A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dropping down, an adult Irish dancer's dilemma

Photo Credit Curtis Judd Photography

This article was first published in the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Feis America Magazine.

“This is my last feis in the adult category,” I confided to an adult dancer as we stood backstage, ready in our class dresses for the Prizewinner competition. After consulting with my TCRG, we agree that I can start learning slow speed dances, drop down to compete with the teens, and lift the ceiling on how far I can progress in Irish dance.
I didn’t expect to have second thoughts about dropping down to the “& overs”, but as I competed in the adult category and observed the adults who have already “dropped down” my decision began to waver.  Now that the time is near for me to drop down as an adult, I must weigh the pros and cons.
There are many reasons why I want to drop down, foremost of which are to challenge myself, compete and rub shoulders with the many dancers in my area who have dropped down already, and wear a coveted solo dress.
To me, the appeal of switching categories as an adult has to do with aspiring higher and pushing myself to get better. Even though I love to dance just for the sake of the art form, competition lights a fire under me that propels me forward in skill.  Because there is a limit to how far I can progress in the adult category, I look forward to dropping down to fuel my motivation to excel.
I love the camaraderie and encouragement of other adult dancers. Many of the adult dancers in my area have already dropped down into &overs and I would love to join them.
I can’t wait to dance in a sparkly, colorful, made-for-me solo dress. There’s something about knowing that you are dressed to kill that helps you dance your best.  Even though there are some dancers who wear solo dresses in the adult prizewinner category, I’m going to hold off on that privilege until I drop down.  I can’t wait until I’ve earned the privilege of dancing onstage in a solo dress.
While I can’t wait to drop down into the &overs, a few things have happened since my last feis to make me consider staying in the adult category. A recent ruling by IDTANA allowing adults to do slow speeds, my own health issues, and the added knowledge that I would be unable to not participate in an adult ceili team all make me pause and reconsider where I want to compete in the near future.
At the Irish Dance Teacher’s Association of North America meeting at the North American Irishd Dance Championships, the attending TCRGs voted to allow adult competitors to compete in slow and fast speed hard shoe dances.  Because the ban on slow speeds for adults went into effect before I began dancing, I have never competed in a slow speed hardshoe before—a new challenge and reason for staying in the adult category.
A surgery and a recent back injury make me wonder if I should stay in the adult category.  Those who drop down with the teens practice faithfully and keep their bodies fit enough to compete for champion level.  Until I can recover and train my body, the adult category is a good place for me to be. I can keep up on competition but allow my body time to heal until I can handle a more rigorous schedule.
I would love to be a part of an adult ladies ceili team before I drop down to the &overs.  While I attended what I thought would be my last feis as an “adult”, I learned that as soon as I drop down, I will no longer be able to be on a ceili team with the other adults at my school. This information made me backtrack a little—perhaps I should stay in the adult category awhile longer.
Continuing on with the adult category suits me at my current progress level. As I recover from health setbacks, I can go at my own pace and still compete. Slow speed dances will keep me busy for a year or more and I will be eligible to compete with an adult team.  Will I still aspire to drop down and try for champion levels?  You bet—it might take me a little longer than I originally planned, but before I know it I’ll be waiting backstage of the &over competition in my new solo dress.


  1. I hope you find the solution that works best for you. I truly admire you! Irish dancing is such a competitive discipline!

    I also wanted to let you know I gave you an award over at my blog. Here's the link:

    1. Thanks Yamile! Irish dancing is so much fun and it's great that there is a place for every one in it. I hope to run into you at Winterfeis!


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