'Winging It' at the Crossroads Feis

Article featured in Diddlyi Magazine.

After another week of practice I still don’t feel entirely confident about my Reel and Hornpipe. Mainly because 50% of the time I’m not even making it through the whole dance because of forgetting what comes next! Two thirds of my Reel is almost entirely new to me as of only a month ago while the rest of what I’ll be competing I have only begun attempting to master. So obviously, I’m a little nervous for the Crossroads Feis this Saturday.

Even as I write this I’m only just remembering that I also signed up to compete the Open Treble Reel Special and do not have a dance prepared yet. I’m sure I can come up with something, but my point in saying all this is some Feiseanna you are entirely prepared, confident and know your steps like the back of your hand. Other times, like the situation I’m in, you have to ‘wing it’. There is really nothing more I could have done to get ready. I had very little time to prepare since I have been mastering other dances all year.

Surprisingly, ‘winging it’ is one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned from Tina Shelley during my six years as an Irish dancer. Doing the best you can with what time you have. There have been countless times that I’ve had to relearn an old hornpipe or jig step backstage and then five minutes later perform it before a large audience, learn a Ceili dance two days before a show, or fill in a spot I’ve never danced before because another dancer couldn’t make it. So the stress of not knowing how I’ll do with something I haven’t mastered is familiar to me.

One memory comes to the front of my mind when talking about this. About two years ago, quick changes were required for a dance that our school’s dance company was asked to perform at a half time show for the Utah Jazz. With a possibility of almost 20,000 in the audience the stress was very thick. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but the dance was usually performed with only about 10 girls and Tina Shelley and Jill Crawford needed to re-choreograph the dance to include about 16 dancers. Here’s the worst part, I was one who had never done the dance before and had to learn all the steps on the day of the show.

Needless to say, I spend every spare moment I had either dancing or running through the steps over and over in my head. When half-time came I was so afraid I was going to choke, but the dance went perfectly! We all remembered what to do and had a lot of fun doing it.

If I have enough time to prepare a dance for a show, Feis or whatever, I take every opportunity that I’m given to practice, but when there’s nothing I can do and only have 2 weeks to master new dances for a Feis, I’m cool with that because I’ve learned the skill of ‘winging it’.

I’ll be competing in 18 & Over Open Championships at the Crossroads Feis this Saturday. I’ll let you know how it goes next week!

TAGS: winging, practice, not, ready, feis, feiseanna, irish, dance

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