Murphy Irish Arts Center New Student Handbook

Murphy Irish Arts Center
New Student Handbook
The Murphy Irish Dancers - Background
The Murphy Irish Arts Center was founded in 1978 by Sheila Murphy Crawford. Sheila
is a Certified Irish Dance Instructor and Adjudicator of An Commissum, the world
governing organization of Irish Dance. Besides all her efforts in support of the Center,
Sheila is very active in the Cleveland Irish Community, including the Ancient Order of
Hibernians and Irish Cultural Gardens to name a few.
The dance school is presently composed of over 200 dancers (boys and girls) ranging in
age from about 5 to 45. While most of our dancers have some Irish Heritage in their
families, it is not required and the school is open to all who wish to participate.
The Murphy Irish Dancers, the name of the performing group of the Center, are
dedicated to preserving Irish Culture and the art of Irish Dance and to sharing their
heritage with audiences everywhere. These young people march and dance down
Euclid Avenue every year in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and perform at countless folk
festivals, nursing homes and organizational events such as the Cleveland Police Officers
Memorial Tattoo, the International Folk Festival at the Palace Theater, Cleveland’s Unity
Day and the Cultural Garden’s One World Day.
The Murphy Irish Arts Center is supported by the Murphy Irish Arts Association, a parent
and friend support group which is recognized as a charitable organization under the
provisions of Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The MIAA raises funds to
support the dancers and underwrites a portion of the costs of costuming, maintenance of
the Center and dance facilities, and travel to competition. The MIAA also serves as a
support group for the Director, Sheila Murphy Crawford, the dancers, and parents. It also
funds a memorial and a scholarship at John Carroll University and actively supports the
Irish Cultural Garden.
Over the course of the year, you will notice that fees and payments will be made to
either MIAC or MIAA. Generally, any fee that has to do with the actual instruction of Irish
Dance will be made payable to the Center, or MIAC. Most other fees will be paid to the
Association, or MIAA.
Examples of MIAC fees:
- Tuition
- Parade practice fees
- Competition practice fees
- Dance music CD’s
- Dance camps
Examples of MIAA fees:
- Costuming and accessories
- Ceili tickets
- Fundraising money
- Bus Trip
The Payee will always be clearly marked when fees are due, but if you are unsure just
Besides the Director, Sheila Murphy Crawford, there are many others who are involved
in running the Center. Sheila’s husband Bob Crawford and Maureen Cavanaugh,
TCRG, her niece are both actively involved.
Eileen Connell
Heather Voss-Hoynes
Annamae Heiman Kascandi
Aileen Heiman Orlando, TCRG
Patrick Joyce
Mary Ryan Walsh
Elizabeth Anderson
Student Teachers:
Laura Dwyer
Erin Hogan
Mara Zolikoff
The Murphy Irish Arts Association (MIAA), as mentioned above, is the parent group that
supports the Murphy Irish Arts Center. The Association bylaws are available in the office
at the Center. The board of the MIAA is consists of a President, Vice-President,
Treasurer, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary and three Members-at-Large.
Board elections are held each June. Association meetings are held periodically
throughout the year, usually once in November and then as needed at other times. All
are welcome and participation is highly encouraged and appreciated!
Some of the duties of board members include registration of students, planning the Ceili,
and volunteer/fundraiser coordination. In addition to the board, there are several
Association Committees as well. Some of these are Costuming, Parade, Poinsettia
Sale, and Ceili. Each committee will have a chair who will hand the majority of the
coordination along with the help of several members. The success of the school and
enrichment for the students is directly dependent upon the activities of the Association.
Please consider helping out with at least one committee!
Murphy Irish Arts Online
What you need to know about the MIAC website:
• Each registered MIAC family has a username and password that will be issued
upon payment of registration dues. If you forget your accounts password, you
can use the “Request New Password” link in the login box section. This will send
a reset link to the email address on file with the MIAC.
• The events calendar for the year is available on the website, and ongoing
announcements are posted regularly. Some information is confidential and only
available for viewing when logged in with your family’s assigned MIAC website
• If your dancer competes in and places at a feis, his/her results must be entered
online. You will need to login to your assigned MIAC website account in order to
report results.
