How irish dance started

Everything you Need to Know about Irish Dancing – Claddagh Design

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Ireland is know throughout the world for its dancing. Here at Claddagh Design we are much better with hammers rather than hornpipes. And the only Irish dancing we do these days is the occasional 'Siege of Ennis' at a wedding. So we thought it would be a good idea to share everything you need to know about Irish dancing!

Irish dancing is a very important part of the heritage and culture of Ireland; just like the Irish language, native sports like Gaelic Football or Hurling, and traditional Irish music. In the past few decades Irish dancing has seen a huge revival, partly because of the worldwide success of Riverdance. However, it was around long before Michael Flatley and Riverdance. Learning Irish dancing is a regular extra curricular activity of many Irish children, and it always features prominently at Irish themed events like St. Patrick's Day. It's not exactly comparable to modern dancing, but that's what makes it so special. Here is a complete guide to everything you could ever want to know about this wonderful part of Irish life.


The roots of Irish dancing come from the Celts and the druids who roamed the island before the onset of Christianity and outside influences came along. Many of the druids' religious rituals involved dancing, usually in a circular fashion around sacred trees. The Celts had their own folk dances with similar formations. This type of dancing was common around much of the European mainland at the time, and although it wasn't really anything like what traditional Irish dancing became, remnants of the formations and patterns can be seen.

Naturally, the dancing was accompanied by music or singing and usually took place at religious celebrations or other special occasions. The 'feis' was a big local celebration held by Celtic communities. It was all about their art, culture and music as well as an opportunity for discussing politics, trading, playing sports and storytelling. Dancing was an integral part of the feis. At the Hill of Tara, then the seat of the High King of Ireland and the epicentre of Celtic life, a huge feis known as the 'Aonach' (great festival), was held once year, apparently beginning over a thousand years ago. Feiseanna are still held today in many communities, but these days they are usually just a showcase for Irish dancing and music, where dancers compete for medals and trophies.

When the Normans invaded Ireland in the twelfth century, they settled in the country and brought with them their native customs, dance being one of them. The 'Carol' was a popular Norman dance that was soon performed in conquered Irish towns and villages. The Carol dance involved one singer placed in the centre of a circle of dancers who then followed his singing and danced accordingly. It is the first historically recorded dance in Ireland. For the next few centuries dancing naturally evolved. Three types of dance emerged; the Irish Hey, the Rinnce Fada (long dance) and the Trenchmore. Instead of circular formations, line formations became common. These in turn became more complicated with female dancers weaving between males, or interchanging couples. Bagpipes and harps became the most common musical accompaniment. The tradition of dancing at religious ceremonies still continued however – it was not unusual to dance in a circle around a coffin at a wake!

It wasn't until the 18th century when Irish dancing became more disciplined and the styles and formations we know today came about. This was all down to the emergence of the Dancing Master, a teacher who travelled between villages and towns holding lessons for peasants. This is how group dances came to the fore; it was a simple way to have all pupils in a class involved in one dance. The best dancers from each community where given the status of 'soloists', i.e they were given special sections of the song to show off their talents and dance alone in the spotlight. When this happened, doors would be placed on the floor to give the dancer a makeshift stage and a solid platform to perform on. There was stiff rivalry between dancing masters from different territories, which is what gave rise to the modern dance competitions that take place today.

In 1893 the Gaelic League was founded as an organisation to promote and encourage all aspects of Irish culture in Ireland. It organised formal competitions, lessons and rules for Irish dancing, and this further developed into the launch of the Irish Dancing Commission in 1930 to regulate the now immensely popular past-time. Irish dancing really took off once it had its own governing body, and over the following decades it spread to the vast Irish diaspora around the world.

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There are three main types of Irish dancing routines; set dancing routines, social or céilí routines and sean nós or step routines. In all cases, the style is relatively formal and regimented, with little upper body movement, precise and quick foot movement and a strict number of steps to be completed. This was mostly because of the limited space performers would have had in the 18th and 19th centuries; small rural pubs or barn dances crowded with locals didn't afford much room for arm movement or for dancing around the floor.

Céilí routines were the most popular form of Irish dancing, and a standard component of any social occasion. They're performed with a minimum of two and a maximum of sixteen people (or sometimes an unlimited number of people!). Set dance routines are based on the French quadrille dances, i.e 'squares' of four couples who complete several different figures of the routine which are repeated throughout the song. Among other steps, dancers swap sides and swap partners – it can get extremely chaotic if you don't know what you're doing!

