to help her have a practice one.)
M didn't dance her reel as jaw-dropping beautifully as she did the other night, yet, she still owned that reel. Her reel, Daisy's Reel. She felt she would, and she did get 1st place. That's a softshoe dance, performed in ghillies, at the Open Prizewinner level. Neither L nor M did well for (Prizewinner) slipjig this time. M got 4th place, and L something beyond that even. All of us were pulling for L in Slip Jig and Treble Jig in particular, as those are the "O" (Oireachtas) dances for the U13's this year, and L had to placewell in order to stay being considered to attend as a solo dancer. M's 4th place in Slip Jig was 1 point behind 2nd place (who was 3 points behind 1st). M's first time at Prizewinner Treble Jig, she got 4th place! That's a great placement, really. She had trouble with her ankle during standing toestands at a hard shoe drills class last week (so worked on that and tried to switch things a bit). Phew, L got her first place in (the same) Treble Jig. M apparently got her timing worked out for Hornpipe, also a hardshoe dance. This was the not expected but thrilling first place in Prizewinner Hornpipe. (I think L got 2nds in Reel and Hornpipe this feis, not clear.)
M and L also chatted with other "feis friends" while there. I'm thrilled with the sportsmanship I see them show each other, and others within the school, and also to dancers from other schools. It got to where five of them in the U13 Prizewinner group from different Irish dance schools were practicing their hardshoes on stage, laughing and talking with each other during a stage conflict break. We also tried to catch V, too late for M to be able to stay, however, and a young woman from "the not liked ID school" who has been in Novice since M started Irish step dancing, was beaming with her 2nd place in Novice reel (whom of course we congratulated).
(We ran into a former codancer of M's -- we do sometimes and always happy to say hi and be supportive (as is Ma, honestly). This time, I was taken back as her mother told me she thought "good riddance" for M's Irish dance school's local studio to have to close (for monetary reasons). Wow, what a rude slap and putdown of us and our decision to have M stay in her ID school, and the ID school itself, one we love. The ID school this girl attends now would not wish for that parents behavior, and is the school M would be in yet only if M's current ID school was not available for her.
M and I had been thinking that 1st place in all four of the main dances (for girls, three dances for boys as they don't dance slip jig), is required for a dancer to qualify to move up from the Open Prizewinner Level, to Preliminary Champion Level. That's a really big deal, and M is THRILLED she got firsts in two of the dances. It wasn't until I read a note from someone else, that I remembered the NAFC rules and looked them up. As far as I can tell, M IS qualified for Prelims now, technically speaking. What do I do with the next feiseanna for her, not have her dance the ones where she placed first, still have her dance those again, also, move to Prelim's? Usually, an Irish Dance school will have their own rules for moving up, and the TCRG needs to make that determination based upon his or her best judgement for his/her school and the specific dancer. I'm guessing that M's ID school requires a first in each of the four main dances, not just a first in one hard shoe and one soft shoe dance.
"Mom, can you tell Grandma that I think I've earned (OlderM's) solo dress?," said a bit demurely. This is a dress Grandma's already mostly agreed to get for M, anyway, a more modern styled solo dress that fits in with most everyone else (not at the highest levels), a lighter weight fabric, it's in blue, and it fits her very well. Ah, honey. You've earned something alright, and we're all so very proud of you:)