If you are having problems logging in to the website with your assigned account,
please contact Laura Solomon at [email protected]
MIAC in social media:
• You can ‘like’ MIAC on Facebook at
Many announcements are also posted there.
• There is a separate Facebook Group for posting photos and videos, so that
pictures of students are not publicly available. Please email Laura Solomon
([email protected]) for more information and/or requests to join
the group.
• MIAC also maintains a Twitter account for brief, non-confidential
Tuition policy
Payment is due at the beginning of each quarter: September, November, February,
April. A late fee of $5.00 is added to any payment that is more than two weeks late.
Student registration is due at the beginning of every class year in late August.
Registration information will be mailed to the dancer’s house and should be returned by
mail to the Center.
Class makeup schedule
If students are going to miss a class, they should notify the Director in advance. If an
absence occurs, the student is responsible for making up the class at another time. No
refunds are given for missed classes. Make up classes can be during the time for the
same level during the same week of the missed class. For example, if a level 1 misses
a Wednesday class, he or she can come to a level 1 class Thursday or Saturday of that
same week.
Each Irish Dance school is recognized by their distinctive colors and design of costume.
They are usually very traditional and each dancer represents the school when they are
wearing them. Therefore, dancers are expected to be on their best behavior when
representing the Murphy Irish Arts Center.
Costumes are traditional and may NOT be embellished. Dancers are not to add sparkly
socks or tiaras or sequins in their headbands. The traditional look must not be changed.
Costumes must be carefully maintained. Hang them up neatly and wash them if they get
dirty, prevent wrinkles. Take the lace collar off periodically and wash with soap and a
little bleach. Dry them flat on a towel in the sun if possible. Keep your dance shoes
cleaned and polished also.
Costumes for boys are the same for every level:
• Black pants and black socks
• Black shirt
• Cranberry vest and tie
There are several styles of costumes for girls depending on the level of the dancer.
A. Beginner dancers wear:
• Cranberry jumper & black spanks underneath
• White blouse with Peter Pan collar
• Green tie
• Murphy headband and shawl
• White hair scrunchy
• White popcorn socks
This is a very economical costume for beginner dancers and is machine washable as
B. Princess Dancers:
As dancers progress, they will move into a Princess dress which is more like a traditional
Irish dance costume. The Princess dress is also cranberry and has a crocheted collar
and celtic knotwork screenprinted designs. Dancers wear the same shawl and
headband with black spanks underneath
C. Celtic Dancers:
When dancers get to an advanced level, they can purchase a Celtic dress. The Celtic
dress is similar to a Princess dress, but it also has traditional cuffs and the knotwork is
embroidered onto the fabric.
School costumes are owned by the individual family. The parent’s association, MIAA,
organizes a used costume sale every year. This helps to keep the cost down for
parents. New school dresses are available, they are usually made to fit a particular
dancer, and should last 2 years before selling. The cost of a brand new school costume
is currently $400.00.
How to get costumes
Costumes are not required but must be purchased to participate in shows, competitions
and the class picture at the end of the year. Dress fittings and sales are held twice
during the year. There is one in the Fall towards the beginning of the school year to
make sure everyone is fitted. There is another in spring in case someone grows out of
their costume. Other fittings may be held as needed.
It is very important to make sure you attend one of these scheduled fittings. In most
instances, the dresses must be sent to our dressmaker for alterations. It is much easier
to make sure everyone gets their costumes in a timely manner if it is done all at once.
Information will be posted both at the Center and online concerning dates and times,
including time slots available for sign-up.
Solo costumes
Every school has different regulations regarding the wearing of unique “Solo” costumes.
At Murphy’s, Sheila has required that dancers be in Open/Prizewinner level for all of
their required dances in order to wear a solo costume. This is not the case at every
school however, and it is not uncommon to see dancers at the Novice level wearing a
solo costume at a competition.
