A Gathering Place for Adults Who Love Irish Dance

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Irish dance competitions for adult Irish dancers this May

Scariff Hardiman adult Irish dancers, Utah
Photo: courtesy Alyson McKean-Bown

Many feiseanna (Irish dance competitions) offer competitions for adult Irish dancers. Here's a quick glance at feiseanna that welcome adult Irish dancers in May.

Plan on supporting a feis in your area that includes adult Irish dancers and keep an eye out for those feiseanna who are offering slow speed dances for adults. 

Source: www.feisworx.com 

Key: FF-first feis B-beginner, N-novice, PW-prize winner, O-open championship

Victoria, BC - May 4, 2012 to May 6, 2012
Victoria School of Irish Dance

B, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional and slow speeds
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel, progressive
specials: reel, treble reel

Milwaukee, WI - May 5, 2012
Trinity Academy of Irish Dance

B1/B2, N/PW
3 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 

Irving, TX - May 11, 2012 to May 12, 2012
Emerald School of Irish Dance

B1/B2, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel

Lexington, KY - May 13, 2012
Kentucky McTeggart School of Irish Dance

B1/B2, N/PW
3 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
specials: Mother/child 2 hand

Edmonton, AB - May 18, 2012 to May 20, 2012
Brady Academy

B, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel, progressive

Tucson, AZ - May 18, 2012 to May 20, 2012
Maguire Academy of Irish Dance AZ

B, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel
specials: reel or slip jig plus treble jig or hornpipe, family special, parent/child 2 hand

Orlando, FL - May 19, 2012
Watters School of Irish Dancing

B1, B2, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed, slow speed for N & PW
2,3,4,8 hand reel, parent/child 2 hand
specials: traditional set, treble reel

WestCoast Championships (Penk-O'Donnell 2012
Port Moody, BC - May 26, 2012 to May 27, 2012
Penk-O'Donnell School of Irish Dance

B, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel, progressive

So San Francisco, CA - May 27, 2012 to May 28, 2012
Murphy Irish Dancers

B1, B2, N, PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
2,3,4,6,8 hand reel
specials: reel, treble reel

Cleveland, OH - May 27, 2012
The Greater Cleveland Feis Society

B1/2,  N/PW
4 soft shoe
2 hard shoe, traditional speed
traditional set 
8 hand reel, parent/child 2 hand

If you have a photo of your adult class practicing or performing that you would like to see featured, please email me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Irish dance diet - Don't get down when the scale goes up

With the type of lifestyle change that I am pursuing, there are bound to be ups and downs on the scale.  Life is not perfect--it is full of holidays, vacations, desserts and days when you just can't exercise. When the scale goes up, don't despair. Get right back in the saddle and hang on for dear life!

This week I went on vacation.  I did really well with my calorie intake for the first few days and so-so on the last few. I practiced my dances for at least an hour every day and stretched my muscles.

Today I was excited to get back to dance and my son and I rushed to our class as soon as we got home from our vacation. I injured my calf muscle in the first 15 minutes of class, possibly making it so that I can't feis this weekend. Grrr.

It would be easy to give up and say, "that lifestyle change was a good idea, but it's too hard". But I'm not going to. Sure, the scale says I'm up, but I'm not going to let it get me down. I plan to eat healthy, small portions this week and take off the bit of vacation weight I stole. In the meantime, I'm going to follow my own advice for recovering from an injury, re-posted here from an earlier post of mine.

1. Follow all of your doctors instructions. Use all prescribed medications and support products that will help speed recovery. Don't begin dancing until your doctor gives you the go ahead--even if you feel fine. 

2. Use the down time for strength training and mental conditioning.  Stretch uninjured muscles, take a walk (doctor permitting) and research new techniques. Put on some of your favorite practice music and visualize yourself dancing a perfect step. Keep your body and mind sharp and you won't even miss a beat. 

3. Take it slow. When you go back to dance class, listen to your body. If your injury starts to feel painful or strained, lower your intensity level or sit it out and observe the lesson.

If you follow your doctors instructions, use the down time for conditioning, and take it easy coming back to dance, you will be back on your feet in no time.

Week Three

Weight gained=1.6 pound
Total weight loss=1 pounds

What are your experiences with injuries as a dancer?  How do you cope when you hit a rough spot in your lifestyle change? Did it take you long to get back in the jig of things or did you have setbacks?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview with competitive adult Irish dancer Julia Bannister from Canada

Julia Bannister from the Stanford School of Irish dance
Photo: courtesy Julia Bannister

"The choice to dance is yours, and the pure joy of Irish dance will remain with you always."
     ~ Julia Bannister

A big welcome to Julia Bannister, age 48, from The Stanford School of Irish Dance in New Brunswick, Canada.

Feis America:  In a few sentences, tell us about your Irish dance journey--what inspired you to take up the sport? 

