When Glorianna was 3, she saw Irish dancing for the first time at Edmonton's Heritage Days festival, one of my favourite local events. She was captivated by the rhythm and the music, but mostly by the 'bouncy hair' that she referred back to for weeks to come. Two years later, she was still talking about it, so we started looking for a nearby school, eventually ending up at one in St. Albert. Glory endured a year of ballet/jazz, before starting in proper Irish dance the following year. There were some times she didn't enjoy it as much as others, and at its ebb, it meant my having to rearrange the basement furniture so she could take my hand and practice skips and cuts to the music of The Chieftains. Thankfully, no photo or video of this aberrant behaviour exists.
This weekend was Glory's first feis (pronounced fesh) or Irish Dance festival. In addition to being a cultural event, it is also a full-on competition. In fact, a helpful parent told me I shouldn't be taking an obvious photo of the dancing itself, if I didn't want to get yelled at. "I thought they just didn't want flash photography, which is why I turned it off..." I replied. "No, some of the schools are fiercely protective of their routines, and they're afraid of you copying their moves. I mean, these are still just First Feis events here, but still..." "Fair enough," I said, and tucked away my camera. Getting action photos without the flash was an effort in futility anyways, and the forms must be obeyed, I suppose.
The night before, Glory had gone to bed in tears because she was afraid of messing up when it came time to switch from a reel to a jig. No matter how much Audrey and I tried to re-assure her that everything would be fine, and that all she needed to do was try her best, she was inconsolable and told us in no uncertain terms she didn't want to go. As is our standard practice in such instances, we told her we would talk about it in the morning. With the morning's arrival, her spirits had improved tremendously, so we thought it best not to re-visit the uncertainty of the night before, and an hour later, we were at the feis. In the largest ballroom, where Glory's events were held, there were four stages with dancer's performing on each of them simultaneously. Live musicians provided the accompaniment, which I thought was a nice touch, even though I felt sad that they would be playing the same tune for most of the morning. We met up with Glory's teacher, who also explained to Glory that she didn't have to worry: she was with other first-timers, and there were people there to assist in counting out steps and so on. Glory ended up performing 7 times overall, and a short time later we went to look up the results as they were printed out and taped up outside the judges' room. There were a couple of honourable mentions for Glory, meaning she hadn't placed above 3rd, which was hardly unexpected. But then there was a pleasant surprise: In the end, Glory ended up with three medals, two bronze and a gold, and a trophy, which we only found out about afterwards. As proud as that made us, it did make Fenya a little jealous. Despite being in an award-winning choir for several years, she has never received a medal or trophy, and here's her little sister with a fistful right out of the gate! I'm sure our talk about the best way to display them didn't help either. Although I did try to tell Fenya about how medals shouldn't be the main reason to do something (which is true enough), in the end, I had to say that recognition like trophies and medals do feel good, because they are a recognition of not just accomplishment, but the hard work and dedication that goes into those accomplishments.
Glory's teacher overheard us, and told us that a feis has to have a component besides dance, and often this includes singing. "There you go," I told Fenya, "You get up there and sing 'Danny Boy' and there's not a mick in the crowd who'll have a dry eye, and you'll be shoo-in for certain." She's not so sure, but at least there's an opportunity there. Most importantly, Glory has shown a goodly amount of gumption and effort, and a passion for Irish dance that goes beyond a love of bouncy hair.