Chicago Feis 2013 at Gaelic Park

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Step lively: The Chicago Feis will be in the Emerald Room at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest on May 26-27. | Supplied photo

If you go ...

What: Chicago Feis 2013

Where: Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St.,
Oak Forest

When: 8 a.m. - noon, May 26-27

Admission: $10, which includes admission to Irish Fest

More information: www.chicagogaelicparkirishfest.org/chicago-feis

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Expect to see lines of pretty young girls kicking up their feet during Memorial Day weekend at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest. On May 26 and 27, more than 800 dancers from across the country will compete in the Chicago Feis, part of Irish Fest at Gaelic Park.

The feis (pronounced “fesh”) is the second oldest Irish dancing competition in the country and has been ongoing since 1959. This is its 16th year at Gaelic Park and fourth as part of the Irish Fest, according to Harry Costelloe, chairman of the feis committee.

This year’s feis will be held in memory of Dennis Dennehy, founder of the Dennehy School of Irish Dance, which got its start in Chicago and had several locations in the Chicago area. Dennehy, 73, died in January, but his legacy continues. Dennehy was responsible for much of the Irish dance education in this area, Costelloe said. In fact, he was a teacher of perhaps the world’s most famous Irish dancer, Michael Flatley.

Chicago Feis

Sunday’s competition will be beginners and other non-championship dancers, while Monday’s competition will be preliminary championship and open championship dancers. To compete as a preliminary champion, a dancer must win first place in each of three categories, while open championship dancers must win two first-place awards in one calendar year. Depending on the category, top-placing dancers may move on to the National or World Championships.

Dancers will be judged on technique and timing as well as costumes, hair and makeup, Costelloe said. Traditional Gaelic costume is preferred, though younger contestants are not allowed makeup or certain costume elements.

“We’re trying to get away from the doll look,” he said.

The best Irish dancers move with poise, strength, and confidence, even when they’re not performing, according to Costelloe. The first thing dancers learn is how to point their toes, and judges at the feis will be looking for proper form, he said. Though Irish dancing is done all over the world, the technique is nearly identical everywhere.

The competition will be judged by a group of 10 certified adjudicators, who come from all over the world.

“They have to pass a rigorous test to be an adjudicator,” he said.

Irish dancing is a great opportunity for children to engage in healthy competition, and many participants make friends in other groups, making it a fun activity as well, Costelloe said.

“It makes them extremely confident in whatever they do in life,” he said.