The vast majority of people at a feis are female – moms, daughters, sisters grandmas – but it’s not all one-gender.
Dads bring their kids to contests, and help behind the scenes, setting up stages and sound systems. Boys compete too, if in smaller numbers.
So what’s it like, being a boy surrounded by so many women? Few of them seem fazed. James Fishon-Ryan, 16, is an Irish dancer at An Rince Mor School, from Setauket New York, who has been dancing for ten years.
Tall and dark, with freckles, James jokes with his female friends before speaking to IrishCentral. “I think there are a lot more boys than people realize,” he says. “I enjoy it, so it doesn’t matter to me what people think.”
Irish dancing is the only thing he does; he has no time for anything else. “It’s more cultural than football,” James explains, saying that appeals to him because his dad is from Ireland. “It’s much more expressive. It’s taught me a lot.”
Other boys at the Mulvihill-Lynch Feis, though few and far between, were equally adamant that dancing is as much for boys as it is for girls.
Jimmy Kimmel, 16, is one of three boys in the championship class at the Mulvihill-Lynch School. He recently performed at the World Championships in Philadelphia, where he came fourteenth in a contest of about 40.
Kimmel used to run track, and he has a sportsman’s approach to dance. “You need not talent, but drive,” Kimmel says. Being on stage gives him confidence, and a high.
Kimmel attributes his love of Irish dance to the fact that other members of his family are Irish dancers. And like so many other passionate Irish dancers, he also saw “Riverdance” on Broadway, which got him hooked.
Seeing other men dance onstage also helps, Kimmel says. “It shows people there are different styles for girls and guys,” he says. “For guys, if you see another guy dance and think that’s cool, you can say, ‘I’d like to try that!’”