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Irish - Adult Dancers
A Guide to "Dropping Down" (karma: 1)
By Rvndell Comments: 193, member since Sun Dec 14, 2008
On Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:34 PM
Made sticky by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2010-07-27 05:31:57 stickied! Great post.

Please note that the following guide applies only to North American An Coimisiun competitions; European feiseanna do not offer Adult grade competitions.

An Overview of Adult Competitions

Irish dancing competitions are classified both by the dancer’s level (in North America, beginner through open champion) and age group. The oldest age group at a local feis is usually for ages 15 and over (15&O), although at majors this is often 21 and over (21&O). However, in response to the growing number of older dancers desiring to compete in North America, a new and unique age group was created: adult.

The adult age group is in some ways not so much an age group as a separate category of competition, with its own unique rules. The only adult competition with an age restriction is adult beginner, which is restricted to dancers who never took irish dance classes before the age of 18. Adult advanced beginner through prizewinner competitions can be entered by dancers of any age. (Note that champion-level adult competitions are not offered.) However, dancers cannot enter adult competitions if they have danced in a standard age group competition in the last five years. (This is called the five-year rule.) Adult competitions are limited to traditional speed music, and modern dancing elements such as toestands are often frowned on. Feiseanna are not required to offer adult grade competitions, and not all do. Majors do not offer adult grade solo competitions.

In practice, adult competitions are usually entered by older dancers, many of whom are parents of younger dancers. Steps performed are often technically simpler and easier to learn than those seen in standard competitions, as adult dancers generally have less overall class and practice time. Judging focuses more on traditional technique (cross, turnout, height on toes, rhythm) and less on the athleticism seen in standard age groups (jump height, difficult “tricks,” power).

What is “dropping down?”

Older beginning dancers generally start their careers in the adult competitions, where they compete with dancers of a similar age and background. However, some dancers eventually find the adult competitions too restrictive; they want to dance more difficult steps, at non-traditional speeds, and they want the opportunity to advance to championship levels. Others compete in areas with few adult dancers and are frustrated with small or non-existent competitions. These dancers decide to switch to competing in the appropriate standard age group, usually 15&O (or 16&O, or 18&O, whichever is offered…this is usually called the &Overs age group). This is called dropping down. However, care should be taken before deciding to make this switch, as once a dancer competes in the standard age groups, they CANNOT go back to the adult competitions unless they stop competing for five years.

How do I drop down?

First, you should talk to your TCRG. Some teachers don’t allow their adults to drop down to the &Overs competitions. If your teacher does allow it, he/she may have some requirements for you to meet, such as obtaining firsts in your prizewinner competitions, or improving an area of technique. If you meet these requirements, you are demonstrating to your teacher that you are serious about the switch. Once you have your teacher’s approval, simply enter a standard competition at the appropriate age group and level.

What level should I drop down to?

Whatever level your TCRG says; they know you best as a dancer and can best predict what level you will be successful in. If your TC doesn’t give you much guidance, the following is a guide based on personal observation:

Adult Beginner = &Over Beginner
Adult Adv. Beginner = &Over Adv. Beginner
Adult Novice = &Over Adv. Beginner (&Over Novice if placing regularly)
Adult Prizewinner = &Over Novice

Based on personal observation, I strongly recommend that adult dancers do NOT drop down to &Over Prizewinner.

Pros and Cons of Dropping Down

Cons:
*&Over dancers are usually teenagers; are you prepared to compete against dancers that may be half your age?

*If you drop down, your TCRG might switch you to a different class, which may be full of young children; are you prepared to leave your friends?

*Steps taught to dancers competing in standard grades are much more difficult technically; do you have the necessary physical health to handle strenuous dancing?

*&Over competitions are judged much more stringently, not only on basic traditional technique but also on power, attack, and athleticism; are you prepared to practice and train long hours to do well in competition?

*Children generally have more free time to practice than adults—can you accept that sometimes you will not do well in competitions?

*Attitudes towards older &Over competitiors can be poor—if you struggle, parents of your competitors will accuse you of taking judging time away from their children—if you do well, parents of your competitors believe your age gives you an unfair advantage; do you have enough self-confidence to accept real criticism and shrug off unfair attitudes?

Pros:
*The ability and drive to take your dancing to the next level, to learn more challenging steps, to dance with better technique.

*The opportunity to advance to championship levels of competition, and even to attend majors.

*The physical and health benefits of participating in more strenuous exercise.

*The opportunity to serve as a role model for younger dancers.

There is a vibrant adult dancer community here at DDN; many dancers are very happy and successful in the adult competitions; others have taken the plunge and been very happy and successful in the &Over competitions, including doing very well at majors! Feel free to ask us if you have any other questions. I hope this guide has been helpful.