Purchasing a solo costume is a difficult yet exciting task. Because each dress is unique
and custom made, they are understandably quite expensive. A dancer’s first solo
costume will more than likely be pre-owned, and you will see dozens of used dresses for
sale at competitions. There are rules on length which apply to all competition dresses,
so please keep this in mind when selecting a dress for purchase. A brand new, custommade solo costume can cost upwards of $1000-$2000. It is best to talk to Sheila before
considering having a dress made for your dancer.
There are two styles of shoes for Irish dancers – soft shoes (also called ghillies) and
hard shoes.
Soft shoes are basically just a piece of leather that is laced around the dancers foot.
They should be snug for dancing, but not too snug that the foot is cramped. Hard shoes
are more like traditional American ‘tap’ shoes, but have fiberglass tips and heels which
make a very different sound than tap shoes. Hard shoes are not needed until the
second or third year of instruction, as the dancers do not learn the dances associated
with them until that time.
Shoe sales are held periodically throughout the year. There is always a big sale at the
beginning of the school year. Rutherford (an Irish Dance shoe distributor) makes a
special trip to the Center and has new shoes available for purchase. Used shoes are an
economical alternative to new shoes. It is also sometimes better for the dancer to buy
used shoes – especially with hard shoes – as these have already been broken in and
will cause less discomfort while dancing. Used shoe sales are held periodically and will
be posted online and at the Center. You can always call the Shoe Committee chair to
set up an appointment to buy used shoes if a shoe breaks or is no longer wearable.
You have probably seen the curly wigs on Irish dancers and thought to yourself “What is
that all about? Every Irish girl doesn’t have naturally curly hair!” Traditionally, when an
Irish girl would go someplace special, such as a Ceili dance, she would put on her best
appearance. This would mean wearing her nicest dress and curling her hair. This
practice carried over into competition as well. Now, if you have ever tried to curl your
daughter’s hair with either a curling iron or (God forbid) sponge rollers, you know what a
nightmare this can be - for both of you! At some point, Irish dancers realized that much
difficulty (and crying!) could be avoided by putting on a wig instead. This has grown into
the wig phenomenon that is evident in modern Irish dance.
As a beginner, a dancer is definitely not expected to wear a wig. If you would like to curl
your dancer’s hair yourself, that is perfectly fine. Straight hair is also a perfectly
acceptable option. There is no ‘requirement’ of having curly hair. However, if your
dancer decides to progress in competition you will at some point purchase a wig. Again,
this is not a ‘requirement’, but more of a conformity of appearance. Dancers competing
on an Oireachtas team will need to have a wig so that the team has a uniform look.
Sheila will let you know when it is time to purchase a wig and will provide the information
on how to do so.
What is a Ceili?
A Ceili (Kay’lee) is a traditional social gathering where Irish music and dance are
enjoyed by all generations. In Ireland, the dances provided entertainment, relaxation
and traditional fare such as soda bread and tea and were greatly anticipated by all. This
was especially true in more rural areas where there was little else in the way of
socialization for the Irish people. The Ceili was usually held in the church hall. The
featured attractions included the musicians who played the tunes for all the traditional
social dances including the Siege of Ennis and the Stack of Barley.
Our Ceili began over thirty years ago as a way to bring family and friends of The Murphy
Iris Arts Center together for an evening of fun and entertainment. The Ceili gives the
dancers a chance to perform what they have learned for an appreciative audience of
family and friends. It also provides us with the opportunity to teach the social dances of
Ireland to the parents and an evening for families to share in traditional Irish cultural
As the school grew it became a terrific way to prepare the dancers for all the St. Patrick’s
Day events and as a bonus a way to raise funds to support the dancers of the Murphy
Irish Arts Center.
Costumes for Ceili
All dancers at the ceili will need a school costume. As mentioned above, there will be
opportunities to get fitted and purchase a costume beforehand. Dress fittings will be
posted at the Center and online, so please make yourself aware of these dates. If you
think you will participate, you should get a costume at the Fall/Winter sale.
Ceili Tickets
There is limited space at the East Side Irish American hall, so the ceili is split into two
nights. Younger/lower level dancers perform at the Friday night ceili while the
older/upper level dancers perform at the Saturday night ceili. Seating is limited at both
of these performances, so it is very important that you get your ticket request in early. It
is much easier to determine how many extra tickets will be available this way and also
prevents families from being shut out.