You may also be interested in reading our article on the Meaning of The Celtic Knot

Step routines descend from the old-style sean nós dancing, and are what the Irish Dancing Commission has adopted as the flagship Irish dancing style. Each step is danced twice, once with each foot, with arms slightly less rigid than other styles. Percussive sounds are made with the feet to add to the rhythm of the music. In the 18th and 19th centuries these dances were often performed on top of barrels or tables.

Each type of dance falls into one of two categories; soft shoe or hard shoe. Soft shoe dances include reels, slips, light jigs and single jigs; these are all classified by the time signature of the music and the steps taken in each dance. Hard shoe dances include the hornpipe, treble jig, and treble reel. Some of the more popular sets have been given names, like the St. Patrick's Day set, the King of the Fairies Set, or the Tree Sea Captains set.


Historically the traditional accompaniment for Irish dancing was a harp, bagpipe, or just singing. As the dances got more complex however, so did the music. Nowadays, Irish dancing and traditional Irish music go hand in hand, and in the same way that there are a variety of different dances and routines, there is a variety of music and instruments to go with it. Some typical Irish instruments include the fiddle (pretty much a violin, just played differently), the bodhran (a hand held drum made of goatskin and played with a special wooden beater called a tipper), the tin whistle, the concertina (similar to an accordion), and the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes). When solo dancers take to stage, a solo instrument will also generally play with them.

Image from Irish Dance Diva


Ornate and sometimes ostentatious costumes can be common in overseas Irish dancing competitions and showcases, but in both historic and modern Irish dancing, more modest and flexible costumes are used. Soft or hard shoes are used depending on the style of dance; hard shoes have tips and heels of fiberglass to add percussion noises and rhythm, while soft shoes are leather lace ups, also known as ghillies. Boys have their own version of the soft shoe, known as 'reel shoes', which still have a hard heel and produce noises, but not to the same extent as the hard shoes do.

Male dancers generally just wear a shirt, vest and tie with dark trousers, while female dancers wear specially made dresses. Each Irish dancing school has their own specific dress uniform. The dresses are just above the knee and pleated, with long sleeves and more often than not some sort of Celtic-inspired design or embellishment on the chest and back. In the past girls were required to curl their hair into ringlets or wear wigs, but this is slowly becoming less common. Dresses have become more and more flexible and breathable compared to decades past, when tough material and elaborate decoration was the name of the game. Outside of competitions you're more likely to see dancers in simple, plain dresses with straight hair, so that the footwork and movement of the dance is given complete focus.


Outside of performances, the best way to see some Irish dancing is by attending a competition or feis. In Ireland there are several levels of competition divided by age and location, ranging from county to regional and national competitions. The annual regional championship is known as the Oireachtas, which also happens to be the name given to the Irish government! Dancers are scored on technique, timing, and sounds made from their shoes. All contests have very rigid regulations and criteria for qualifications, and the whole process is very competitive between both dancers and teachers.

The Irish Dancing Commisson began holding an annual World Championship in 1970, and they still take place each year in a different corner of the globe. They feature over 6,000 dancers from 30 countries all over the world.


No article about Irish dancing would be complete without mentioning Riverdance, the theatrical show which brought the art to a worldwide audience and boosted its popularity around the world. Riverdance is twenty years old this year, having made its debut at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. It started out as just a seven-minute long interval act featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flately, who choreographed much of the show. The accompanying music was played by the RTE Concert Orchestra.

The interval act was so well received that the BBC commissioned a repeat performance at the Royal Variety Show that year and the audio recording stayed at number one on the Irish singles chart for 18 consecutive weeks. The next natural step was to create a full length stage show expanding on the original interval act. The production team did just that and debuted the show in Dublin in November 1994, just six months after the Eurovision performance. It sold over 120,000 tickets and immediately went further afield to the UK, Europe, an New York.

The original show went on to play all over the world for fifteen years, before a final farewell tour in 2011. There are still several smaller productions touring all over the world and a number of spin off shows, ensuring that Irish dancing has a place on the world stage for years to come.



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Emerald Heritage | How Irish Dancing was Invented

Much like storytelling, Gaelic games and traditional music, Irish dancing is an integral part of Ireland’s history, culture and heritage. 

Whether you live here on the Emerald Isle, are part of a diaspora in another country, or simply appreciate Irish culture from afar, chances are that you’ve seen Irish dancing in one shape or form.

Despite that, few know the origins of Irish dancing and we want to right those wrongs… 

What is Irish Dancing?

