47TH DETROIT INTERNATIONAL FEIS
The word feis (pronounced ‘fesh’) comes from a Gaelic word meaning ‘festival’. The 47th Detroit International Feis took place Saturday, June 7th at the Total Sports complex in Wixom, and in the midst of the swirling skirts and bouncing curls, the spirited dance competition was a huge success.
Another Celtic word that was heard throughout the competition was oireachtas, a term properly defined as annual dance championship competition. The word literally means "gathering" in English. On Saturday, dancers from all over the United States and Canada competed in various age-specific categories, doing reels, jigs and hornpipes. Musician David James defined the difference as one of timing, demonstrating the lilting melodies of each.
Most oireachtas follow a pre-set format, with a light shoe round, a hard shoe round and a callback round. For the light shoe round, boys dance 48 bars of a reel, but girls' competitions may require either a reel or a slip jig. In case of a slip jig, only 40 bars are danced. The requirement of reel or slip-jig depends on the age group; usually it alternates each year. The possible dances for the hard shoe round for both girls' and boys' competitions are treble jig and hornpipe. Once again, the required hard shoe dance for each year is determined by age group. For girls, reel and hornpipe generally coincide in any given year, and hence slip jig and treble jig coincide. For treble jig, the dancer is required to perform 48 bars; for hornpipe, the standard is 40 bars.
After all the dancers in the competition have performed their first two rounds, the scores are tabulated. Approximately half the competition will receive a "recall" to dance their third round. The third round is a non-traditional set dance and are performed one at a time.
After all three rounds are completed, the scores are tabulated. Usually the results are announced in a big ceremony at the end of the day's events. Qualification for the World Championships is decided as follows: The top 10 or 14 depending on the competition from each competition qualify for the World Championships, and 1 for every 10 competitors who danced in the competition. In addition, any World or Nationals medal holder is automatically qualified for the World Championships, so the age group receives one additional qualifying spot for every medal holder.
The crowds at 47th Detroit International Feis numbered in the thousands. Vendors such as Memories of Ireland, Celtic by Designs and Touch of Ireland had all manners of Celtic memorabilia available, including jewelry and
Irish wares, even iron works, and the general air of competition was, in the great Irish tradition, fierce but good-natured.