52 Replies to A Guide to "Dropping Down"

re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4130, member since Mon Mar 08, 2010
On Sun Jul 25, 2010 01:16 PM
**sticky***
Just for info:
UK generally does not have adult competitions and most dance in the &overs. For those who have competed in adult competitions in the UK the same sort of thing will apply if you drop down into the &overs. Typically though most competitions go up to around 18&over and these usually start at intermediate level. To dance beginner or primary you would need to drop down to as low as 14&overs.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By PogMoGilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3157, member since Tue Apr 24, 2007
On Sun Jul 25, 2010 03:10 PM
Very well written!

I would like to add just a few more pros and cons:

Pro:
*the ability to test your dancing in a more competitive level
*the ability to participate in all competitions and specials
*the recognition that you are a truely competitive dancer (as there are some feisanna that consider the adult competition just something that parents are doing for fun, not because you are a "real" dancer

Con:
*you will occasionally face agesim, where the parents of dancers will assume that you are trying to "steal" placements from younger dancers
*you will need to look the part in a competition- the wig, makeup and dress are more important to fitting in to the age group
*you will only get older compared to your competition- there will always be a new 15-year-old moving into your competition, and you won't be getting younger.

There are benefits to dancing in either group- adults or & Overs. The drawbacks will not go away, as the likelyhood of their being a 30&Over age group at majors isn't going to happen any time soon.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By rosalinde Comments: 1973, member since Fri Jun 19, 2009
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 03:42 AM
Where I dance there are no Adult competitions, and I remember doing a Beginner O14 competition when I was 30. I placed second in the Reel and and first in the Single Jig (only Beginner dances I had left) and I had a parent come up to me telling me I'd taken the medals away from the kids. I should've kept my mouth shut, but her tone just set me off and I told her that, well, the kids should've practiced harder, 'cause I'd been working my behind off to get those medals. Childish, I know ...

However, I have had more positive experiences than negative ones, and being in the &Over comps has kept me on my toes (pun intended ;) ), seeing that I'm a lazy person by nature and I need to be challenged in order to keep working.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Cinnawiz Comments: 3136, member since Tue Jan 03, 2006
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 08:03 AM
Rvndell wrote:


Based on personal observation, I strongly recommend that adult dancers do NOT drop down to &Over Prizewinner.


Could you elaborate more on why you feel so strongly against this?
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By superheavyjigPremium member Comments: 404, member since Mon Apr 19, 2010
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 08:47 AM
As an adult dancing in beginners but starting to move up into primary, I wish there was an adult competition, if only to stop reactions of parents. I have even had to dance in 12 and over!! But I keep dancing
a because it make me happy
b my DD is soooo proud of me
c I like to compete (although if you ask me on the day, you wouldn't think so!!!!)

I realise some people might think it ridiculous, but to be honest for an adult to beat 14 year olds can really take some doing, and only happens if we are really getting out technique right, cos lets face it we aren't going to jump like grasshoppers anymore (apologies if any of you out there can!!!!).
I also love watching the adjudicators- all of the ones I have come in front of in WIDA and CMFA have always had big encouraging grins on their faces as they watch me dance!!
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By irishsaoirsemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 249, member since Fri Jul 18, 2008
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 08:53 AM
In Mailand Europe there are competitions for adults up to over 35 (sometimes even higher), for the levels Beginner, Primary and Intermediate. When an adult dancer wants dance in open, he/she has to drop down into &Overs as there are no Adults competitions in this level. Dropping down must be discussed with the teacher of course. (just for info :) )
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By KiraDancesIrishmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 452, member since Sat Jan 17, 2009
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 03:07 PM
Can we make this a STICKY please so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. There are always people wandering to this section of the board asking about this :)
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Hop_123member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 4234, member since Sat Feb 03, 2007
On Mon Jul 26, 2010 08:04 PM
I'm guessing Rvndell suggested against dropping down to prizewinner &overs, as in most places PW adult comps just aren't as difficult as the &overs. Don't get me wrong, there are some really good adult dancers in PW, who if they drop down, should drop down to PW, but I think alot of us (me included) do better to drop down to Novice from adult PW. I know that was the good choice for me. I was in all PW adult. Now that I have danced &over (all of two feiseanna) I have had results that vary from 1st to last place! So I know that moving to &over novice was the correct level for me.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Rvndell Comments: 193, member since Sun Dec 14, 2008
On Tue Jul 27, 2010 08:39 AM
Cinnawiz, to elaborate: Most adult Prizewinner dancers who drop down are at the level where they are beginning to do more advanced softshoe dances, and are just starting slow hardshoe. This is equivalent to where most &Over Novice dancers are. More importantly though, simply from my limited observation, adults who drop down to &Over Novice can do very well in competition right out of the gate, whereas those who drop down to &Over Prizewinner will need significantly more time before they are rewarded with placements, and may feel out of place in their competition. Since most adult dancers are very nervous about their decision to drop down to &Overs, it is important not to scare them so badly that they quit competition entirely. (Especially considering the five-year rule.)

