John Egan dropped into Medway in Kent and the McManigan Academy
Most dance schools hold a class feis each year and the most popular time for these events is during the summer holiday period or at Christmas time.
Twin sister teachers, Kirsty and Nula at the McManigan Academy in the Medway area of Kent, have always opted for the latter so that their school’s day of internal but competitive dancing can be combined with the festive fun of Christmas, including a visit from Santa as a special treat for the very young. A class feis is one that is organised by the dance school teacher(s) and restricted to dancers from within the school.
Its primary purpose is to give the school’s dancers, particularly the very young ones, an opportunity to compete in the kind of competitive environment that they will experience in an open feis. Equally important is that it provides its audience, mainly appreciative parents and grandparents, with the pleasure and enjoyment of seeing how the kids have progressed in their new skills. And there was no shortage of parental and other family encouragement at this class feis in Shorne, a rural picture postcard village tucked away in the hinterland around Stroud in Kent.
Families from all over the Medway towns descended on Shorne village hall to watch the kids and to enjoy the day. After all, this class feis has become a part of their annual Christmas celebrations.
It says a lot for their enthusiasm that many had arrived shortly after 08.00 which must have meant a dawn rising in order to ensure costume, hair and make-up were properly in place before kick-off.+7
The dancing began with beginners and novices aged from three to teens. As you would expect it was the toddlers, with their first uncertain dance steps, who brought parents and grandparents to their feet in rapturous and encouraging applause. And there was special applause for the under-6 boy with the cap, who doffed it to his adjudicator at the end of each round.
It was such an eye-catching gesture and I’m surprised that the modish dressers of male world seniors have not already made the ‘high caul cap’ part of their stage uniform. I’ll remember where I saw it first.
Then Santa Claus arrived to present the medals and trophies. How I envy that bearded man. He is so much fitter and more youthful than I, as he prances onto the stage without pausing for breath.
After the beginners and novices had finished their competitions, the fun began in earnest with teams of two and three dancers, aged 4 to teens, entertaining a packed hall of appreciative relatives with a display of fun ceili routines that clearly involved weeks or even months of practise.
The day was rounded off with the more polished routines of the older championship dancers whose performances gave encouragement to the younger age groups who will aspire to be tomorrow’s champions.
For more info on the McManigan Academy go to www.irishdancekent.co.uk