Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dawn of the (Dance) Dad

I greeted the morning with no small sense of trepidation today, knowing it was my first solo outing as a dance dad. I've been to a few competitions and even more performances in the near-decade that Glory has been involved in Irish dance, but Audrey has been the face of the Fitzpatricks in feis support (and a fairer face by far!). This weekend she and Fenya were away at her folks' place to touch base with a close family friend from Holland, so it fell to me to at last don the mantle of Dance Dad.

Thankfully Glory's age an experience means I have to do very little in the way of coordinating or serving in an intercessionary fashion; my duties as DD relates to three key areas: logistics, transport and support. And they started first thing in the morning.

At 7:00 am I awoke and immediately went to the kitchen to put together a turkey sausage and cheese omelette for Glory. A hearty breakfast is always a good idea on a busy day, and even more so since her nervousness makes it difficult for her to eat once we are on site.  Of course, she had an appetite because she had risen an hour ahead of me in order to sort out her hair and makeup.

I prepared a similar repast for myself while she ate, supplemented by a large cup of coffee from my favourite (and thematically appropriate) mug.

The night before, she had looked at last year's G&G jersey and said, "Y'know, if you wear that tomorrow, we will pretty much be matching..."

So that obviously had to happen.

We made it out the door a bit behind schedule, but still arrived at the Westin hotel before 9:00 and in plenty of time to register. After checking her dance card and determining that all of her morning dances save one were on stage D, we found midrow seats beside it and Glory checked her kit while she waited for her first call to come up.

After about an hour and a half of waiting (the bane of dance competitions, swim meets and hockey tournaments alike), her first soft shoe competition loomed, so she went to warm up, then returned to change into her solo dress.

And wait some more.

The numbers indicating which dance was being performed were slowly removed, and about two-and-a-half hours after arriving, she was finally able to take the stage.

Thus began a series of 8 consecutive dances, without respite. Some sets had as many as 16 other competitors in them, so she could often catch her breath waiting for her turn to perform for the adjudicators.
Judging these young dancers takes both a fine degree and significant amount of finicky-mindedness; it all looks amazing to my layman's eyes (which also suffer from undeniable bias), but they are looking for pointed toes, amount and number of leg crossings, and the bare minimum of upper body movement.

I had Glory's hard shoes ready for her as she finished dance 480 (slip jig) and needed to change from soft shoes for her next dance (treble jig), but as she unlaced her dance slippers, I saw that her sole dance on the other stage (slip jig special) was about to start, and asked if she needed to keep them on. She took a look, and I could see the calculations racing behind her eyes. "Yep," she said, with only the slightest amount of frustration, and she turned her eyes back down to her footwear and began re-lacing her shoes.

Returning a few minutes later, she sat in the dancers row immediately ahead of our seats and began picking at her laces yet again, but ran into a problem, These were new shoes, not yet stretchy enough to allow her to tie the laces into a bow, so she had used a double knot instead, and it was proving reluctant to undo. Breathlessly but without panic, she looked at me and quickly said, "I can't undo my laces; could you come help me?

I pushed the empty seat beside her out of my way and moved through the gap, happy for the opportunity to discharge the support portion of my duties at last, but wary of the ticking clock. Most of the other dancers were changing their shoes as well, but were progressing more quickly, and hold things up would do nothing for Glory's state of mind.

As I struggled with the recalcitrant fastening, I briefly considered asking if she had a spare set of laces, and cutting these ones off instead, but at last I got a thumbnail under an edge of the knot with some give to it, and got the slippers out of the way so she could bring her hard shoes into play. She even had the time and composure to take a sip from her water bottle, as her focus sometimes prevents her from hydrating properly. (Singularity of purpose is a trait that she gets from both of her parents, for better and worse, as it happens.)

There were 5 hard shoe dances to complete, one right after the other, and she was understandably breathless when she was finally finished. I unlimbered some of the lunch Audrey had packed for her while she got out of her solo dress, and she dug into a container of coleslaw while I noshed on a chicken and brie baguette beside her.

Her spirits lifted by food, she went to retrieve her results, coming back with a handful of hardware. Out of seven dances judged, she had earned six medals: two bronzes, three silvers and a gold!

As always she wished she had done better, but admitted it had been a while since she had received any silvers, so this indeed felt like progress.

There does not appear to be much rhyme or reason (or at least, none in Glory's eyes) as to why some dances are for medals while others are for trophies, but they only get announced when all the morning's competitions have finished, and all competitors must be present and in their solo dress in order to receive their prizes.

It turned out she had gotten 7th with her treble reel...

And 2nd for her treble jig!

As happy as she was with that placing, she was even happier that a classmate had won one of the big perpetual trophies

The team dances couldn't begin until all the solo dances were finished, and this ended up taking an astonishing five hours to complete, testing the patience of dancers, parents, teachers and judges alike. We took our leave of the hall for a while, checking the wares of the various vendors, and eventually meeting up with Auntie Tara, who had come in to watch the team dances.

Victory in team dancing continues to be an elusive goal for Scoil Rince Mahoney, but it feels like progress is being made, and Lori, their instructor, is certainly keeping a wary eye on their development.

From my point of view though, it is still amazing to watch the intricate interplay of these young ladies, especially when you know how much effort goes into memorizing it, let alone the execution.

"Five hours for last place?" one of her teammates moaned, and yes, that is certainly a bittersweet ending to a long day. But there are still two more feis's left in the season, so hope springs eternal.

In the meantime, I can express my pride and admiration for the hard work and composure Glory displayed in achieving her results today, and look forward to my next turn as dance dad!

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