That said, the most important opinion is definitely not mine, but that of your TCRG!
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By dcdancer Comments: 811, member since Fri Jul 05, 2002
On Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:01 PM
Rvndell wrote:

... However, in response to the growing number of older dancers desiring to compete in North America, a new and unique age group was created: adult.


One point not to be lost in this thread, adult competitions are not new. They have been held for more than 30 years in some areas of North America, including the DC/East coast areas.

Only since the prohibition of "slow speeds" for adults in hardshoe competitions was instituted did "dropping down" become an issue for adults, and that was in the last 8 years or so.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4130, member since Mon Mar 08, 2010
On Tue Jul 27, 2010 03:27 PM
^ midlife I love that adjudicator with the short red brown hair that we had at Hemel she is brill - so enthusiastic and she even does the steps under the table! ha ha - although rumour has it she was a he once upon a time. I'm sure thats not correct but you know what rumours are like.
Personally I like dancing in the &overs - keeps me young. Everyone always seems so suprised I am 24 and always think I am younger - oh the joy!
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By KiraDancesIrishmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 452, member since Sat Jan 17, 2009
On Wed Jul 28, 2010 08:50 PM
Are there any adults out there that have dropped that have any 'tricks to the trade' to dropping that some of us out here who might one day drop might need to know? Other than those things mentioned above?
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Hop_123member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 4234, member since Sat Feb 03, 2007
On Thu Jul 29, 2010 03:14 PM
^The only pointers I have is expect more competitors! I also found that I have had to practice alot more than I did before, especially slow hardshoe, to be competitive at the novice level. It has also been extremely beneficial to practice with a champs level dancer (I have the dance floor with mirrors, she has the expertise! It a great relationship!)

I have continued to dance wigless, and in tights and that has been okay. My comments are the same as when I was dancing Adults. The judges have been receptive, and the other dancers friendly (even though some are the same age as my kids - I don't think they realized my age)

Also, expect a ton of nerves for your first &over feis. It was worse than my very first feis. I didn't want to look stupid, or let my TC down.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By PogMoGilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3157, member since Tue Apr 24, 2007
On Thu Jul 29, 2010 04:16 PM
My biggest problem was stepping my dancing back up again. I had been in Adult PW for 2.5 years, placing in the top 4 in most of my dances in most of my competitions. I knew how I needed to dance to place, and that's how hard I worked.
When I dropped down to the &Over Novice, I needed to start working harder again. Now, I wasn't dancing against the same 7 people in every dance at every competition. There were dancers who were constantly moving in and up, and I had to be competitive against them.

My advice is to go back through all of your dances and really polish them up, look at all of your form, and make sure it's there 100% of the time.

I'm still working on following my own advice, though in 3 competitions since dropping down, I've placed everything except my reel, and I've managed to move my light jig up.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By KiraDancesIrishmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 452, member since Sat Jan 17, 2009
On Thu Jul 29, 2010 07:06 PM
that actually helps as I am horribly inconsistant when I dance. I might have one feis where I do awesome on my HP and the very next feis a week or two later bomb it completely. I guess it would make sense it build it up to a point where you do it so well so often you can't do it wrong?
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By joggadog Comments: 15, member since Wed Oct 13, 2010
On Wed Oct 13, 2010 01:22 PM
Actually, I rather enjoyed your reply to the "parent". Something I would have liked to say myself but always am shocked speechless when confronted with this type of attitude to age. Why do some people like to think that just because you are no longer a teenager, that you should give up dancing. Dancing is at the top of the list of things to do to keep you active physically and mentally and adults should be applauded for continuing dance not the other way around. I think alot of these parents come off as jealous, just because they don't/can't do it themselves and are living through their children's success.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By RinceorNosretep Comments: 1027, member since Fri Oct 23, 2009
On Wed Oct 13, 2010 01:36 PM
^ Exactly!

@ KiraDancesIrish: In my high school years of orchestra I read a saying about musicians, and I think it can apply to anything: "A good musician practices until they can play it right, a great musician practices until they can't play it wrong." It was printed on the wall in the music room at a high school we did a comp at, and it really hit home with me. I'm planning on doing the dancer version on my studio wall when I start my own school (years and years down the road).
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By NEdancer Comments: 53, member since Tue Oct 09, 2007
On Sat Nov 27, 2010 07:34 PM
Regarding this part of your post: However, care should be taken before deciding to make this switch, as once a dancer competes in the standard age groups, they CANNOT go back to the adult competitions unless they stop competing for five years.

