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What Do Irish Dance Judges Look For? #17—Movement

Judge 17--Movement

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

When you’re competing at a feis, the judge wants to see you using the entire stage, not just dancing in one place. Moving well makes you look powerful and confident, and it also gives you more momentum going into elements like leaps and clicks.

Here are some tips for improving your movement:

1. Plan how your steps will move on stage.

Don’t leave your movement to chance. When you’re practicing, carefully plan where you are going to move on each part of your step. If possible, you want your dance to cover the whole stage, both side to side and back to front. Your teacher can help you figure out the best way to move with your steps.

2. Get to the front of the stage right away.

If you dance at the back of the stage, it’s harder for the judge to see you because you’re farther away. The judge might end up watching the other dancers on stage because it’s easier to see them, or because the other dancers have moved in front of you. Give the judge a good look at your performance by dancing to the front half of the stage during the right foot of your first step. You should also plan on ending your dance in the front half of the stage so the judge can see your finish.

Be careful, though—don’t dance so close to the judge’s table that they have to lean over it to see your feet. You want to make it easier for the judge to see you, not harder.

3. Make movement goals.

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to move more on a particular part of a step, try this exercise: put a piece of colored tape on your practice floor to mark your starting spot. Then do the part of your step that you’re working on. Mark the place where you end up with another piece of colored tape.

Now go back to your starting spot and do the same part of your step, this time trying to move past the place where you ended before. Every time you do the section, try to move a little farther. Move the ending piece of tape whenever you succeed.

During class, make movement goals for your steps, like “I will get all the way up to the front corner on the first half of my right foot,” or, “I will be right in front of the exit sign when I do my leap.” Challenge yourself to move farther than you think you can.

Then, when you get to the feis, take a look at the stage where you’ll be competing and do the same thing. Use the corners, the judge’s table, and tape on the stage to give yourself places to aim for on different parts of your steps.

4. Dance with a partner.

Another way to increase your movement is to dance with a partner. Find another student who does the same step you do but who moves more on it. Have them hold your hands like in a 2-hand and do all or part of the step together. With the other student holding your hands, you will find that you are able to move farther.

Then do the step by yourself and try to move the same distance you did together. Think about how it felt when the other student was helping you: how far you reached out your front leg, or how hard you pushed your back leg. Focus on making your legs move that way again.

Alternate doing the step with a partner and by yourself several times and see how much farther you can go.

As you work on improving your movement, you have to be careful that your form is staying controlled. You don’t want your feet to come uncrossed as you’re trying to reach the corner, for instance. But with practice, you’ll be able to move more and keep your form correct at the same time—and then the judge will definitely be impressed.
Photo credit: Alia Ware, Heritage Irish Stepdancers

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