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What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #2—Covering Up Mistakes

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Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.

A few months ago, I met a young beginner dancer who heard that I was a judge. She asked me, “If you don’t know my steps, how can you tell if I’m doing them right?”

There are several ways that judges can tell if you don’t do a step correctly:

     1 – You hesitate for a moment.

     2 – You make a face.

     3 – The right and left feet don’t match.

And, the big one:

     4 – You stop.

When you practice your steps, one of the things you need to do is work on NOT letting the judge know when you’ve made a mistake. We all mess up sometimes, but if you can cover up your mistake, the judges might not notice the error.

So, when a mistake happens in practice, don’t let yourself stop. Do threes, or turn in place, or make something up. Just keep dancing until you can get back into the step correctly. If you let yourself stop in practice, it will be harder to keep dancing if you make a mistake in competition.

Also, you want to focus on controlling your face. Your facial expression can give you away when you mess up. If you make a mistake in practice, try to smile and keep going. Don’t frown, let your mouth drop open, or say anything out loud. The more you can control your face in practice, the more you will be able to stay composed at a feis if something goes wrong.

Covering up mistakes can be hard. Sometimes your mind just goes blank, and you can’t remember anything. Sometimes you get so frustrated at yourself when you make a mistake that you want to shout or cry. But if you keep trying to work through mistakes in practice, you will get better and better at recovering.

Learning to cover up an error is an important skill in becoming a strong competitor. Sometimes you can place in a dance even when you’ve made a mistake onstage. Sometimes, even if you keep dancing, the mistake will hurt your score. Either way, the judge will appreciate your effort in keeping going through the end.


Photo credit: Katie Nail

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