Traditionally a feis was a festival involving a culmination of cultural arts. Today at a feis we focus primarily on the dancing, but there is still categories for baking, music, needlepoint, art, and song. Dancers from many different schools come together and dance to live music. They receive comments from an adjudicator on how to improve their dancing, and perhaps even win a medal!
I remember gazing out the car window on the lookout for other "feisheads" on the highway in anticipation as we drove to the feis with my sisters when I was a little girl. They were quick to spot of course, because the curlers at the time only came in bright neon colors. We would get really excited to see the dancers from other schools performing different steps incorporating moves we had never seen before.
In Irish dancing it is easy to get caught up into your own bubble because the majority of our time is spent at the studio where there is so much to focus on. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice bubble, I love our studio and the people who fill it! But one of the biggest reasons I enjoy attending a feis is because I get to see dancers from other schools and the fruits of their labor. It reminds me that Irish dancing is a powerful, flowing river that we have the honor of stepping into. It has been going on long before I was born, and will continue on long after I am gone. Witnessing the tradition come alive is incredibly moving.