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With less than three weeks until the North American Irish Dance Championships, dancers are hitting the feis scene to get prepared. 

Over 800 dancers from across the east coast gathered to compete at the Irish Heritage Feis organized by the O’Shea Chaplin Academy at Saugus High School on June 14. Many of these dancers will be traveling to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, the venue that will host the national championships on July 3 through July 7, 2009.

“Feiseanna are good practice before major competitions. They give you a chance to experience the stage while getting some feedback from the judges and your teachers,” says Allison Gendron, 18, of the O’Shea Chaplin Academy. She placed fourth in the Open Championships 18+ competition and will be traveling to the nationals in Nashville. 

Irish-step dancing is a combination of beauty, grace, and athleticism. Dancers must qualify to compete at the North American Irish Dance Championships. 

 “Judges look for execution of steps, timing, posture, lift, crossed legs, turned out feet, and overall presentation,” says Lisa Chaplin McAllister, ADCRG from the O’Shea-Chaplin Academy.

Brenda Crossen Finn ADCRG from the O’Shea Chaplin stresses the need for stage familiarity.

“It is important for dancers preparing for a national or world competition to experience the stage as much as possible leading up to any major event. Practice in class is important, yet it is crucial for dancers to become comfortable with a stage environment before an audience,” she said.

Sisters Alana and Claire O’Brien of the O’Shea Chaplin Academy understand that feiseanna can be helpful preparations before major competitions. 

“I like to feis before majors because it gives me a chance to work through my dances,” says Alana, 20. 

“I don’t really get adrenaline pumps for feiseanna anymore because I go to them so often, so when I get to a major I get really excited. I can take it up a level with a positive reaction to nerves instead of a negative one,” she said.

Claire, 18, explains, “It’s really refreshing to have a new set of eyes evaluating your dancing and not just looking at your technique and steps, but really taking you in as a whole package. Stage presence, performance, and everything that might not come across at class.”

With the nationals edging near, feis fever is at an all-time high. Passing up a chance to prepare is out of the question for dancers. 

See y’all in Nashville!