Irish dancing is a form of dancing generally typified by limited upper-body movement and fast, frenetic footwork. The rise of this style was in large part due to the limited spaces available, during its formative years, for public dancing. These spaces generally included local barns, pubs, or whatever was available. 

The dancing can be both solo or group and is undertaken for social, competitive and performance purposes depending on the dancers and groups involved.

Irish dancing includes set dancing routines, social ceili routines, step routines and dances known as jigs, reels and step dances. 

When was Irish Dancing Invented?

The true origins of Irish dancing are unknown as, like much of Ireland’s ancient culture, many of the traditions, history and teachings, were passed down generation to generation orally. 

Despite that it is known that dancing came to Ireland via the Druids and the Celts. The Druids were said to undertake circular dances around sacred trees whilst Celts celebrated the “Aonach” (Great Festival), at the famous Hill of Tara, with group dances.

The beginnings of what we recognise today as Irish dancing, began in the 17th century onwards and was influenced by English Country dances and French/Latin style Quadrille dances.

At this time Ireland witnessed the rise of traveling “dance masters” who would travel village-to-village teaching locals technique and style. This time also saw the rise of Irish traditional music and the two cultural expressions now go hand-in-hand together. 

Modern Irish Dancing

Since then Irish dancing has long been an important part of Irish culture.

The rise of modern Irish dancing began with the formation of the Gaelic League in 1893, the formation of the Irish Dancing Commission in 1930, and the launch of the Irish Dancing World Championships in 1970. 

The World Championships still run annually and regularly welcome over 6000 dancers from over 30 countries around the world!

For many though, modern Irish dancing will mean just one thing alone: Riverdance.

The popular Irish dancing show launched at Eurovision in 1994, headlined by champion dancers Jean Butler and Michael Flatley, and went on to achieve worldwide success during a remarkable run of 15 years! 

On a local level you will still find hundreds of Irish dancing groups and competitions throughout all corners of Ireland. 


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Why Irish dancing is brain dancing?

The performance of an orchestra of bagpipes and drums from the EU countries at the Amur Waves International Military Music Festival of Brass Bands aroused great interest in everything Irish. IA "Khabarovsk Territory Today" talks about traditional Irish dances.

"Dance of the Wonderful People" is a rarity for Khabarovsk. There are only two schools in the whole region that can teach traditional Irish dance. Light jumps, gliding steps, swift throws and leg sweeps, combined with a calm body, make a mesmerizing impression. The head of the school of Irish dance Irish Wind (Irish wind) helped to understand the intricacies of the choreography Anastasia Merkurieva .

Crazy Dancing

The history of the Irish national dance reflects the events that took place with Ireland itself, starting from the 20th century BC, and ending with the 20th century of our era - the migration of peoples and the invasion of conquerors, the change of religions. Every culture that the Irish came into contact with contributed to their dance tradition. Initially, the dance had a ritual meaning: it was performed, praising the sacred trees and the sun. Coming from the mainland to Ireland, the Celts brought with them religious dances, some elements of which have survived to this day.

Due to the oppression of the culture of Ireland, which began in the 18th century, national dances were performed for a long time only under the cloak of strict secrecy. They were sharply condemned by the Christian church as "insane" and "bringing misfortune." Some historians even believe that the characteristic motionless position of the hands on the belt appeared in Irish dance just after the church declared the movements of the hands obscene.

There are few schools of this choreographic direction in the Far East. For example, there are only two of them in Khabarovsk, and one each in Vladivostok and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Irish Wind Anastasia Merkurieva created in 2008. Then she decided to change her dance direction and leave modern dance. At first, folk dances were in priority, but an accident led precisely to the “dance of the wondrous people”.

“I have been dancing since childhood. And by chance I saw Irish for the first time and my impression was - “Oh! I want to go there! And to this day I really like it. An unusual combination of pride and mischief, dignity and temperament. I like that Irish dance is a combination of ballet and tap. Even if there is no music, you can put on your shoes and make your own music,” Anastasia said.

The main composition of the "Irish Wind" is not numerous, it consists of about 20 people. They are part of the Ceilidh school and belong to the largest Irish dance commission, An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha. Dancers perform not only on various stages of Khabarovsk, but also go to all-Russian and world championships, winning medals.

Dance by the rules

To establish uniform rules for the performance of dances, competitions and refereeing, the Irish Dance Commission was founded in 1929. So, the dance technique has changed significantly. Schools were able to use large halls and a wide stage. The dancers were no longer limited in space and movement, which led to many new steps and jumps, including passages all over the stage. The rule was finally fixed to keep hands strictly along the body.

