Sunday dawn, feis morning, the world was awakening, the birds calling out to each other as Daisy savored the extra early walk in the crisper air. "Dear God, please have it be a good day today....." I really need to start the day in prayer a lot more often than I seem to remember to. I didn't ask God to have M win her last first place that she needed to move up to a preliminary championship level. I knew I'd be happy for her if she did, but I don't like praying for such a thing. I wanted, well, a good day, for M, for my mother and for E, and everyone, for the stage to run well that we were volunteering at, however God meant "good" to be.
M had prepared most of her things earlier on Saturday, I'd washed the second pair of her bubble socks "just in case," got more gas in the rental car, visited my Blazer in case the wig was there and found her feis makeup. M had taken her shower and repacked her dance duffel bag, having declined a dinner invitation with E and me, and some of his visiting family. Yet, that fancier "Meagan" style wig remained elusive until I was home, and finally told M in all seriousness that she'd need to start putting her hair in curlers, then. (Buying another wig at the feis wasn't an option with my current funds available, even if the vendor would have had that style in M's hair color, even as a wig is practically a requirement at her level of dance competition.) By morning? Even the snacks were ready, and a good breakfast eaten.
Pack the dresses in the trunk and bring the iPOD. We were going to a feis! Our first one together since possibly last October?, our favorite feis where many of the local Irish dance schools help out, we know so many there, she is most relaxed, and we kicked off helping out one of the beginner / advanced beginner stages. It was exciting to drive up with other vehicles with Irish dancer stickers, or passengers wearing big head pieces, while seeing Rolling Thunder going south, the start of a new day, new feis season.
This feis opened and capped / closed within 8 hours this year, within a day?? last year. Both set records, and this year, approximately 200 additional dancers were accommodated and it still capped even more quickly. However, it didn't feel more crowded (except for the line to get in and pick up registrations; we usually don't arrive when the doors open, however). She had time to get her registration / competition card, and her makeup on, a spot on the bleachers not too far up so Grandma (my mom) could sit comfortably if desired near another dance school friend there for her first prelim, and retouch up her sock glue just because. M likes them perfectly lined up.
I was a stage manager, checking in dancers, liaison with the judge (a lovely and very nice Myra Watters, co-chair of this years Southern Regional Oireachtas), and M assisted more directly with the dancers in lining them up, and counting them in. There were some U5's, meaning dancers who turn 5 years old sometime during the calendar year 2008, and U6's. One wee girl burst into tears; she'd forgotten what she was supposed to dance. I saw her turned around and hugging her dad's leg, while I concentrated on the new batch of dancers signing in for their upcoming competition. M told me that the girls brother came over, and went over what dance the U5 girl was to dance. "Oh, yeah, I can dance that!" And, she did.
There were also two beginner adult dancers who smiled, "Yes, please," when asked if they, too, would like to be counted in. It's not the age as much as the level and experience of the dancer that determines if they may need some counting-in assistance. An older dancer will have seen others coming out dancing two at a time, then retreating into the line and waiting for the judges nod for them to bow to the judge / musician, and walk off orderly, and will know to mimic that even if a first time feiser. Younger ones will need more guidance on those nuances. A few groups had almost 30 dancers and it can get a mite confusing.
Many parents were first-time feis goers, and would ask a lot of questions. Sometimes, an older knowledgable sibling would be checking in their younger charge. Many polite beginners would wait their turn, the announce their name to me, unconsciously hiding their competition card and # with their nervous hands. It's their number I really needed, to check them off the list (that does include their name and school as well).
Musician Sandy Jones played at our stage. I was unfamiliar with him previously; he played great, and would confirm the style (is it still light jig, or on to treble jig?), first. Yes, it is live music, has to be, and I love that. They will often wear a metronome in their ear to help them keep the correct beat, repeatedly over and over and over again for every dancer, even admist the chaos of other stages (and their musician), and the crowd. At this feis, speakers were at the opposite end of the stage from the musician, facing in towards the stage, to aid the dancers.
A couple hours in, others came to relieve M and I, and we transitioned over. Mom had come, and M and L had met up and went to put on their wigs and tiaras. I've mentioned M's dance friend, L, previously. They are like dancing twins in a way. They are a month apart in age, and often at thee same level of dance, and at mostly thee same feiseanna. Even when a particular competition splits into an A and a B group, they are often still put into thee same split / group. They are also similar heights and builds and sizes. M has the natural turn-out; L has the stronger oompf for hard-shoe. Details they both overcome often enough to still nail it and win firsts.
Shortly after, E found me at the stage where M and L would dance their 2-hand reel, their first dance of the day. He laughed that it took him half an hour to find it (the correct stage location). I smiled back and told him that this is thee best organized feis I know of, while understanding the confusion for a first-timer, even if he exaggerated.
Sometimes, figures (team dances) are done first thing at a feis; this feis nicely does them in the middle of the lower grades (beginner and advanced beginner dances), and the higher grades (novice and open prizewinner dance competitions). Former beau / dance dad aka DAID, SO, was impressed enough he felt that M and L should win first place. Their arms, their connection (a team should look like a team even if just two of them), their unison and their choreography done just for them, did look sharp and good. They ended up winning 2nd place out of seven or eight teams. M knew that the winning team looked really good. It's all good.
My mother even got "moon-pied" by Z&B himself. I had to explain to her just what that meant, and that it's traditional, et al. She doesn't really like them, either, but we both ate ours, being hungry and all. Ends up, my Kentucky-born stepfather, Bob, likes them. They ARE a "southern" thing, I suppose.
One of the feis chairs, ceili/set dancing friend LF, also danced an adult 4-hand reel. He was part of a team that one first place at the 2007 Southern Region Oireachtas. The one woman looked familiar, so it was likely the same team. E and I watched LF and his 4-hand team dance. E knew it wasn't "the" 4-hand reel, so what was it? He didn't realize that sometimes there are dances done in the very traditional style, and sometimes they can be choreographed within guidelines.
Next feis entry -- M's dances, and L's, of course, as they dance all thee exact same ones, and Si, maybe SO's daughter, etc.