Students will make Irish dance history with first inter-university feis
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Students will make Irish dance history with first inter-university feis

IRISH dance history will be made this week as Irish dancers from universities across Britain come together to complete in the first Inter-University Feis.

The event is the brainchild of Keele University student Ciara Placentino.

The 20-year-old, whose grandfather hails from Co. Tyrone, is the President of Keele's Irish Dance Society and has been planning the event for eight months.

The Inter-University Feis will take place at the Staffordshire university on Saturday, November 30.

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Ciara Placentino, organiser of the Inter-Univesity Feis

She told The Irish Post: “When I was younger I would compete regularly at feisianna and I went to the Worlds a couple of times, so I really know how big the Irish dance world is.

“But when I went to university, I realised Irish dancing hasn’t really been put on the map for university students in the UK.

“Very few universities have Irish dance societies and whilst other university sports travel across the country to compete in massive inter-university competitions, Irish dancers do not.

“I wondered why this was, especially when the Irish dance competitive world is so big outside of universities, so I started to organise the first UK Inter-University Feis.”

Ms Placentino, who is now in her second year studying Psychology at Keele, has been dancing for 12 years with the Maguire O’Shea Academy (Southern Region England CLRG).

More than 50 dancers are expected at the competition this weekend, which she claims was challenging at times to organise.

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“It’s definitely been a challenge to organise, trying to track down contact details of students all over the UK and to gather resources when we’re working on a very small budget,” she admits.

“I’m expecting over 50 dancers from England and Wales to attend.

“But I hope that now the connections between university societies have been made, this event can continue and grow in years to come and inspire Irish dancers going to university to join or start an Irish dance society, because they shouldn’t have to sacrifice dance for their studies.”

Members of the Keele University Irish Dance Society, who will compete in this weekend's event

Looking forward to the event, she said: “This is unique - something on this scale has never been done before, so we will be making Irish dance history.”

All universities with Irish dance societies have been invited to attend the Feis.

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Regarding the competition itself, Ms Placetino explained: “Dancers will be arranged into either beginner’s, intermediate or advanced, and also in age groups, where there are multiple entries.

“Competitions will be in the reel, light jig, hop/single jig, slip jig, heavy jig, hornpipe, traditional set dance, open set dance, treble reel, 4 hand, 8 hand, and the ‘uni modern comp’.

“The uni modern comp is a 2.5-4 minute dance that includes all (or many) members of their society to non-Irish dance music and can include anything – such as arm movements etc).”

She added: “With Fusion Fighters and such taking Irish dance into the modern world, I expect this competition will be great fun, with Irish dancing to anything from Britney Spears to Kendrick Lamar.

“We’re all students sticking to a tight budget, so I’ve aimed to keep costs as low as possible, so we have asked dress to be plain and simple as to be fair to all the dancers and to enable the maximum number of dancers the opportunity to come.

“Our aim for this event, other than to link up with other universities to share our love for Irish dance, is to promote that you don’t need to give up Irish dance just because you’re going to university, and likewise it’s never too late to take up Irish dancing.”