Before a competition, feis moms dutifully pack there Zuca Bags, caboodle boxes (I swear all real things) and dress bags with a plethora of dance supplies… wigs, make up, electrical and duct tape, ChapStick (not for lips but to adhere glitter to their eyes), glitter, staplers, sharpie markers, etc… Which leads me to a text from a dear dance mom friend with a picture of a bottle of WHITE OUT attached to it that read, "Didn't think this would ever be on my dance packing check list." My response... "Funny of all the things we've packed through the years it's a bottle of WHITE OUT that seems odd LOL." Odd indeed… I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what in the name of the feis gods [we] would need White Out for but for fear of being under prepared I text back the universal symbol for “what the heck” … “?”.
Who knew Irish dance was just like any other sport?! They are always improving the equipment and thus we are always adding to our “Feis Kits”. On the dance market the new must haves are hard shoes that have a white rim that runs around the ankle opening. That thin lip of white leather, carefully encircling the ankle of the dancer, is suppose to make their foot look compact and petite while dancing, thus magically improving their overall appearance and, one would hope, make them dance better. We Moms tell ourselves these lies, and a laundry list of others, as we justify our dwindling bank accounts for the sake of dance. Our hope is that the judges will notice our attention to the details, perhaps missing a dropped heel or a foot that is not pointed or arched—another lie. And, while I am thankful Irish dance doesn’t promote the stick skinny idea of beauty, it appears from these shoes and the fact that we order them a size or two too small that big feet are a NO-NO. Who knew it was my size nine boats that kept me from the podium in my day? I find it funny how much dance attire has changed over the years/decades. Gone are the days of the hob nailed shoes our ancestors wore that were oddly similar to what I wore as a kid. No taps, no fiber glass tips just rows and rows of tiny little nail heads covering the toe and heel of the shiny patent leather shoe. Now I know that was long ago… long enough for a pair of said shoes to be listed under Irish/dance/old/hard shoes/antiques on EBAY. But these new shoes make me long for those good old days.
As I sit here now I can’t help but wonder if my mother would have colored the laces on my shoes to match the eyeholes? Would she have pack White Out to cover the scuffs and blemishes that dancing would create? I’m fairly confident that from beyond the grave I can hear her saying, “You must be daft.” The same way I heard her saying, “Now you’ve lost what little mind you had,” when I wrote the check for $1900.00 (more than double the price of my wedding gown some twenty years ago) for a dance dress for my 10 year old, which I bought in June and she out grew before the Oireachtas in November.
How did Irish dance morph into this combination dance competition/toddlers and tiaras sort of a world? In my day the worst experience before a competition was for us to spend hours having curlers affixed to our heads by tough Irish mothers, a scene that was similarly played out before Christmas Day or any other major holiday or outing. So while I can see the connection to putting on your “Sunday best”, I don’t know how “Sunday best” came to mean your hair had to look like a rag doll’s or the dust mop I keep in the hall closet. All I know is if my daughter came downstairs on Sunday morning dressed for church with her hair looking like it did in her wig I would say, “WILL YOU PLEASE RUN A BRUSH THROUGH THAT RAT’S NEST.” And if she wore a dress short enough to show her knickers, covered in neon animal print, bedazzled to the hilt, I would ask her what corner she would expect to be working.
I have seen dresses at competitions that look like they were on loan from the circus!!! Crazy patterns and color combinations that would have Heidi Klum saying “Auf Wieder Sehen,” if they graced the stage on Project Runway. Yet we Moms buy them and tout the designers of them like they were Gucci or Louboutin—and let’s face it they are just about as pricey.
In class they dance in shorts and socks, with their hair neatly tied back. I love that… and I love to hear tough Irish dance teachers yelling counts over music I’ve listened to all my life. I love the look on their faces when they accomplish a figure in a ceili that was once thought too hard. I love when they are sweaty and exhausted, and yet still they are smiling. Nothing, not even a Swarowski crystal encrusted dress can compare to that.
So I say… bring back the simple clean lines… level the playing field… let the dancing be highlighted… and let the pigs fly, lol.