Pacific Northwest Irish Dance Championships (Bellevue, WA - March 2002) Feis Run-Down (or: the plans):

The PNW Championships are in early March, and take place over three days, which means only one thing: NO SCHOOL FOR SARAH ON FRIDAY!!!! It's in Bellevue, which is like ten minutes outside of Seattle, but three-hundred miles and six hours from where I live, which is why I am missing school for it.
I am getting my curlers in on the Thursday beforehand by a professional: not my mother. I am a very touchy and tense person, and I think, to avoid bloodshed, my mom decided to have a lady do it who wanted to put them in when I explained about it to her. We ordered the Soft Spikes, and they arrived just two weeks later, and we had arranged to show them to the lady (Stella) on a Saturday, because she had never worked with Soft Spikes before, but she was gone when we came to show her.
Anyway, it's a six-hour drive across the state with curlers in and a hairnet. Should be interesting, though the middle of the state is virtually uninhabited, except for Ritzville and George (get it, George, WA? Haha, laugh people. It's funny. ::holds up fist menacingly:: ::nervous laughter:: Thaaat's better.)
Anywho, if all goes as Deirdre has predicted (she's coming, not Cait, who is touring with a troupe in Montana), figures should be on the Friday that we arrive. Not sure about the rest of my dances. It's a three-day feis, so they could be spread out - hopefully. A first feis should not involve running like mad from stage to stage between dances, especially since I have nine to dance.


Feb 9, 2002
Our first feis practice (and possibly only feis practice) went alright. It was mainly figure dancing - okay, it was all figure dancing - and I am not feeling happy about the figure dances. I've never really been very good at them - especially spinning and all - but now that we have to compete in them, it's crazy.
We started with the 2-Hand, because it's the one that's giving me trouble. Honestly, I can NOT get the handle on this thing. First of all, it involves a ton of spinning, and I suck at spinning. I get all spun around (no pun - okay, pun intended), and it never seems as though I'll get the hang of it. The footwork I understand, but the turning, turning, turning I don't get. Mainly the part where we switch sides. I'm confused on what Cait wants. Me to spin and spin all the way around? How? Why? AHHHHH!!! I'll never get it. And since I don't have a partner handy at home, I guess I'll have to struggle through this.
Anyway, we reviewed the 6-Hand after a long session of confusing me with random "go this way" "now you do sevens that way" "turn this way now", we started the 6-Hand, which I am to be closest to the judge in. I have never been on the boys' left, only the boys' right, so this has me all turned around. I guess it's best for a change of scenery (okay, so I'm listening to 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' - sue me, why don't you? I love oldies).
I screwed up the first time around, as I forgot that I am the first person under the arch, not the third (like I used to be), and then I forgot I was going twice, as I used to go once, and then I got confused because I'm usually the first girl that the boy turns, but now I'm the second, and I only go once, and I'm the second on down the sides, so I got confused. This was in the first go-around. I think Cait forgot I had never been on that side, which is why I struggled a bit, but after the first time, I had it all down, and the second run-through went much better than the first, and the only thing I messed up on was the footwork, which I never pay attention to, but I need to now, as we are competing ::kicks self:: .
After that, we got a break, because Cait totally forgot that Rebekah, Victoria, and I are supposed to do a 3-Hand. We already know it, so it's no big deal. I was wondering why she wasn't calling us out to dance it, but I didn't, because my legs needed a rest.
We then switched to the 4-Hand, the lovely nightmare that we attempted (and failed - miserably) up at Kettle last summer. I remembered various parts of it, but not enough to do any dancing with. I am in a 4-Hand with Devon, Alex and Rebekah. Since Devon wasn't there, Cait was my partner, which made things easier. Let me say that it is way funner than I remember it. I am the 'lead lady', and I do a figure eight around the bottom couple (the one in front of us), and then I join up with a circle and we do lots of jump sevens, and back23s, then hop23s, and open up the circle, invite a new person, jump sevens, back23s, then hop23s, open up the circle, switch sides...
Yeah, it's fun.
Been doing some 'feis run-throughs' in class. Deirdre even imitated the feis helpers by clapping and helping us go out at the right time. I really would like to make it to my competitions early enough to be first or second in line so that I don't have to worry about when to go out. Hopefully there will be helpers.
Feb 23, 2002
Psychotic 2Hand of death!!!!! I am never going to get it! ARRGH! It doesn't help that when I learned it, I had idea what Cait and Deirdre were talking in, they made nooo sense.

