You know, sometimes when Irish Dance folks are chatting someone will say, "What's the worst feis you've ever been to?", and for the past year I would say without pause or hesitation, "Graham Feis 2009." But get this -- if you asked me today to name a really, really good feis, I'd say "GRAHAM 2010!"
They moved the feis to the Ballpark Hilton, which is the site of the Irish Arts feis every year. It's an okay venue, although Irish Arts seems to suffer from disorganizational weirdness every year. And the organizational masterminds at Graham used the hotel to its best advantage for this feis.
We were on stages 3 and 4, which is an area I've never been in before. It was HUGE, with a large lobby just outside for kids to relax or practice their dances. My one tiny quibble is that the signage to find stages 3 and 4 was lacking -- when we got to the hotel the sign at the bottom of the escalator pointed up to indicate that stages 1,2,3,4,5, and 6 were upstairs, but when we got to the top of the escalators we could only find signs for stages 1,2,5, and 6. The signs for 3 and 4 were waaaay down the hall, which was full of people, and thus we couldn't see the signs.
But, of course, we eventually found where we were supposed to be and spread out our stuff. Did I mention how roomy this place was? I think I was scarred by how cramped the Graham feis was last year; but this was the most spacious layout I've seen in a hotel feis. Check out the leg room between rows of chairs:
You could dump all sorts of crud all over the place, and still have room to move.
The feis itself ran in sort of a typical way. Our stages went at typical feis speed -- not the most amazingly fast ever, but not horribly slow. A friend with 3 children scattered throughout the feis commented that stage 1 and 2 were running quite slowly -- they were still in soft shoe at lunch break. The results seemed to be posted quickly during the day. Frankly, at the end of the day I sent the kids down to collect their results while I collected our flotsam, so I have no idea how they handled the end-of-the-day rush, although our kids seemed to reappear from their adventures in results-getting. Graham typically makes use of all the "best practices" in this area, so I expect it was pretty organized.
As for our personal feis saga, Thalia spent part of the morning looking over the Used Solo Dress rack (digression: it was in an alcove outside of the ladies room, which was the only place she could access the hotel wifi and thus email her friends -- she pent quite a bit of time parked in that area with her iPod). She found one that fit okay -- needs some alterations, but it's in the ballpark of fit. And it needs some crystals re-glued, and general spiffing up, but our teacher gave it an "okay". So Rick bartered with the woman selling it, et voila, Thalia has a new solo dress by the end of lunch break.
And even though it's really too short in the back, and even though it needs some work, I asked Thalia if she wanted to wear it right away. Because, what's the downside -- she's dancing in a school dress, which is fairly dumpy on her, so who cares if the judge is upset that the skirt is an inch or two too short in the back. The biggest problem was a strand of crystals on the front bodice that was falling off, but Annabeth suggested using sock glue, which is about the consistency of Krazy Glue but water soluble. The people sitting behind us while I was using the sock glue on the dress were fascinated by the process, having never seen anyone do something like that.
Anyway, the crystal strand seemed to stick sorta kinda okay after that, so she went up to check into her next dance. The other girls she'd been competing against were suitably impressed that she'd had a major costume change over lunch. And, really, the dress didn't look bad onstage:
We told her so after she danced. She said that was great, and it was too bad she totally messed up the dance (blanked out on a step), but oh well, whatever.
And when I happened to check results a few minutes later I discovered that she had placed first in the dance. The dance that she flubbed. Because, folks, IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT THE DRESS. I totally believe it now. It's not SUPPOSED to be about the dress -- it's supposed to be about the dancing. And some judges can rise above the sparkles. But, really, it's funny and sad all at the same time that the competition that people sometimes call a "sport" can be so swayed by apparel.
Anyway, kudos to Graham for putting on a fantastic feis. I'd highly recommend it to those thinking of attending next year. Just bring a fancy dress.