The class feis is akin to the school Nativity play or pantomime, but only in the sense that the dance pupils are given a chance to relate to being part of their own annual in-house stage production at this time of year.
It tends to be staged around this time because the Christmas holiday period offers a short break in the competitive dance season and the kids are allowed a little fun time.
And above all it offers the opportunity for the very young beginners to participate in the kind of competitive environment that their older colleague or sibling dancers seem to enjoy every other weekend, but this time with a large dollop of festive fun with dancers with whom they are familiar, week in and week out.
Not only does this friendly environment encourage competitive skills of the very young dancers, it is also an opportunity for the whole family to watch the dancing development of a daughter, son or sibling.
The McManigan school of Irish dancing is a popular CLRG school in the Medway towns. Teachers Nula and Kirsty are members of an almost antediluvian Irish family who settled in the Medway area several generations ago. Indeed their grandmother Rita continues to be their mentor and principal organiser at their annual class feis.
I’m told that she also attends every one of the school’s weekly classes, surely an amazing signal of dedication to her childhood passion. And families from all over the Medway towns descend on Shorne village hall each Christmas-time to watch their kids and to enjoy the full dancing day.
It says a lot for their children’s enthusiasm that an 9 am start to the dancing required many to have a dawn rising in order to ensure costume, hair and make-up were properly in place before kick-off.
Early into the proceedings and after the beginners and novices had finished their competitions, the fun began in earnest with teams of two and three dancers aged 8 upwards, entertaining a packed hall of appreciative parents and grandparents with their fun céilí routines. It’s truly amazing the variety of dance routines that one can do a jig or a reel to.+9
These kids choreographed their own routines and as if to prove it, they downloaded their chosen dance music via their telephones and streamed it on the stage speakers just before they danced.
They didn’t need traditional set dances or reels and jigs. These kids were able to shake a leg to Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and many other pop superstars that I have never heard of. But let’s face it, once again I found myself being at least one generation older than the McManigan Feis Santa Claus.
As people streamed out of the Shorne village hall that evening I sensed that there were many kids in Kent, from various ethnic and national origins, who will associate this Christmas with Irish dancing. Many more photos from this event can be viewed on www.feispix.com.
The McManigan academy is always pleased to welcome new dancers, and invites performers to grow within their friendly school based in Kent.
If you’re interested in Irish Dancing, you may like these links: