Feis and Ceili: Pretty Much The Most Fun Ever

I have just returned from my second Irish dance lesson, which was quite a lot of fun. Having learned the beginner's reel at my first lesson, this class I picked up the single jig and most of the slip jig. It was pretty hilarious--the teacher and the two other women in the class kept up a constant exchange of banter, even as they danced, which I found rather impressive.

But my real Irish dance excitement occurred this past weekend, when I got the chance to attend a feis and ceili held by the Bracken school. For the uninitiated among my readers, a feis is a competition between dancers of similar age and level--several dancers at a time take turns in the various dances, and are judged and ranked against their cohort. A ceili is a celebration, with formation dancing in large groups. Sammi competed in the feis, and did a wonderful job, and it was great fun to see all the different dances. It's kind of crazy--people might be dancing completely different steps simultaneously, because there are several different versions of the same dance.

But the ceili was absolutely fabulous!!! I'm actually kind of at a loss to explain just how glorious it was. They had a live band, complete with a fiddle, an instrument whose sound, as far as I'm concerned, is liquified gold and aural ecstasy and all things superlatively good and transporting. And you didn't have to know a single thing about Irish dance to participate: they'd just call out "groups of three" or "four couples in a square" and anyone who wanted to dance could wander onto the floor, and if you didn't have people you knew to dance with they would make sure to get you into a group of the proper size. My little sister had two friends there, so the four of us would often partner, and there were a few other girls I had met at Sammi's birthday party. But everyone was really friendly, and after a few dances when the girls had got tired and were sitting them out, other dancers would walk up and offer to partner me.

It was mostly the little girls (there were a total of I think two or three boys competing in the entire feis) who had competed who came out to dance in the ceili, although some of the adults who take lessons also participated (there hadn't been adult competition that day, as it was only a practise feis among members of the school, not against people from other schools, as the official competitions are). And a few parents of dancers tried a dance or two as well. There seemed to be a set of steps that most dances were built on, but I was outside for the first part and missed them teaching those, so I mostly just hopped and skipped in time until I started picking it up by watching what other folks were doing. The steps remained pretty constant, but each dance had a different way of combining those steps with movement patterns and interactions with the other dancers. It was somewhat similar to square dancing, with left hooks and right hands and a modified do-si-do and such, but all skipping and hopping and constantly whirling in what, from above, would have resembled a vast Celtic knot, which is, I believe, the point.

It's grand because you're constantly changing partners both within and between dances, and you move from group to group and sometimes grab hands and swing along around the entire circle, and as you meet everyone smiles and looks you in the eye--a very friendly form of dancing. I could just imagine a warm summer night in Ireland, with the whole village gathered in someone's barn, dancing the night away. It's funny, but every once in a while I feel the inexorable pull of my British heritage--when I was wandering the moors in Scotland, or hiking the hills outside of Dublin, or breathing in the misty air of England, I felt so utterly at home, so anciently right there. And Saturday night was the same thing. I danced every dance.

Funnily, eventually somebody noticed this. At one point the announcer guy, walking by, asked me my first name, and a few minutes later, in a break between dances, they announced that they had decided to award a "Spirit of the Ceili" medal to someone who "had been dancing all night, looked like she was having a great time, and, if she were competing, wouldn't even need to wear a wig!" (At the higher levels of competition, all dancers wear massive wigs of curly hair, which look rather absurd on quite a few of the girls, especially the smaller ones.) So, that was quite splendid and silly, and I was rather giddy from all the dancing. They gave me one of the medals the kids got for competing in the feis, which I wore for the last few dances, before we finally closed up and headed home.

Oh my goodness, I don't think I can imagine an evening's activity that would give me more exhilaration and joy and contentment. It was positively glorious. Seriously, if you ever have the opportunity to attend a ceili, I strongly suggest that you take it. I hope that my description has at least partially managed to convey how wonderful it all was.

In other news (which I'll try to keep brief, after my rather extensive gushing above), the internship continues to go well. I have been reading bunches of plays, some of which are kind of hilarious but many of which are quite good, and getting positive feedback on the response reports I write. Sadly, I only have a few more days before I leave the artistic department for three weeks to work with kids at the Young Performer's Workshop. But that should also be lots of fun. I finished The Secret History, which was good although not entirely satisfactorily concluded, and I have started Lies My Teacher Told Me, about the travesty that is American History as taught in schools, which is quite interesting so far. Two nights ago I pulled a near-all-nighter writing in my journal, because I was on a linguistic roll, and I only got halfway through the topics I wanted to cover before forcing myself to get at least three hours of sleep, which nevertheless left me a walking zombie at work the whole next day. Seriously, the absurd mindless things I did at the copier... So then last night I slept for eleven hours, and felt pretty fine today. And then I had my lesson, where the shin splints I developed after a perhaps slightly ill-advised but very lovely run with my dad on Fathers Day didn't interfere with my dancing nearly as much as I expected they would. And that brings us up to the current moment, in which I conclude this entry, remove my contacts, and attempt to attack the second half of my journal topics while still somehow getting a reasonable amount of slumber.

May you be, sometime this week, as joy-filled as I was last Saturday.


Anonymous Grandpa (Mel) said...

I love your writing about your job and your fun. I look forward to more stuff.


7:20 AM  

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