Three main types of Irish dance: solo, ceili and set. Solo mainly acts as a spectacle prepared by masters, or as a competitive form. It requires professionalism and many years of experience. Kaylie is a long dance in a line and in a circle. Kaylee is characterized by jumping and hands tightly pressed to the body - “hands at the seams”.

Set dances appeared a little later after the Irish soldiers who participated in the wars with Napoleon brought with them quadrille “from the mainland” - four pairs opposite each other, forming a square. A quadrille with an increased tempo and actually Irish movements became known as a set. Sets consist of figures - movements performed in a certain sequence. There are no jumps in the set that are typical for step dances, but due to the many varieties of steps, it looks very diverse.

Initially, Irish dances were performed only by men. When the step appeared, women were not trusted with it either. Now everything is mixed up. It is important that a dancer of any level can take part in the championships, be it a beginner amateur or a high-class professional.

As for the musical accompaniment, according to Anastasia Merkurieva, this dance can be performed not only to Irish music, but also to modern music.

“Figure dancing helps develop team spirit. There are no clear distinctions in staged dances, you can invent anything you like. Everyone finds his own. In sports, in competitions, it is important to observe lines, figures, the position of each dancer in space relative to the other partner. Irish dancing is brain dancing. First you need to think a lot, and then do it with your feet. Kind of math. Because it is necessary that the final figure turned out to be even, ”the interlocutor noted.

Rhinestone tie and curly wig

The usual men's clothing for dancing at the beginning of the 20th century was breeches or trousers, a wide belt, high stockings, and a shirt. The pants took root and became a truly national clothing in popularity. The wide belt of dancers was transformed into a trophy - special award belts were the pride of male dancers. Until the end of the last century, when men still danced in kilts, a common item of men's and women's dance wardrobe was a shawl or "cloak" (brath). Previously, it was a functional element of clothing, a rectangular piece of fabric, which was fastened on both or on one shoulder with a brooch. In the last century, male dancers wore a cloak attached to their jackets, but now this fashion is a thing of the past along with kilts.

Now at the competitions, dark trousers, a colored shirt and a vest have become standard clothing for men, some wear a tie. Fashion for bright and shiny outfits has reached men's wardrobes only in recent years. Shiny vests and dazzling ties in rhinestones are not at all a sign of bad taste, but a tribute to the need to stand out from the crowd.

Women's dresses were first decorated with a modest pattern around the neck, shawls were embroidered in the corners. Capes with hoods came into fashion for a short time, but over time, in dance costumes, they were shortened and began to be fastened only on one shoulder in a masculine manner. A short jacket was worn over a dress with a pleated skirt. Then they went out of fashion, and were replaced by overhead collars and cuffs on dresses.

Patterns on dresses appeared in the 20s of the XX century, but their painting cannot be compared with what can be seen now. The traditional colors were green, saffron and white. They tried to avoid red, as reminiscent of the red caftans of the British. Now all the preferences of the beginning of the last century are forgotten and there are no restrictions in the palette.

However, the Irish Dancing Commission has a separate division that enforces the rules regarding costumes. Specialists make sure that dances are demonstrated in the best possible way at competitions. For example, girls dance not only in brightly embroidered dresses, but also in rather modest ones, beginners dance in school dresses and skirts, more advanced dancers order solo dresses in rhinestones and beads. An important point is always a long sleeve and closed collarbones, and the skirt should not be shorter than the distance of the palm from the knee.

The dancer's hair must be strongly curled. This is a long-standing tradition that all dancers unquestioningly observe. Since the performers of Irish dances are deprived of the opportunity to express their emotions (the movement of the hands is prohibited, the head and body are motionless), it is believed that the curls soaring up allow at least a little to enliven the dance and add coquetry. Dancers at lower levels have the choice of wearing a wig or curling their hair.

Irish dancers wear white socks under their shoes, and this is not at all accidental, because the fine work of the feet, movements that can be missed if the foot is in black, are much more distinguishable.

The school of Irish dance Irish Wind together with Anastasia Merkuryeva became participants in the international festival of military brass bands in Khabarovsk. They performed together with a Celtic bagpipe and drum orchestra from the European Union. The head of the musical group, one of the most famous pipers in Europe, David Johnston, liked the work of the dancers so much that he suggested that they try to make a joint number next year at the Spasskaya Tower festival in Moscow.

description, history and movement. Irish dances. Story. Varieties Contraindicated include Irish dancing


Dance originated with the first people and relentlessly followed humanity, helping to overcome fears, express their thoughts and share these thoughts with others.

