Festival firsts: bringing a dramatic Belfast style to America

On May 12–14, 2017, the Festival Dance Teachers Association (FDTA) held their first North American workshop in Galloway, New Jersey.

FDTA instructors Deborah Anderson of the Zephaniah Dancers and Elizabeth Lynn of the Seven Towers School of Irish Dancing shared their choreography, technique, and humor throughout the weekend. Their American students included dancers and teachers from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Festival dancing, a Northern Ireland specialty, has been enjoying a boost in popularity due to appearances on Jigs & Wigs as well as the Innova Irish Dance Company’s success on Britain’s Got Talent. Lauren Smyth has also become the first Festival-style Irish dancer to earn the principal female lead role in Riverdance. This has not gone unnoticed in America.

Attendees were instructed first in the Festival’s most famous dance, the slow slip jig, with four steps appropriate to a young intermediate dancer. A slow, dramatic set dance to “Echoes of Erin” was also taught. The style was quite different to what we’re used to — we didn’t quite shake the feis in one weekend — but we’re excited to continue growing.

Much of this choreography was created special for this workshop, but will be shared by attendees. We are grateful for the gift! We are hard at work practicing, and have more teachers interested around North America and Australia. We will be inviting our instructors back again to continue learning next year, and encouraging independent feiseanna to open their speed limits to allow slow slip jig. Digital Feis and the Spring Rain Open Feis in Belwood, Ontario support Festival speeds, with more North American open feiseanna to follow suit, we’re certain.

Thank you to the Festival Dance Teachers Association, Elizabeth Lynn, Deborah Anderson, and Patricia Silver of the Mist of Ireland School of Dance in New Jersey for making this wonderful weekend happen.

Did you know Digital Feis has a slow slip jig category? We love Festival dancing, and though our primary style is Feis dancing, there’s no pressure to conform to Feis standards in choreography or costuming. Join our mailing list below to get Digital Feis reminders, and keep up-to-date with how-to tips.