"Okay, now you do whip sevens down this way
then he pulls you this way with whip sevens, and then
you pull him back this way with sevens."

The part I'm messing up on the most is the sevens at the beginning. Sad, isn't it. Well, it's not the actual sevens, it's really where in the heck I am supposed to be going. The sevens step is called "fancy sevens", because we go all over the place. I understand the first place that I go, but the third set of sevens turned out like crap, because we end up facing away from the judge/audience/whatever and I don't know how to get there...
Oh yes, and now I have decided I do not like Alex as my partner, as he pulls my arm too hard. It sucks. He's tall, I'm short. My arm does NOT go up that high! Ow ow oooowww! And also, he just pulls a little too hard when we do it; he yanks and pulls and stresses me out! Luckily, Devon is my partner.
We have been unable to dance it together in two or three weeks. He was gone once, sick another, and then gone another. Blast that child.
Also, Deirdre has been confusing the heck out of me. She says that I look too stressed when I dance. This is a sudden occurrance! She has never said that before. I am dancing just as I always have, so I'm not sure how to correct myself.
Yeah, and another problem: only one more class until the feis and the performances. Luckily (and I say this lightly), our next class is three-hours long. I am going to be superly (excuse me whilst I go coin words) tired after that. I am just praying that I will understand the nightmarish 2Hand before it's too late! Yeah, and we might want to practice the 4Hand at least once more, because we've only done it once, and Devon wasn't there.

March 2, 2002
Well, we had our final feis practice. There will be no more until the feis.
I'm not nervous yet. I don't think my body truly understands the concept of going to a competition, and I also do not think my body knows that one is in less than a week.
I made our school a website. Cait says she'd like me to maintain it. They have photos and all that that my mom said Cait mentioned she'd like to post.
But I digress.
I have the 2-Hand down, thankfully, but now the 4-Hand is trouble. But it's not just me, it's everyone in our group.
Deirdre might let us drop it if we are still having trouble with it by Friday.
Solo dances are going great. I feel my Slip Jig is still the best, though. Single Jig leapovers are still quite high and they hang in the air quite well, now. Reel is same as always, though I feel I travel much more now. In fact, I travel a ton on all of them. Light jig is still one of the favorites, and I love the lead round very much. Kerry's Step is fun as well.
Figures are, eh.
2-Hand: Fair; no more messing up in the sevens. Now we just need to work on timing. In every dance we need to work on the Set Up.
3-Hand: Very good; I understand it perfectly, all that needs to be done is minor touch-ups to make it look more snappy and perfect.
4-Hand: Needs work; while aren't horrible at it, we aren't eligible for placing, either. Deirdre may let us drop it if we are still having trouble with it on Friday.
6-Hand: Excellent: Just need to make things more precise, and I also need to get used to my new position in the line-up.

March 5, 2002
Oh my! Is it so soon, already? I guess it is! Am I nervous yet? Naw. Well. Ok. A little. But not so much as I am shaking and not sleeping and not eating and not even listening to any Irish music! Nooo siree! In fact, I dress up in my school costume to practice every now and then, but for some reason, my dances never look as good as home. I guess it's the small amount of space. I love to travel, and it helps with my leaps and sidestep movements.
Of course, the nervousness comes when I think about it in depth, and yesterday this sudden feeling of nervousness came about when I was watching TV and not bothering with dance in any way! That was weird, and a little annoying. I've been feeling light butterflies off and on for the past two days, but nothing more than the excitement of actually going! The whole "you have to dance in front of people and compete" thing hasn't hit me yet. I think it will when I am walking around the mall with Soft Spikes in.
I'm pretty self-conscious when it comes to that sort of stuff, but I'll hopefully manage a little bit.
So this is if I do not write again: Confidence, man! Confidence! I lack it, and I need it back!

