Competition is not a requirement for dancers at the Culkin School, but we are here and ready to support those who wish to!

Before your dancer begins competing, speak with the Culkin instruction team about whether your dancer is ready. In general, dancers must have mastered their 2nd & 3rd steps in the reel before they are ready to compete. Beginner dancers may be ready for competitions in May or June after a year of instruction. Competitions can be described as “organized chaos” and can be overwhelming. If your dancer is nervous and wants to check out a feis before they start competing, there are several local feis that you can go to and watch, including Feis Culkin.

Key Terminology
Feis (pronounced “fesh”) or Feiseanna (plural of Feis) – An Irish word that means “festival” and in the context of competitive Irish Dance is a dance competition. Culkin dancers are encouraged to compete but never required to do so. While there are some Feiseanna in the DMV area, a number of Culkin dancers travel further to compete against dancers from outside our area. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Williamsburg are all popular areas for Culkin dancers to travel to (see the section further down regarding traveling for a feis for more information). Most schools will hold a one-day Feis and sometimes hold what we call a “double-feis” weekend where there are two Feiseanna which require separate registration but are held on back-to-back days. “Double-feis” weekends and “second chance” competitions within a single Feis (which just means that a dancer has two opportunities to compete in each dance) are popular as they can provide more chances for a dancer to advance levels (more on that below). Culkin typically hosts Feis Culkin in the Fall.   
Oireachtas (pronounced “o-rock-tas” or “or-rock-tas”) – An Irish word that means “Gathering” (and is also the name of Ireland’s Parliament). The Oireachtas or “Os” is the regional Irish Dance competition.  Culkin is part of the Southern Region, which includes states from Maryland, to Florida, and over to Mexico City.  The location for the Southern Region Oireachtas (SRO) typically rotates between the DMV, Florida, NC, and Texas with a couple other locations here and there and is always held the first weekend in December. Culkin dancers are invited by the Culkin teaching team to compete at the SROs and all registration is managed by the Culkin teaching team.  In addition to sending dancers to compete in individual dances, Culkin competes in team competitions called “ceili” (more below). The SROs are also an opportunity for dancers or teams to qualify to compete at the World Championships (Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne) in April (location rotates among Ireland, the UK, and North America) or the North American Irish Dance Championships (NAIDC) in June/July…yes, the Irish Dance world does Nationals AFTER Worlds.
Ceili (pronounced “kay-lee”) – A team dance also known as “figures”. Sean and the Culkin teaching staff will invite dancers who have demonstrated ability to be on a team. Culkin offers a class (currently on Thursdays) that focuses on ceili or team dances.  In the fall session that class is limited to dancers who will be competing at our regional championships (the SRO), but in the winter and spring sessions it is open to dancers who would like to learn ceili dances.  Ceili dances are also taught in our summer camps. 
Traditional Set or “Trad Set” – There are seven traditional set dances that have long traditions in Irish dance and involve a set choreography that is nearly identically danced by every dancer around the world. The Trad Set “St Patrick’s Day” is one of the first hard shoe dances a Culkin dancer will learn.  These Trad Set dances are different from the unique choreography for the core dances (reels, jigs, and hornpipes) that each Irish dance school teaches their dancers.  When these trad sets are competed, judges focus scoring on whether the dancer completes the required choreography in addition to the required technique. The full list of Trad Sets includes: St Patrick’s Day, Blackbird, Job of Journeywork, Garden of Daisies, King of the Fairies, Three Sea Captains, and Jockey to the Fair. 
An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha or CLRG (pronounced “on commission le rink-a gwel-ge” or “on commission” for short) – This is the worldwide governing body for Irish Dance. Well, one of them anyway. It’s the oldest and biggest one and The Culkin School is a registered member. Teachers earn their certification from CLRG after many strenuous tests and earn the designation of TCRG. CLRG also governs our feiseanna. Culkin dancers can only compete at a CLRG certified feis (which is the vast majority of them). When you register for a feis, it should say somewhere that it is a CLRG feis.
IDTANA – The Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America. Almost every Irish Dance school in North America belongs to this organization. They oversee the organizing of the various feis and regional competitions as well as administering competition rules.

