Irish dancers rock the South at Memphis Feis Irish dancing competition


Open Championship Girls under 16 Awards
at Memphis Feis 2012 with Champion Lydia Wilkens-Reed,
2nd Maire Amlicke and 3rd Aileen Markovitz

Post and photos by Courtney Kaderbek, 
Feis America LLC  intern

Memphis Feis, hosted by the Memphis Irish Arts Association, was held this year on May 27th at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. More than 230 Irish dancers representing 40 schools from 15 states and Canada competed in the gymnasium and presentation hall of the university.

Hundreds of Irish dancers spent a long, exciting day putting on their wigs and dresses, prepping for their competitions in the tiled hallway or gymnasium floor, visitng with friends, hovering around the corner reserved for competition scores, and dancing their hearts out onstage.

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I had the opportunity to ask several competitive Irish dancers this important question:  "What is your very favorite thing about a feis?" I received numerous answers from Irish dancers of all ages and competition levels, but never received the same answer twice!  Every dancer I interviewed loves feiseanna for a different reason, and yet, I think that most dancers can relate to every one of the replies!

Kristin, a Preliminary Champion, answered, “The challenge.” Margaret, a Preliminary Champion, said with a sheepish smile and total honesty, “The sparkles!” Emma, a young Novice/Prizewinner, replied, “The awesome!” Piper, an Advanced Beginner/Novice, said, “The competition!” Nancy, a Novice, answered bluntly, “The medals!” These answers together seem to perfectly sum up the reason why we all love feiseanna!

Preliminary Championship Trophy Special 15 & Over at Memphis Feis 2012
with 1st place Aurora Averill, 2nd place Moira Henderson and 3rd Kiera Welch.

During my time at Memphis Feis, I enjoyed the Irish dancing competition largely because of the friendliness of fellow dancers. When a dancer is standing in line waiting to compete, there is little that can break the tension better than chatting and laughing with a friendly rival. It is a soothing reminder that we can be, in fact, friends, and we can build each other up instead of just viewing each other as rivals for the coveted gold medal. The character that comes from competing is lost if a dancer cannot look a fellow competitor in the eye and treat her with respect and courtesy.

I had the privilege to chat with one such girl during my last competition at Memphis Feis. We spent several moments discussing the anxiety of standing in line waiting for a competition to begin, our mutual habit of refusing to glance at the score-boards until every competition has been danced (for fear of losing our nerve), and our dread of competitors who discuss scores while waiting in line to compete. We treated each other as friends, not rivals, and when we were finished with our dances, we reunited near the score-boards, congratulated each other on our medals, and said good-bye until the next competition. It was a great reminder that one of the most valuable things about feiseanna is the special opportunity to make friends with Irish dancers from all over the country.


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