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Show vs. Feis Irish Dancing

Erin is a 20-something Irish dancer competing in the Southern Region with Nashville Irish Step Dancers. She splits her time between dance and her career in social media marketing. Her favorite part of dancing is meeting new & inspiring people. Connect with her on Twitter @erinforevr.

Some dance schools focus solely on competing, some are strictly about performing at shows, and others do a bit of both.

Many dancers have at least dipped the toe of their hard shoes into both, but often time when the majority of our experience is in one or the other, we can have stigmas or pre-determined opinions about what one or the other offers. I’ve heard dancers on both sides of the equation say that they think one is harder or takes more skill.

Having spent a few years doing both I’ve learned that there is no “harder” or “easier” between show dancing and feising, they’re simply different. There are benefits and challenges to both, and they can both develop different aspects of your dancing.

Let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences so you can consider for yourself what each type of dancing might offer you in your own dance career.


Stage Presence:

All dancers should exude confidence on stage. Shoulders back, chest out, eyes up. The difference between a stage presence in a show and at a feis is that at a show you are often playing a character, while at a feis you’re dancing as yourself. Each approach has its own challenges which, as any challenge, can strengthen your dynamic as a dancer.
When dancing as yourself there is no barrier of character between you and the judge, you are vulnerable and thus must develop your own alter-ego or personal source of confidence.
To dance as a character you also have to master acting. A show dancer must convey certain emotions or personality traits through their expressions & movements, while still executing their steps.


Of course competitiveness is a quintessential part of any feis. But, there can be just as much competition in show dancing. Performance dancers are competing for roles, constantly pushing themselves to dance as well or better than their cast-mates. And, they are competing for the approval of an audience (which can often include critics and judges).



Though they come in different forms, both types of dancing are result-driven. For feises, results are encompassed in how you score and place in the judges’ estimation. Results for a show take the form of reviews by critics, comments from the audience, or even the immediate result of applause & audience energy.

Ultimately whether you’re dancing a show or dancing at a feis it still takes rigorous training. In both cases, whatever the critics or the judges say, what matters most is how you feel about how you danced, and that you enjoy every moment on the stage.

Photo credits: Images are courtesy of and belong to author.

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