Ceili Rehearsal
For the Friday night ceili, there will be a mandatory ceili rehearsal the week of the ceili at
the Irish American hall. This is so that Sheila can set the show and to ensure the
dancers are familiar with the venue. The exact date and time will be posted at the
Center and online.
Saturday night ceili rehearsal will be held during the day on the Saturday of the ceili, also
at the Irish American hall.
St. Patrick’s Season
St. Patrick’s season runs from about the middle of February through the end of March. It
is a very busy time for the Murphy Irish Dancers, as there are anywhere between 30-50
performances scheduled in the community. These are a great way to share our Irish
heritage, involve the dancers in the community around them, and it also is good practice
for the upcoming Feis season.
St. Patrick’s Shows
At the beginning of February, a ‘show sheet’ will be distributed to all dancers listing the
scheduled performances. Dancers can choose the shows they would like to perform in.
The show sheet will also be posted online. You should then email your choices to Sheila
so that she can set the dances for the show.
Typically, you should perform at about one show for every level of instruction. Level 2
dancer = 2 shows; Level 9 dancer = 9 shows.
Keep in mind that these performances are for the group that is hosting us. You should
not expect to bring guests or even other family members to these shows. Most of the
time the group will let the parents watch the show, but if space is limited you should not
expect that to happen.
Dancers should come in costume, ready to dance. The hour before the show will be
used to set the dances and have a quick rehearsal. Most shows last about 20-30
minutes. Once the show is over, there is usually a few minutes for the dancers to mingle
with the audience. This is nice because most people like to see the costumes up close
and they usually have questions that they want to ask the dancers as well. The
audiences at these performances are not usually very large – under 30 people most
times. Afterwards, dancers are free to leave.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The Murphy Irish Dancers march in Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade every year.
Participation is expected of all dancers aged 8 years and older. There are 2-3 practices
held beforehand so that dancers can learn the marching steps. The parade costume is
the same for all marchers and the following items must be purchased on your own:
• Navy blue school pants
• Navy blue socks
• Plain white tennis shoes
A white turtleneck, blue sweatshirt, white gloves and Murphy beret will be supplied by
the MIAA. There is a small fee for practice time and also a refundable deposit required
for the costume pieces.
What is a Feis?
Feis (pronounced fesh – plural ‘feisanna’) in Gaelic means ‘festival’. In modern times it
is now an Irish Dance and Cultural competition. Besides dancing, there could be music,
arts and food competitions. There is a feis taking place nearly every weekend of the
year throughout North America. A full listing can be found on the North American Feis
Commission website:
So what is a feis, really? It is crowded, hot, loud, exciting, nerve-wracking, long and
tiring. But most of all, it is FUN!
How feis registration works
Registration for all competitions is done online through a variety of feis websites:
eFeis – – mostly Midwest, Eastern US, Southern US and Canadian
Feisworx – - mostly Western US and Midwest competitions
Feisweb – - mostly North-Eastern and Atlantic US compeitions
You will have to register your dancer with the site, including the dancer’s name,
age/birthdate and the dance school you are affiliated with. Once the dancer is
registered, you can sign up to compete. The dancers ‘Feis Age’ is the age of your child
as of January 1st of the current year (not necessarily the age that your child is at the time
of the competition).
Registration will usually open up several weeks to several months before the feis is
scheduled to take place. If you choose, some of the feis registration websites will notify
you when registration is set to open.
Generally, beginner dancers will only compete in the Reel and Light Jig. If you are
unsure, your dancer’s teacher can let you know which dances to sign up for. Once you
have registered for the competition, you can pay online as well. Some competitions will
include a “Family Fee” in the cost of registration which can be as much as $20. This is
in lieu of a per-person entrance fee at the door and many competitions are moving to
this practice. If you are not charged a Family Fee at the time of registration, expect to
pay an entrance fee (usually around $10 per person) at the gate for each non-dancer
who attends the feis. Competitors do not have to pay an additional entrance fee.
