The boys at a feis

My husband and I have five sons and a daughter and they all take Irish dance lessons. As a family, we love to travel to feiseanna together to cheer on our three boys who are old enough to compete.

People tell us how lucky we are that we don’t have to spend the money on the many trappings of the girl’s costumes. Having boys in Irish dance is easier in a lot of ways, and yet I find myself counting the years until my daughter competes.

Why I love having sons who Irish dance.

First and foremost are the costumes. A solo dress for a young lady can be as or more expensive than the dress she says, “I do” in. But don’t think it stops there. Girls require shoes, poodle socks, tiaras or headbands, wigs, and incidentals such as earrings, sock glue and bloomers. Aside from shoes, boys who compete have much less expensive attire: vest, shirt and tie, slacks, and black socks.

I know it seems silly, but even though I pay much less for my boys’ costumes, I can’t wait until I can buy my daughter an outrageously priced sparkly dress. There is a part of me that longs to glue the rhinestones on her dress and watch her curls bounce above her head onstage.

My sons no longer perform the slip jig, a more feminine Irish dance, in competition. No slip jig means more time to practice other dances, and less dances to worry about it competition. I’m good with that. It is lovely to watch the girls perform the slip jig and give them a chance to shine. I suppose the boys make up for it by doing heel clicks in their reels.

Drama among boys is considerably lower than the interactions between female Irish dancers. Oh, the boys have their own kind of drama, but it usually consists of a look or a punch in the arm and it’s over.


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Boys have less competition than girls in Irish dance, especially at the regional, national and world levels.  There are just fewer boys in the sport. That means my sons have a better chance of placing than girls who technically may be better than them. Secretly I am relieved that my boys have less competition, but there is a part of me that worries that they won’t be motivated enough to push themselves to reach their potential.

Whether you have a boy in Irish dancing or a girl, a parent’s worries are universal: Will the time and money spent build in my dancer the character, perseverance, and confidence in him or herself to lay a foundation for a successful future?

If the answer is yes, we all win.

Do you have sons or daughters who Irish dance?  How do you view the differences between the sexes in Irish dance?

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