Background and Training Plans

Check out the About page if you’d like to get more background on where I’m starting from! In short, I started Irish dancing not quite 3 years ago as an adult, have been dancing seriously for about 1.5-2 years, and have been competing for 1.5 years. After starting in the Adult category, I’m preparing to drop down to the &overs in the hopes of reaching Championships and competing at Majors!

What on Earth does any of that jargon mean?

  • Irish dancing – Is it Riverdance? Close, but not quite. Riverdance is a famous dance show that incorporates Irish dancing. Check out the Wikipedia entry for some more info, but in short I jump up and down beautifully and keep my arms still, which takes a lot of discipline and skill. The World Championship Parade of Champions is a good sample of the dance style from the best in the world.
  • Feis (pronounced fesh, plural feiseanna) – An Irish dance competition encompassing Grades and Championship competitions. This is how competitive Irish dancers advance through the various skill levels. Not all Irish dancers compete, but I really enjoy it!
  • Grades – The first four levels of competition in my region (Western US Region of CLRG) are Beginner I, Beginner II, Novice, and Prizewinner. Together, they make up the Grades competitions at a feis. There are 7 dances that are judged and awarded separately in the Grades. The reel, light jig, slip jig, and single jig are danced with soft shoes and the treble jig, hornpipe, and traditional set are danced with hard shoes. Advancing through the levels varies by region, but is based on scoring a certain place or better out of a suitable number of dancers. For example, Novice advances to Prizewinner by being either 1st place out of 5 or more or 2nd place out of 10 or more. We get medals for placing in each dance and occasionally a small trophy. There are also competitions called “Specials”, which are typically dances not otherwise used at a feis (like the treble reel) and trophies are awarded for top placements. The Special is just a fun addition to a competition and does not count towards advancement. Championship dancers have specials too!
  • Championships – Once a dancer has achieved their school’s requirements of prizewinner (for me, a 1st place out of 5 or more in reel, slip jig, treble jig, and hornpipe) they advance out of Grades and into Championships. There are two levels: Preliminary and Open. Unlike with Grades, only two or three dances are performed (a soft shoe reel/slip jig, a hard shoe treble jig/hornpipe, and sometimes a non-traditonal set depending on level and feis). The dances are 8 to 16 bars of music longer than at the Grade levels. One placing overall is awarded. Podiums, sashes, and trophy presentations are made for those who place in Championships.
  • Adults – We’re the unicorns (or mules, depending on who you ask) of Irish dance competitions. Adults is a separate category compared with the normal Grades and Championships, which are separated based on age (e.g., Under 11, Under 12, 13&over). In my region we have three grade levels: Beginner, Novice, and Prizewinner. There are no Championships for adults and adults may not compete in major competitions in solo dancing, although some Majors have a traditional set competition and ceili (group) dancing competitions for the Adult category.
  • Majors – A major competition including the Regional Oireachtas and North American Nationals, which are used to qualify for the most major of all Majors: the World Championships
  • Dropping Down – Moving from the Adult category to the regular age categories. This affords the opportunity to reach Champion level and attend Majors, but the dancer may not return to the Adult category unless they retire from competing for at least 5 years. Not a decision to take lightly as you leave your adult friends behind and must compete against agile teenagers, but a lot more opportunity is available to take your dancing to the next level.

Introductory vocabulary lesson over! If you have anymore questions about how Irish dance works or words I use, please leave a comment and I’m happy to answer.

My current status is Adult with 4 dances in Novice and 3 in Prizewinner. Due to the limitations of the Adult category (no Championships, no Majors, no poodle socks and only tights), I’m planning on dropping down soon. Next month I will be competing and my teacher has moved all my dances to Prizewinner as a sanity check to see if I’m really ready to drop down. In addition to the limitations of competing in the Adult category, I’m also frustrated by the lack of numbers. I limit the specific competitions I attend based on the turnout, as you can’t advance without at least 5 people in your competition. And when there are only 1 or 2 other people, or I’m competing alone, not only does that 1st place medal seem unearned but there’s not opportunity to advance with a win.

To really get where I want to go, Open Champion level, I need to step up my game. This includes dropping weight, sticking with my classes, and following a cross training schedule. My daily plan below!

Mon – Dance class
Tue – Morning flexibility/mobility, evening dance class
Wed – Morning core, evening weight lifting
Thur – Morning flexibility/mobility, evening dance class
Fri – Morning core, evening dance practice
Sat – Cardio endurance/speed, evening foam rolling
Sun – Rest

For my weight loss and to feed my workouts, I’m aiming for about 1600 calories a day with a higher carb/protein and lower fat ratio (a 50%, 25%, and 25% breakdown respectively). I also have a Fitbit and am trying to hit 10,000 steps each day. When I reach my target loss of 30 lbs, I plan to fill in the extra 400 calories with more carbs and protein to keep the fat lower. Through trial and error as well as suggestion from the program I’m basing my plan off of, I operate better with all the carbs.

So, that’s the plan in motion. May my dreams and this blog provide the motivation I need when the going gets tough!


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