Cleveland Feis
The Cleveland Feis is held every year on the Sunday before Memorial Day in the
Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. This is one of the oldest and largest
competitions in the United States, with nearly 1,500 dancers competing every year. It is
our hometown feis so we expect our dancers to participate. Our parents and alumni
volunteer to run stages and hand out materials as well. This is also the first feis that
beginner dancers at Murphy’s will compete in. Participation is not mandatory, but is very
highly encouraged. Online registration for this feis usually opens up in March.
Competition levels & how to advance
The world of competitive Irish dancing is very structured and can be rather confusing.
There are several levels of competition and dancers must achieve success in one level
before moving up to the next.
The levels are:
• First Feis/Beginner - A beginner is a competitor who has not yet taken a full year
of Irish Dance lessons, thereby giving beginners a full year with such status. A
Beginner must move into the Beginner 2/Advanced Beginner level the next year.
• Advanced Beginner – Has taken a full year of Irish Dance lessons. An advanced
beginner who wins 1st, 2nd or 3rd place will advance to the Novice level in that
particular dance. Competition dances are reel, jig (or light jig), slip jig, traditional
treble jig and traditional hornpipe, as a minimum requirement.
• Novice – Has won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place in the Advanced Beginner level for a
particular dance. A novice who wins a 1st place will advance to the Open
(Prizewinner) level in that particular dance.
• Open (Prizewinner) – Has won a 1st place in the Novice level for a particular
dance. Open (Prizewinner) dancers must win a 1st place in each of the four
dances (reel, slip jig, hornpipe, treble jig) to move into the Preliminary
Championship level.
• Preliminary Championship – Has won a 1st place in each of the four dances (reel,
slip jig, hornpipe, treble jig) in the Open (Prizewinner) level. PC competitions
consist of one hard shoe step and one soft shoe step and the scores are
combined to determine the dancer’s final placement. PC dancers must place 1st
overall in two separate competitions to move into the Open Championship level.
Open Championship – Has placed 1st overall at two separate competitions in the
Preliminary Championship level. OC competitions consist of one hard shoe step
and one soft shoe step and the scores are combined to determine the dancer’s
final placement. This is the highest level of competition in Irish dance.
Also, there must be a minimum of 5 dancers in any competition in order for the
placements to count. Sometimes a feis will combine age levels if there are not enough
competitors. In this case, it will be a “Merged” competition.
How to qualify for Oireachtas
The Oireachtas (pronounced ō-ROCK-tiss) is the regional championship and is held over
Thanksgiving weekend for the Mid-America region.
Participation at the Oireachtas can be either as a team or a soloist and usually both.
• Team participation is by invitation of Sheila.
• Solo competitors must either qualify through competitions or, in the case of
younger dancers, can be invited by Sheila.
• To qualify as a soloist, dancers competing in the U13 age groups and below
must be in the Open (Prizewinner) level for all of their dances and must win a 1st,
2nd, or 3rd place in each of the four dances within the qualification period.
• Dancers competing in the U14 age group and above must be in Preliminary
Championship and must place in the top half at one competition within the
qualification period.
• Dancers who are in the U13 age groups and below but are not in all Open
(Prizewinner) level must be invited by Sheila.
• Dancers who are in the Open Championship level automatically qualify.
The qualification period runs from October 1st through September 30th of the competition
year. For example the qualification period for the 2012 Oireachtas runs from October 1st
2011 through September 30th 2012. In addition, dancers must qualify at competitions
held within the Mid-America or Mid-Atlantic regions only.
