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  • Ally Gavigan:
  • 11 November 2016

The Top 10 Responsibilities of Being an Irish Dance Parent

Ten!? Up until I really started thinking about it, I thought there were only two, ‘drive and pay’..

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Ten!? Up until I really started thinking about it, I thought there were only two, ‘drive and pay’. Sorry, I thought about it, and until your dancer becomes completely ‘dance self-sufficient’, and there are only  three documented cases of this happening, there are a lot more than two.
For most of you, this will be second nature, but for the new feis parents, this might be considered Feis Parenting 101, and for you new feis dads, it may be a real eye opener.

Editor’s Note: I may come across a little ‘feis dad’ heavy, but you write what you know. Feis Moms generally do more than the ‘average’ feis dad, so please note, Feis Moms, I am not slighting you.  Most of this won’t be a surprise to you and if your ‘better half’ doesn’t realize your contributions to Irish Dance Parenting, this may help.

So without further ado, the Top 10 Responsibilities of Being an Irish Dance Parent (presented in no particular order, but trying to do it in the order you may encounter for a feis weekend):

Financier

– yes, you will pay. Classes, workshops, shoes, socks, dance attire, dresses, feis fees, sock glue (there is to such a thing) and more, just preparing for the feis weekend; and travel, hotels, food on the road, food at the feis, celebratory (or consolation) ice cream after the feis, well you get the picture. And if all those feiseanna go well, there will be Regionals, Nationals, Oireachtas, Worlds, and for Worlds, a car ride may not be an option…cha-ching.

Chauffeur

– I have over 40,000 miles on my 18 month old car. I did the math, and if I had driven to my job every Monday through Friday for those 18 months, it would be approximately 10,000 miles. Even if I added another 15,000 miles for personal driving and vacations, it still leaves 15,000 miles which I can easily say is all Irish Dance related… really.

Pack Mule

– Somebody is going to have to get the folding chairs, Zuca, dance bags, mini-cooler, wig box, feis bucket, blankets, etc… from the car to the feis venue and back. And let’s not forget suitcases, bathroom bags, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, and whatever else you need to and from the car when you get to the feis hotel.

Feng Shui Expert

– and when all that stuff gets into the venue, it all needs to be set up. Find the right camping spot, set up the chairs, make sure everything fits in the camping spot and has easy access to the Zuca, and the dress rack, and arranged  so that you are not stuck in the middle of ALL the campers, and can still easily get to the stage(s). NOTE: yes I know this is really not feng shui, so what would you call it?

Gopher

- And so you are finally at the feis. Inevitably, at least for the first, let’s say 30 feiseanna, your dancer will forget something. If both parents are there, just as inevitably, the dad will be the gopher to retrieve, or buy new, the missing item.

Make Up Artist/ Hairdresser

– You will see every sort of make-up application at a feis, from natural (sans makeup), to tasteful runway model, to Tammy Faye Baker wannabes and beauty school dropouts. Thankfully, my wife has always been the makeup artist in our house, until such time where the girl child took over her own.
And the hair, there are SO many options; natural hair with or without being curled, full wigs, bun wigs, braids, side wigs, and then the donuts and bobby pins, and hair accessories like tiaras, headbands, crowns, and ribbons. And that is just the start, I have seen temporary color being applied to the natural hairs that don’t quite match the wig, wigs flying off during competition and other hair emergencies, curl failures, and more.

If you aren’t skilled in these particular aspects of feis parenthood, and yes, this is directed more at the dads, I would find out which moms or senior dancers don’t mind helping.

Fashion Coordinator

– hopefully you won’t have to worry about this for a while, as most schools will have school dresses or a simple skirt and top for the first year or so of competitions. After that though, be ready. ‘What colors will work for me’, ‘do these colors work together’, ‘does this work with my wig’, ‘should I have this kind of skirt or that, and what about the bodice’? Bodice!? What’s a bodice? Start learning early, and refer back to responsibility 1, this will constitute a significant portion of it.

Sideline Coach

– When all this starts, you won’t know the difference between a hornpipe, reel and slip jig, and it will take a while to get that, if you ever do. You will however, quickly learn that thing that your dancer may not being doing quite right, whether it is arm position, points, kicks, crosses, the smile, or some combination of those. When you notice that thing, you will create some sort of sign language so that you can signal your dancer from the stands when they do it wrong, in the hopes of correcting it before the judge notices. 26% of you will do this subconsciously which will be a huge source of entertainment to the other parents who notice you doing it.

Therapist

– Very few dancers win every competition, in fact, I have never heard of it being done, so your dancer may need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. It may happen repeatedly, or may go great for a while then hit the fan for some reason. When it happens, be ready, be strong, be the wiki(see below) and bring ice cream or (insert other appropriate ‘feel better’ food item here).

Wiki

– You’re going to need to know something about Irish Dance. Generally your dancer will teach you, but a base knowledge is a good thing to have. If nothing else, try to understand how judging works, because there will be those times when your dancer dances perfectly, and does not win, or even place. I have found that knowing all the different reasons why that might be is a good tool to have when the ice cream runs out and the questions start.

EMT

– I would like to say that your dancer will never sustain an injury in Irish Dance. I can’t say that for us. If you have no first aid experience, you should have some understanding about band aids, pain killers, wraps, and athletic tape, and caring for blisters, muscle soreness, sprains, and dare I say, broken bones. Also know where the closest Urgent Care is located. We have had somewhere between 5 and 10  trips in the last few years, 2 of which were for broken bones, all of them Irish Dance related. Please refer back to responsibility 1, this can also be pricey.

One last responsibility that may not seem like a feis parent thing, but I think it counts, the absent parent. Whether it is to go to work to help support the dance, or to stay home with the non-dance siblings, or to be away, serving in the military of some other occupation that takes them from their family, there are things that need to be taken care of, and I would be neglect if I did not mention this equally important job. Being absent and supportive is probably one of the most difficult of the responsibilities, and probably the least appreciated, just wanted to let you know, I understand.

And there you have it, the Top Ten (well really eleven). Thanks to all of you who do this so well, and those of you who are still learning, and giving it your all, and finally, good luck to the rookies. I have only been doing the feis parent thing for a little over 6 years and I am still learning, no pressure on you.


Well you seasoned veterans, did I get it right? If not, what did I miss?

Comments

James Coogan
28 November 2013

This made me laugh so much. It is all so true.

I don't mind the driving and being a general errands boy but I draw the line at make up artist.

I don't think my daughter would let me do it anyway - think she would be too worried she will end up looking like Bozo the clown.

A Feis Dad in London

Feis Dad
12 December 2013

Thanks James... its good to see our responsibilities are 'international'. Oh, and I am with you on the makeup thing. I think TGC (the girl child) would agree wink

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