Julia Bannister:  Without a doubt, I can say it was something deep inside that just burst through me when Sharon (our TCRG) came to town and started the school. The first adult class was devastating for me. I was faced with a blinding migraine. I felt overwhelmed and handed back the shoes that I bought that morning, and walked out the door only to return some eight years later. It was just something deep inside of me. It was an 18 year old dancer, Meghan Callaghan (who now dances at Sue Fay Healy in Ottawa, Ontario), that brought me, once again, to dare try Irish dance. I thought she was just supporting my desire to experience ‘a bit’ of Irish dance. Little did I know that she had another goal, before moving to Ottawa, and that was for me to join the existing adult class. With more than 20 years age difference between us, we are now the best of friends, and she continues to challenge and inspire me.

Feis America:  What school do you attend?

Julia Bannister:  Stanford School of Irish Dance, the only An Coimisiun le Rince Gaelacha-registered Irish dance school in the Province of New Brunswick, Canada. I feel so blessed to have our TCRG Sharon Stanford Rutter and to be able to be a part of the non-adult stream. I am in the Novice class. After nearly three years of being in the adult class and participating in one adult competition and two serious injuries later, I took a risk to move to & Overs. Then my TCRG took a risk with me by opening up the regular stream class to me and the youth took another kind of risk by accepting me into what is predominantly a youth-oriented teaching and learning environment. I am also part of our senior performing troupe. 

While these sound like huge accomplishments, they are really just two steps toward being involved with the school the way I want to be--fully integrated. I am still adjusting, and its been a very humbling experience. I am now more riddled with self-doubt like when I first started Irish dance but there is a difference. I have had to learn a lot in a short period of time to integrate into this Novice class and Senior Performing Troupe. I can’t expect anyone to get where I’m coming from because my fellow dancers are youth from age 8 to 25 and my TCRG expects me, like every other dancer, to work through my barriers.   I think this is an authentic part of the journey and experience of being part of an Irish dance school.

Feis America:  What is your favorite part of Irish dancing?

Julia Bannister:  Individual practice. I love breaking things down and perfecting them. That could be a step, a technique, visualizing the best execution--you name it! It's intoxicating, and once I give myself permission to start practice, I never want to stop. It is gratifying when I witness something beautiful, powerful or brilliant in an Irish dancer. I ‘borrow’ that strength and try to replicate it with a secret desire to add that quality to my own dance. That makes every dancer I see a teacher for me!

Julia Bannister practicing in her backyard.
Feis America:  What type of music do you practice to?

Julia Bannister:  I use to practice only to music that was very familiar to me, for example Tony Nother’s "It's About Time". In the past couple of months, however, I have finally begun to break free from that safety net and I am starting to dance to any Irish dance music regardless of who’s playing.

Feis America:  Do you have other hobbies besides Irish dancing?

Julia Bannister:  Absolutely nothing as captivating as Irish Dance. I tried bodhran, but I always find myself putting it aside for Irish dance. I used to do long-distance running. Even when under tremendous pressures as a self-employed social worker, at home as a single parent, or when I’m sick or recovering from dance injuries, I dream about Irish dance day and night. I find myself building my whole life around this opportunity, regardless of natural limitations that come with starting Irish dance at age 44.

Feis America:  What are your current and long term goals when it comes to Irish dancing?

Julia Bannister:  I’ve never had anyone ask me that, straight-up. I have told bits and pieces with two close Irish dance friends but until I share the specific vision and goal with my TCRG, and work out a long-range plan toward meeting those goals with her support, I will keep them in my dreams.

Short term goals are to participate in 4-6 feieanna this spring, summer and fall. Not only do I want to place fully out of Novice, but I want to do it with a growth spurt by September 2012. Adults can have them too!

Feis America:  Do you have any advice for beginning adult Irish dancers?

Julia Bannister:  Well, whatever advice I give is more than likely the very advice I need myself so for what it's worth (which is a lot to me) here it goes:

1) Talk less about the challenges.
2) Watch more from a place of curiosity.
3) Feel the brilliance of the way your body can do the dance, but don’t force it. 

The choice to dance will remain yours and the pure joy of Irish dance will remain with you always! 

Feis America: Thank you, Julia, for sharing your story with us and inspiring other adult Irish dancers!


Readers: Are you an adult Irish dancer, competitive or not, with a story to share? Would you like to inspire others to feel your passion for Irish dancing and culture? Do you have a question about Irish dancing? Please comment in the box below for replies and contact information!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Irish Dance Diet - You can have your pie and eat it too

Emeril's Banana Cream pie
credit Fark.com

I have a sweet tooth and a love of all breads and pastries.  So when my husband's mother brought this amazing banana cream pie (Emeril's recipe she says) to Sunday dinner, I couldn't be stoic and pass.  But I've worked so hard, so what's a dieting girl to do?