March 7, 2002
Meep, meep! Less than twelve hours! I am sitting here with a head full of spikes, and a dance bag that weighs twenty pounds (at least) and another suitcase to pack. Still not nervous - not now anyway. This morning before school (like right after I got up to about fifteen minutes before I leave to catch the bus) I was so nervous that I could barely eat, but I managed to eat a little bit. But less than a half-hour later, I was back to normal, and hungry.
We went to the mall to a salon to get my curlers in, because, well, we didn't want to do it ourselves (thought at the next feis, my mom has decided she is going to do it instead), and let me say that there was a fair share of staring. Mostly from this one lady getting her nails done. She just would not stop! I looked back at her, and she stopped, but then when I looked in the mirror, she was at it again - just mezmorized by the green, yellow and red spikes.
The next incident came on the drive home. I was sitting oh-so-spikily (coinage) in the car, when a sedan drives by, and the lady driver was just staring at me, not even looking at the road - just staring right in our car (which was beside and behind hers, not in front or beside). I laughed. It was funny. I can scare people much easier now than before.

Comments on the Feis/Feis Day:

First of all, let me say that the venue was extremely huge and extremely gorgeous! With that out of the way, let me say that this was one of the best feiseanna that anyone has probably ever had - I can't say it's my best (though it is) because I've had only one - but honestly, it was awesome!
We got to the venue (Doubletree Hotel Bellevue) five hours early after a five-hour drive in horrible weather. The roads for the first hundred miles were snow-packed, and our car swerved around instead of driving in a straight line.
When we reached the Cascades, it wasn't as bad, but the roads were really slushy and it was snowing so hard, visibilty was really limited.
When we finally made it to Bellevue, my butt was extremely sore, and I was bored, not to mention my hair was covered in spikes, but that's besides the point.
There was no one around that I thought was an Irish dancer, except for two girls doing threes (probably the reel lead round) in the middle of the lobby (which was so large, it's not really a lobby - more like it's own hotel). Anyway, we took out my curlers to let my hair fall (HA! They still haven't come out, and it's three days later) and then we grabbed a bite to eat in the atrium diner (it rocked). That's when I saw Tony Comerford for the first (but certainly not last) time. Very different than from his picture on the site - he has glasses.
After lunch, I saw the Heaney's (Alex and Johnathan and their parents) come in with lots of luggage.
We met up in the lobby at 3:30 to practice figures - and practice we did. Devon and I were pretty slow getting out of point point in the 2-Hand, so we practiced and the second run-through we got it. The 3-Hand was okay, but I needed to make my circle larger, but eventually I ended up getting it.
After a long session dealing with the 4-Hand, we decided to keep it in the competition - we were the only team for the Beginner 4-Hand.
We met up again an hour before the 2-Hand, and amazingly, the feis was on time (it was on time the whole weekend, except for Saturday, which it was early by an hour-and-a-half after our solo dances ended). We checked in with the feis-helpers, then sat around next to the stage in order. Alex and Rebekah went first, and they danced really well. Devon and I went next, and we were really slow coming out of the point point again, but I kept my footwork going so that it would look nice, and aparently our judge for that competition (Neill Reagan of Texas) liked us.
Next was the three hand, and there was four or five competitors, and all were really good. Alex subbed for Rebekah because she didn't know the dance. The musician for that night (Chris McLoughlin, New Jersey) was really into not starting right away, so it's really confusing when to start the set-up, and in our 3-Hand, we had nooo idea when to start, so our set-up was really bad, and then for some reason, Alex started too late in the lead round, but other than that part, we did a beautiful job dancing, so we weren't sure if we placed or not.
After that was the 4-Hand, and since we were the only competitor, we were guaranteed gold, but we still danced to the best of our abilities, a real miracle for the 4-Hand.
