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Over 800 dancers competed from a number of Irish dance schools across the east coast from beginner to championship level at the Irish Heritage Feis, hosted by the O’Shea Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance at Saugus High School on Sunday, June 14. 

Accompanied by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends, it was a time for friendly competition and celebration of Irish dance and culture.

The O’Shea Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance was founded in 1954 in Galway, Ireland by champion dancer Rita O’Shea, ADCRG. Five of Rita’s former students have joined her as teachers at the O’Shea Chaplin Academy: Lisa Chaplin McAllister, ADCRG; Brenda Crossen Finn, ADCRG; Kathleen Boutin, TCRG; Maura Masterson, TCRG; and Sharon Reidy, TCRG. All are champion dancers as well as certified and registered with An Coimisiún in Dublin, Ireland.  

The O’Shea Chaplin Academy teaches traditional and contemporary Irish dance, and has been organizing feiseanna, ceilis, and concerts to keep the culture, and traditions of Irish dance alive in the Boston area for over 50 years. 

An esteemed panel of adjudicators and musicians appeared at the Irish Heritage Feis from New England, New York and Pennsylvania.  

Dancers participated in solo and team competitions including special competitions such as a team dance called the three-hand-reel along with treble reel dance-offs performed in hard shoes for champion dancers.   

Heads topped with curly wigs bounced throughout the day with elaborate and colorful costumes brightening up the gloomy, muggy weather. Dancers sucked down slushies and dippin’ dot ice creams from the café which were popular and refreshing treats!

Vendors selling countless Irish dance necessities, such as costumes, poodle socks, ghillies, hard shoes, sock glue, headbands, wigs and other accessories were stationed in the café. 

Although the Irish Heritage Feis is a competition, Irish dance is not just about winning. Competitions create opportunities for dancers to form friendships with dancers from other schools, states, and even countries that can last a lifetime! 

The top-notch staff of teachers, students, friends, and parents at the O’Shea Chaplin Academy managed an efficient and organized feis with prompt results and scheduled competitions despite the hundreds of competitors. Be sure to "step" inside the Irish Heritage Feis next June!