Getting ‘Irish’ with it

By Jaclyn Freese
November 21, 2002

Paul Williams

The Irish spirit was in the air at the annual Coyle Feis Irish dancing competition on Sunday, Nov. 10 at Norristown High School

The dancers were from various dancing schools from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. All dancers competed in various forms of traditional Irish dancing.

Kathy Wilson, director of The Coyle School, which hosted the Feis, said there are six different kinds of Irish dances at competitions. Dancers compete in the reel, jig, slip jig, hornpipe, treble jig, and the treble reel.

“Usually, the dancers compete in the six traditional dances,” Wilson said. “However, sometimes dancers compete in set dances or ceili dances, when there is a group dancing,”

In competition, Irish dancing has five different levels. When a dancer first starts out, they are in the beginner level. After beginner, they move onto novice and then onto prize winner. If a prize-winner receives first place at a competition, they move onto preliminaries and then finally championships.

When the dancers are in the novice and prize-winner stages, they wear costumes that their teachers pick out for them. They also wear their hair in bouncy curls to create the illusion of them jumping higher, which is the key to placing first in a competition. When they advance from prize winner to preliminary and championship, they wear a solo dress, which means they pick out their own colors and patterns, and they also wear a tiara or colorful headband that matches their solo dress.

“I am so excited to dance,” 12-year-old Megan Ernest said. “I really want to get first place today so I can move up to preliminaries and wear a solo dress.”

“My daughter has been dancing for years and I think these competitions are wonderful,” Eileen Fagan, who works for The Coyle School in its travel department and is an alumna of Cabrini, said. “The kids are always in such good spirits.”

The Irish spirit seemed to be everywhere throughout the competition. The music the dancers danced to was lively with either a fiddle or accordion accompanying it and the competitors always had a smile on their face.

“The people are there because they love to dance,” Colleen Kelly, co-director of The Coyle School, said. “Their love for the sport shines through when they compete. You hardly ever see a dancer who is not happy or smiling.”

The dancers are mostly Irish but any nationality may compete. Schools for Irish dancing cost about $35 a month, not including the price of shoes, head bands, hair pieces and dresses, which can range from $700-$1,000.

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Jaclyn Freese

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