I know this is a widely held belief but the only place I have ever actually seen anything about this is in the mid-west region rules, no where else. Also, if a feis does not offer adult classes, the and-over class becomes, by default, your class. You can try and-overs at any feis that does not offer adult classes and not be breaking any rules.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By PogMoGilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3157, member since Tue Apr 24, 2007
On Sat Nov 27, 2010 08:43 PM
^Nope. You can't.

It was confirmed not long ago that the North American Irish Dance Federation still holds that a dancer who competes in the & Over category cannot join the Adult category until a 5 year break from competition has happened.

If a feis doesn't offer adult levels, and you chose to compete as an & Over, you've made the switch and should not compete again as an adult. You likely won't be called on it, unless you're doing it often, but it's not a chance you want to take.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By NEdancer Comments: 53, member since Tue Oct 09, 2007
On Sat Nov 27, 2010 09:39 PM
All I can say is, a few years ago, I had the situation where I entered in the and-over class at a feis which had no adult classes. The person in charge of the feis tried to tell me I could not enter, as there were no adult classes. For clarification, I contacted Patrick Short, chairman of the feis commission, who told me that if a feis has no adult classes, the oldes and-over class is by default, your class, and that you cannot be prevented from dancing in that class. It should not affect your adult status. And, as I said before, I have checked all the regions feis rules ,and the only one that has anything like that 5 year rule is the midwestern region. Why are we limiting ourselves unnecessarily? Seems to me we already have anough unfair rules put on us. If somebody wanted to try dropping down, they could choose a feis without adult comps and give it a try without jeopardizing their adult status.
clarification of above reply
By NEdancer Comments: 53, member since Tue Oct 09, 2007
On Sat Nov 27, 2010 09:47 PM
patrick Short is president of the North American Feis commission, which oversees most of the feiseanna in this country and is a separate organization from the Irish Dance Federation, which you were referencing, who apparently are associated with WIDA. I know nothing about them and maybe for their competitions, that is indeed the rule. I was only referencing feiseanna put on by members of the NAFC.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By MearaKellymember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 100, member since Wed Jan 05, 2011
On Mon Jan 31, 2011 02:36 PM
As I am going to start competitions soon, I've been trying to read up on all the pros and cons etc, of "dropping down" vs competing in adults. In fact, my teacher recently brought up in class the loophole being mentioned that if no adult catagory is offered, adults may dance in the &overs catagory without offically "dropping down". Assumably she would know, as she is a TCRG, but its still worth researching if it is a valid rule or not. I find your comments about your conversation with Mr. Short, very interesting, NEDancer, but I would still think that people should proceed with caution when joining the &overs

Here's my logic on it. If people truly want to "drop down" it's going to be because they want to at least attempt achieving the higher levels that aren't available to the adult catagory. (Which, as a side note I think is highly unfair).

One thing I was discussing with my other teacher the other night on the subject was the 'more competition' side of the argument. She brought a very interesting point in that, depending on your level (especially me being Adv. Beginer), you still aren't going to have too many people to dance against. Most kids are are long out of Adv. Beginer by the time they are old enough to hit the O14's, considering that they usually start dancing at seven or eight. That while I'll be facing down competition from dancers with more stamina, agility and fancier choreography, it's not like they are going to be a dancing hoard. That encouraged me just enough. I want challenge, not impossible odds. ;)

In the end, for me, there is nothign for it. I want to try and take my dancing to the Worlds. Can't do that in Adults, so the whole five year break is kind of trivial to me. But I looke forward to reading more imput from others on the subject.
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Hop_123member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 4234, member since Sat Feb 03, 2007
On Mon Jan 31, 2011 02:46 PM
MearaKelly, I have no desire or intent to do higher levels than I could do in adults, but I still dropped down. Mostly because the adult PW comps were so small and everyone in my dance class was doing slow hardshoe, I was learning those steps, but could not use them to compete.

You certainly can start out in and-overs, but it doesn't hurt anything to start out with the adults and then drop down. You get to meet a lot of other dancing adults that way!
re: A Guide to "Dropping Down"
By Valkyrjamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 294, member since Tue Jan 26, 2010
On Mon Jan 31, 2011 05:54 PM
To MearaKelly -

Even if you're pretty sure you want to 'drop down', it might be worth doing your first feis in the adult category anyway. That is what I did, in part because I felt out of place in advanced beginner 15&O, and in part because I knew more adults and was still taking adult classes at the time. It was absolutely the right decision, and here's why. First, it convinced me from that moment on that I absolutely wanted to compete in kids. Secondly, it was a great 'ego boost' because I did well and then felt more confident about dropping down. Third, it was a great 'ease' into the world of competitive Irish dance in general, because the adult category is very low-stress (for a lot of reasons) and the people in it are extremely friendly and in general less focused on winning than in the kids divisions.

That being said, you should do what feels comfortable and make your own decision. I am sure you will do great in &overs either way - and I can't wait to hear about the results!
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