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The Cost of Irish Dancing

The Indianapolis Feis was a success, both Friday night and Saturday! Saturday, the booth I worked had people lined-up the entire time. 12 hours to be exact, I know because I was standing on a concrete floor the whole day. It took me back to my summers between college where I earned tuition money packing staples for 12 hours a day. Honest work.

The way this business operates at shows is to have a ticket system like you see at the deli. As they finished with one customer and I wrote up the bill, they called the next number. At times, some had to scurry off to dance and then we had to politely explain to the others in line why we were working them back into the line. It was so busy that the people fitting the shoes didn’t get a lunch break and were lucky if they could take a moment for the restroom.

Part of the back up in customers is that this is a very customer-oriented business, which takes the time to make sure the shoes properly fit the dancer and the parents are satisfied in dropping serious cash on something that can’t be returned once they’re worn. Also, it can challenging to extract information from dancers aged 6 through teenages, who have non-stop conversations with their friends but when you ask them how the shoe fits they shrug or say it feels weird, not much help!

As I mentioned on Friday, Irish dancing can be an expensive activity, especially for girls. From what I know (and it’s not much) you’re looking at approximately:

  • $300 for a school dress (used)
  • $1000 for a solo dress (used)
  • $140-150 for hard shoes
  • $40-75 for soft shoes
  • $100 for wig
  • $50 for socks (6 pairs)
  • $100 for misc items like bloomers, sock glue, footcare items, make-up, tiara or headband

On the low side it is about $1730 and obviously you’re not buying this all at one shot, but it does not include tuition, dance school fundraisers and registration, hotel/travel/food to attend the feis. Boys wear black shirts, slacks, socks and hard shoes that are ladies’ jazz shoes and not nearly as expensive as the hard shoes for girls.

And with all that, I only heard one dancer thank her mother for buying her new gear. I’m giving these kids the benefit of the doubt that they thanked their parents later when I was out of earshot and hoping that these kids are dancing because they want to, not because they have stage moms and dads.

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