I know from past experience that if I let myself have a treat every day that I won't reach my weight loss goals. But if I deprive myself of everything that I love, I'll cave and go on a counter productive binge!

The trick here is to keep yourself from feeling totally deprived, but remember that you are sacrificing something now for something better.

Here are some tips for resisting your trigger foods and still maintaining weight loss:

1-Ask to look at the dessert menu and oogle over the sweets.  Then hand the menu back and pop in a mint. Sometimes it's satisfying just to take a look.
2-Take one or two bites and savor them.  A little taste can go a long way.  Give the rest to a friend, or your kids, or the dog.  It will be okay.
3-Plan in advance if you really want that treat!  Eat extra vegetable soups and salads and then, by all means, eat that treat and enjoy it!
4-If it's a special occasion and you've been really good and you really want that dessert--eat it!  Then get right back on track.

I ate a small serving of that wonderful banana cream pie and I worked it into my diet plan. And I still lost!

How do you deal with cravings and your sweet tooth?

Week Two
Weight lost= 1.6 pound
Total weight loss=2.6 pounds

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adult Irish dancers The Blackbirds at The College of Wooster in Ohio

The Blackbirds Irish Dance Group at Wooster College
Photo courtesy The Blackbirds

Blackbirds come to roost at The College of Wooster in Wooster; Ohio - Irish dancing Blackbirds, that is!  Haley Close from The Blackbird Irish dance group agreed to tell Christy Dorrity from Feis America a little about the collegiate group that is created and run by students.

Feis America: Tell me about your collegiate Irish dance program--how many people are involved, what types of classes are offered, what types of certifications/endorsements are available as part of the program?

The Blackbirds: A student, Jesse Hoselton, who named the group The Blackbirds after the joint Scottish-Irish forces who fought the British, created the group in 2004. Since our college still emphasizes the Scottish arts, it was perfect! We explore all types of Irish dance including hardshoe and soft shoe dances, traditional Ceili dances, and a variety of dances choreographed by us students. Most of the dancers learned Irish dance at Wooster and have not had formal training, but the experienced dancers teach and lead the others. The Blackbirds' sister group, the Baby Birds, is a beginner group for incoming dancers. We usually average about 10 members, but we’ve had close to 20 members in past years. None of us are certified TCRGs so our focus is on performing and enjoying Irish dance. Basically, we do it for fun!

Read more:

Senior Men and Senior Ladies World Irish Dancing Champions Perform

Little Champion Dancer Shares An Irish Dancer's Oath

Rince Diahbla Dukes College Irish Dancers

Feis America: Where and for who to you perform?

The Blackbirds: We perform at different events on campus throughout the academic year, primarily for other students, though we have also performed at wedding receptions in the local area. We typically put on a recital each semester. Our college hosts a Diversity Fair and various Scottish arts festivals that we dance at. This year we organized a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the campus bar/club and performed then as well. It was great to have the student body participating in some of the ceilis!

Feis America: Can beginners take classes at the collegiate level? The Blackbirds: Any student is welcome to join our group, regardless of whether they have past experience. In fact, we’ve had many talented dancers who never Irish danced until they came to Wooster. We encourage everybody who is interested to try it!

The Blackbirds pose before a performance.
Photo courtesy The Blackbirds..

Feis America: What reception do you receive when you perform at college functions?

The Blackbirds: We are always very well received when we perform on campus. I think Irish dance in general makes for fantastic performances and here it’s no different. We have a lot of freedom in our shows, so we can get pretty creative. Any choreography that we do to music from the Boondock Saints movie always draws a crowd! We just had a performance in our student center where we caused a traffic jam of sorts because students stopped on the stairs trying to catch a glimpse of our treble reel. After the show, I heard one student ask her friend, “Did you see how high they can kick?”

Feis America: Do you have contact with Irish dance programs at other colleges or universities?

The Blackbirds: Unfortunately, we aren’t in contact with any similar groups. I’d love to look into it though.

Feis America: Do your dancers go on to perform professionally, compete or teach in Irish dancing?

The Blackbirds: Our founder is currently studying for her TCRG exam and she started competing again in her home region after she graduated from Wooster. Another one of our former members just returned from competing at the All-Irelands in Dublin. She is teaching dance as well. From what I’ve heard, a lot of our former dancers are still dancing for fun. I just saw pictures of Blackbird alumni performing at a friend’s wedding!

Feis America: What do you envision for adult Irish dancers in the future?

The Blackbirds: I think our group is proof that Irish dance is open to anyone! We have members dancing treble reels who didn’t know what a hard shoe was a few years ago. When we’re together—practicing or even watching “Lord of the Dance” or “Jig” — we aren’t really worried about making careers out of Irish dance or competing at the international level, even though some of our members have. We mostly concern ourselves with having fun and sharing the company of others who love Irish dance. An Irish dancing career definitely doesn’t have to end once you reach a certain age. To me, that’s what makes Irish dance so special. On stage, at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, or even at a pub, when the music starts, I’m always amazed at who can roll up their jeans and pick up a step right where they left off.