List of Nearby Feisanna
While there is a feis scheduled for nearly every weekend of the year, unless you are a
very serious competitor you will probably only want to go to those within a close driving
distance. Below is a list of those competitions within about a 4 hour drive from
• North Coast Feis (Cleveland, OH) – first weekend in February
• West Virginia Feis (Pittsburg, PA) – last weekend in March
• Buckeye State Feis (Columbus, OH) – middle of April
• Queen City Feis (Cincinnati, OH) – middle of May
• Akron AOH Feis (Akron, OH) – Memorial Day weekend
• Cleveland Feis (Cleveland, OH) – Memorial Day weekend
• Buffalo Feis (Buffalo, NY) – first weekend in June
• Detroit Feis (Detroit, MI) – first weekend in June
• Indianapolis Feis (Indianapolis, IN) – second weekend in June
• Cincinnati Feis (Cincinnati, OH) – second weekend in June
• Dayton Area Feis (Dayton, OH) – third weekend in June
Clann na Gael Summerfeis ( Columbus, OH) – second weekend in July
St. Catharines Feis (St. Catharines, ONT Canada) – last weekend in July
Columbus Feis (Columbus, OH) – first weekend in August
Feis at the Falls (Niagara Falls, NY) – second weekend in August
Feis Baile na Ros/Rose City Feis (Windsor, ONT Canada) – third weekend in
Great Lakes Feis (Lansing, MI) – third weekend in August
Pittsburgh Feis (Pittsburgh, PA) – first weekend in October
Gem City Feis (Dayton, OH) – second weekend in October
Pittsburgh WinterFeis (Pittsburgh, PA) – last weekend of December
As you can see, there are a good number of competitions that are very close to home. If
you want to venture further, a complete listing of all North American competitions can be
found on the North American Feis Commission’s website at
How to get/read results
So your dancer has now competed in a feis and maybe didn’t do as well as you thought
they should have? Some feedback would really be helpful, right? Fortunately, most
competitions will provide you with a printout of your dancer’s results including any
comments made by the judges during their performance. You can ask at the registration
table at the feis if they will be providing printed results and where to pick them up. If
printed results are not provided, many competitions will email them or provide them
The results will list each dance that your dancer competed in along with:
• Your dancer’s score
• Your dancer’s placement
• The total number of dancers in the competition
Comments are sometimes provided, however these are infrequent at best. Comments
must be recorded by the Feis staff during tabulation. Feis tabulation is a very hectic and
hurried task, so sometimes they are left off if the Feis staff is in a rush. And there are
some judges that just don’t leave comments. Remember, you can always ask your
dancer’s instructor for specific tips on what they should concentrate on during
competition, or what a particular comment might mean (they are not always easy to
Class Picture
A class picture of the entire school is taken every year – you may have seen them
hanging in the hall at the Center. The picture is taken at John Carroll University on the
Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, rain or shine. Copies of this photo can be
purchased – forms will be sent home with dancers and posted online. It is very
important that all dancers are present for this event. We want the picture of the school
to be as complete as possible.
Summer Camps and classes
There are many opportunities to dance during the summer. The regular school schedule
of classes extends from September through the end of May.
Summer School
In the summer we offer a shortened session of regular classes to keep the skills fresh,
finish learning the past year’s material, and eliminate the long stretch of summer without
classes. Students will forget material in that time and skills and muscles will forget how
to make every move look right.
Summer Day Camp
This usually takes place toward the end of June. It lasts five days, Monday through
Friday from 8:30 to 3:00 usually. It is held at Ursuline College and includes: working on
skills, steps, dances, Irish crafts and a final show on Friday. It is open to levels 1
through 5. A half-day session is offered but most dancers stay all day and enjoy the
unique experience of working on a dance drama in the afternoon.
Overnight Camp
This takes place at Ursuline College in July and is for students who seriously want to
improve their skills. Solo and team work is done along with stretch and strength classes.
Dancers stay in the dormitory at Ursuline College, eat their meals in the cafeteria and
enjoy doing Irish crafts, skit night, pool night and game night. On Friday there is a final
show in the cafeteria. A Master Dance Teacher from Ireland usually comes to the camp
each year. The camp is open to rising level 5’s through level 15.
Contact Information
Murphy Irish Arts Center – 216-378-0878
24000 Mercantile Rd Beachwood, OH 44122
Website - www.
Email – [email protected]
MIAA Board – 2012/2013
President – Michelle Rodewald – [email protected]
Vice-President – Nancy Mocsiran – [email protected]
Treasurer – Colleen Hogan – [email protected]
Recording Secretary – Kim Papell – [email protected]
Corresponding Secretary – MaryEllen Callanan – [email protected]