The 6-Hand went maaahvelously. We were really, really excellent! The groups that went after us weren't very good, in fact, they were really unsmooth and seemed rather timid.
We walked to the awards room after the last 6-Hand, because someone told us they were up. We walked and looked on the sheet of paper for our competition, and there it was! 1st in the 2-Hand, 1st in the 4-Hand, and 1st in the 6-Hand! I couldn't believe it, and neither could Devon. Then the next result came, and it was (amazingly) 3rd in the 3-Hand even though we had that horrid mess-up.
The next day, my dances were at 8:00 AM, and so we headed down there an hour early to get my number from Deirdre. She didn't come until ten minutes before my dance was to start (the feis was on time), and so a few of us were panicking for our numbers. I got mine (536), pinned it on (they were out of plastic number cards at the moment, but I bought one later that evening when they restocked), and ran with Devon and Rebekah to the first competition: Reel.
We got there as we were being lined up off-stage, and as soon as we were all there, we walked out on stage and I was done. I fumbled on my first step towards the beginning, because our musician (Pat King - yes, Pat King) and Adjudicator (Patricia Kennelly, California) were calling us out, until it was my turn, then they didn't, so my competitor and I totally messed up at the beginning, trying to figure out when to go, but I recovered after that, and my nervousness left. After that, we were lined right back up to do the Light Jig.
I danced way better than I thought I was going to. The stage was slippery, and I slipped once in the 4-Hand the previous evening, so I was pretty timid, but eventually I just let it go and travelled around the stage.
After the Light Jig came the Slip Jig. The girl next to me and I got out on time, but for some reason, the Adjudicator didn't want us to go when we were supposed to, so once again, we both fumbled with our steps when she finally clapped to let us go. Rebekah and I do not like that judge.
When the Single Jig came, I was pretty tired of that judge being so snappy, and both the girl next to me and myself slipped a little (she slipped when she was in front of me), but other than that, I thought I did well.
We waited about a half-hour for the awards. They were up when we walked into the awards room, and the first thing I saw was my number under the 1st Place spot for the Light Jig! Then I saw that Rebekah and I tied for 2nd in the Reel, and I got 2nd in the Slip Jig despite the rocky start! The Single Jig scores weren't posted yet, but when they were, Devon received 1st, and Rebekah 3rd. I'm not sure why I didn't place, because I don't remember any really horrible errors that were any different from the ones in the Reel and Slip Jig, but other than that, it was awesome! I was so happy! The medals are really nifty. There are different ones for the Figures than for the Solos.
That night, Devon and his mom, Deirdre, my family, and the Heaneys (all of them) went to an Irish pub in downtown Seattle. To follow Deirdre, we had to go at nearly 80 mph on the freeway and I-90. It was fun, but scary.
We had loads of fun at the pub (Fadó's) exchanging stories, staring at the black goo that was the dinner Alex ordered (he didn't eat it), and just having oodles of fun altogether.
When my trophy dance arrived the next day, I wasn't nervous at all. Devon, Rebekah, Alex and I stretched and practiced differen't Reel steps. Rebekah and I wanted to do Down Up Up, but we figured it would be safer not to, even though it was more prettiful and I felt like it showed my dancing skills a little better. I slipped once on that stupid stage (I think everyone did once or twice - darn plywood) but I thought I danced extremely well. I travelled and even smiled.
When results were announced by Tony Comerford (with whom I had ridden in the glass elevators), only Alex placed - he was the only one of us not doing Point Point. I figured out why we probably didn't place. Our steps were really easy, and the other dancers did more difficult steps and were able to execute them well. Next time I am so doing Down Up Up instead of Point Point, and I'll also do the Light Jig trophy, too.
All-in-all, an AWESOME feis! I bought a sweatshirt, more poodle socks and sock glue, medal holder, and a plastic number holder! Gotta love plastic number holders.