Feis America: Thank you very much Haley. Good luck to The Blackbirds!

Readers: Are you involved in Irish dance on the collegiate level? Will your choice of college be influenced by the availability of an Irish dance program?  Please share!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Irish dance diet and the benefits of daily practice

Ghillie marks on my feet
My motivation to practice daily varies depending on whether or not I have a feis or performance coming up and what else is going on in my life.  But when I consistently practice my dancing on a daily basis I see a big difference.  Check out the ghillie marks proudly shown on my feet above.  Gotta love it!

My technique improves by leaps and bounds (pun intended)

I have more energy to dance and less compulsion to overeat, thus creating a positive cycle.

I learn my dances and retain them longer, much to my teacher's relief.

I feel confident in my ability to perform and shine in front of the judges.

How about you?  Do you see a difference when you consistently practice!

This week I did pretty good and was down two pounds on Thursday.  Then we went to Texas Roadhouse to celebrate my brother and sister in laws' success in their Biggest Loser contest (good job guys!), and Easter Sunday we had too much food.  I still counted calories but only ended up losing a pound. Still, one step closer!

Week One
Weight lost= 1 pound
Total weight loss=1 pound

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

World Irish Dance Association Championships adult Irish dancers prepare for World Championships

Erica Graham at the WIDA British Open Championships 2011
Photo: courtesy Erica Graham
While thousands of people rallied in Belfast for An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha's World Irish Dancing Championships this week, adult Irish dancers are preparing for the upcoming World Championships for the World Irish Dance Association (WIDA).  

Erica Graham from the Farrell School of Irish dance in Fairford, Gloucestershire, England will be competing on Easter weekend at the World Irish Dance Association World Irish Dancing Championships in the Over 35 category.  Graham began dancing after watching her own daughter dance. "My teacher had an adult class," Graham says. "Once I'd tried it I was hooked." Bella, one of Erica's two daughters who also Irish dance, will also be competing at WIDA Worlds. 

Adult Irish dancer Erica Graham and daughter Bella.
Photo: courtesy Erica Graham
Graham qualified for World Irish Dance Association World Irish Dancing Championships at the British Open Irish Dancing Championships in October 2011. She says, "I never dreamed I would be competing at the Worlds, but [World Irish Dancing Association] is adult-friendly so I am able to compete with my own age group in O35, which is still very competitive." 
Read more:


The World Irish Dance Association is a relatively young organization.  According to the official WIDA website, the organization is based in mainland Europe and organizes workshops, competitions and examinations to aid in the promotion of and interest in the development of a standard in Irish dancing.  

The adult Irish dance competitions will be held on Monday, April 9, 2012.  Adult categories are and over 35 and include adult teams and a show championship. 

Erica Graham at WIDA Celtic Irish Dance Nationals 2011
Photo: courtesy Erica Graham

Graham attends class three times a week in preparation for the World Championships for World Irish Dance Association. After healing from a broken ankle a year ago, she says mental preparation is as important as physical, "As an adult I do find my nerves can get the better of me, so I've been really working on that."

Like other adult Irish dancers, Erica works at a full time job and has daughters who also spend long hours in practice and competition. "It can be hard," Graham says, "but it's worth it!"

Erica encourages any adult to reach for their goals. She says, "Go for it. You don't have to compete, but there is definitely a place for you, if you want to!"

Good luck to Erica and all of the adults competing this weekend!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Irish dance diet

Irish dance diet day one
Week One-Day One
155 pounds

I'm starting something new today.  The Irish dance diet.

Yes, you heard me right.  I'm going to use Irish dance to lose my extra weight and get back into shape.

After having five babies, I've gone back to my Irish dance class. It's a bit harder to get off the floor now than it used to be and I have goals I want to accomplish in dance!

Then, last summer I slipped a disc in my back which put me out of commission for a few months.  I gained a good ten pounds from the lack of exercise. When I went back to class again I ended up with severe sciatic nerve pain that put me right down on bed rest.

It's a vicious cycle that begins with weight gain, spirals to a lack of exercise and keeps going.

So I've decided that if I'm going to accomplish not only my dance goals, but other goals in my life, I need to go for it.

Here's the plan:

Irish dance class twice a week, and dance practice at home at least three more times a week, coupled with a healthy diet that will help me get to my goals.

What are my goals?

Lose 30 pounds by September 1st
Condition myself and improve my stamina and technique in Irish dance
Drop down to the &overs and get a solo dress for competition

Why am I doing this?

I either need to bite the bullet, lose the weight and become a real dancer, or resign myself to dancing at less than my capabilities.

Wish me luck!