Feis Schedules and Registration

Feis Schedules: Each dancer’s family decides if, when, and where their dancer will compete at a feis; it is not organized by the Culkin School. Competition is not a requirement with the Culkin School; not everyone chooses to do so, but it can be a lot of fun! Of course you can ask the instructors if your dancer is ready to compete, and what they should sign up for if/when they are, but until they are ready to compete at the regional level, the signup process rests with each family,

You can find information about scheduled feis at (for North American feiseanna) or at (for feiseanna around the world). Some families plan a trip around visiting family or friends in other cities and register for a nearby feis.

Feis Registration Platforms: Each school may choose the site it uses to collect registrations for its Feis as each site has unique capabilities. This can make it difficult for tracking your dancer’s feis registrations.   If your dancer is ready to start competing, we recommend you sign up for an account on each of the sites below which are most commonly used in our area:

Registration Details to know: 

Dances: When registering for a feis, you must make sure you are registering your dancer for each dance he/she would compete in at the appropriate age group and competition level.  For their first feis, your dancer likely could compete in the Reel, Light Jig, and Slip Jig competitions if they know two steps in each. 
Feis Registration Fees: Each feis sets its own registration fees that typically include a family fee and a per competition fee.  The competition fee typically costs between $10 and $15 per dance at the lower levels (also called Grades). Most feis place a cap on how many dancers can register. Typically this is not an issue but some popular destination Feiseanna like Hershey Feis in January and the Kalahari Feis in May, which are at destination resorts, fill up VERY quickly! 
Age group: The age group is determined by the dancer’s actual age on January 1st. For instance, if a dancer is 7 on January 1, they will be in the U8 (under 8) age group. Each year the dancer moves up an age group based on their age on January 1. 
Competition Levels: Dancers progress in their dancing at the “Grades” level (first feis, beginner, advanced beginner, novice, and prizewinner) to the Championship level (Preliminary and Open). The level of difficulty of the dances similarly increases as the dancers progress. At the Grade levels, the following core dances must be mastered: For Soft Shoe: Reel, Light Jig, and Slip Jig; and for Hard Shoe: Hornpipe and Treble Jig.

Judges, who are typically teachers themselves, are very helpful in supporting the First Feis and Beginner dancers. When in doubt, ask the teaching staff what level your dancer should compete at.

Advancing through competition levels: Each school sets its own requirements for its dancer to move up the ranks, and Culkin sets high standards so that dancers are prepared and confident when they move to the next level:
Grade Levels (a competition must include five dancers to qualify):
First Feis: if offered at a feis, this level is typically for very young dancers under the age of nine competing in their very first feis and dances are only in light shoes. After competing once at this level, a dancer must move up to Beginner. Dancers who have been dancing for over one year may not compete at this level. 
Beginner: Dancer must place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at the Beginner level in a dance or have been dancing for over a year to move up to the next level in that dance.
Advanced Beginner: Dancer must place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at the Advanced Beginner level in a dance to move up to the next level in that dance.
Novice: Dancer must place 1st at the Novice level in a dance to move up to the next level in that dance. This is the final level in which a dancer must compete the light jig. However, dancers are encouraged to keep dancing it if they want to.
Prizewinner: Dancer must win TWO 1st places at the Prizewinner level (no more than two per dance) in EACH dance (reel, slip jig, treble jig, and hornpipe). NOTE: slip jig is not required for male dancers to advance.
Champion Levels
Preliminary Champion (PC): A PC dancer competes in two rounds: a soft shoe round (reel or slip jig alternates each year depending on their age) and hard shoe (treble jig and hornpipe alternates each year depending on their age).  Dancer must earn TWO 1st places at the PC level.
Open Champion (OC): This is the highest level of Irish dance.  An OC dancer dances in three rounds: a soft shoe round (reel or slip jig alternates each year depending on their age); hard shoe (treble jig and hornpipe alternates each year depending on their age); and an individual hard shoe set dance round (traditional or contemporary depending on the dancer’s age).