The first dances were, first of all, ritual, and, in modern terms, therapeutic. And since, depending on the living conditions of a particular people, the nature of the dangers and the lifestyle changed, the dances of different groups differed significantly from each other.

With the development of the national characteristics of this or that people, with the formation of character and temperament, folk dances were also formed. It is thanks to the differences between representatives of different ethnic groups, the characteristics of a particular nation, that we can enjoy such different folk dances.

Folk dance is the history of the people, its originality, the personification of its soul.
Dances of the peoples of the world is a kind of journey not only around the planet, but also in time. But at the same time, it is an endless source of inspiration for choreographers and choreographers, and for the dancers themselves. After all, in every national dance we can find elements that allow us to enrich the dance composition.

Folk dances form the basis of ballroom dancing, modern dance and even some martial arts.
The national dance of each country is beautiful in its own way, but some folk dances have taken a special place. This applies to Latin American dances whose incendiary rhythms are present in almost all modern club dances or Irish dances that gather huge halls, and the famous Michael Flatley is one of the highest paid dancers in the world. So what is the phenomenal popularity of Lord Of The Dance, Rhythm of the Dance, Riverdance? You can answer this question by going back several centuries and finding yourself in ancient Ireland.

History of Irish dancing

Irish dancing dates back to the 11th century. We are talking about traditional dance festivities, which are called feis (fesh). But only in the 16th century does a detailed description of the Irish dance appear.

All ancient Irish dances were characterized by a fast pace and side steps. Irish dances were heavily influenced by French and Scottish dances. And perhaps the dance culture of Ireland repeated the sad fate of many national dances, and over time they would become just a ghost of a bygone time. But the English metropolis helped to preserve the original Irish dance.

The colonialists fought so stubbornly against the manifestation of everything “folk” and in the middle of the 17th century England introduced “punitive laws” that forbade teaching the Irish anything, including dancing. In addition, the Catholic Church recognized Irish dances as demonic and imposed a strict ban on them. In fact, Irish dances are one of the few that have been officially banned. At one time, the waltz, Cuban mamba, Argentine tango were condemned, but officially these dances were not banned. Although the bans added to their popularity. What can we say about Irish dances, which immediately gained a special appeal. Over one hundred and fifty years! Irish dances were a coveted forbidden fruit, taught in secret and passed on by itinerant masters. Agree that it is quite logical that in such an atmosphere the popularity of dancing grew every day. Indeed, often what is forbidden becomes especially attractive.

At the end of the 18th century, the first schools of dance began to appear. Masters who taught Irish dances brought their own elements to the dance (jumps, jumps, turns) and each school had its own style.
At the end of the 19th century, a process called the Gaelic Revival began. Its essence boiled down to the revival of traditional Irish culture and dancing was one of the most important areas of this process. To revive the Irish dance culture, the Gaelic League established the Commission on Irish Dances at the beginning of the 20th century, which was engaged in the formalization and description of Irish dances. As a result, dances that had strong foreign roots, such as set dances, were ignored. The League adopted the southern (“Munster”) dance school as the basis.

Types and varieties of Irish dances
As mentioned above, the Irish Dance Commission strictly ensures that the dance is as close to its historical roots as possible. Accordingly, all types of Irish dances are performed to traditional Irish dance melodies. These are reels, jigs and hornpipes.

Irish Stepdance
A distinctive feature of Irish solo dances are quick and precise foot movements with the body and arms remaining motionless. The motionless hands are due, according to one version, to the persecution of the church, which claimed that the movement of the dancers' hands is part of a satanic rite. There is a more prosaic version, according to which the dancers used to have too little space for performances (an impromptu stage was created from an ordinary door). Irish solo dances were developed by Irish dance masters in the 18th and 19th centuries and are rigidly standardized by the Irish Dance Commission. It is on this technique that the spectacle of the Riverdance show is based.

Irish keili (céilí)
These are both couple and group dances based on standard Irish solo dance steps. Keili are a selection of dances with different constructions.

Circle: Dancers join hands in pairs forming a circle.
Line: the dancers line up in two lines, the girls opposite the young men. Different restrictions are imposed on the number of couples in different dances: any even number, no more than 5 couples, etc.
Set: from two to eight couples at the same distance from each other form a triangle, square or polygon.
Street, or column: for a set of two couples, back to back, the next set is built, the next one for them, and so on, depending on the number of people who want to dance and the free space. The street can also be built from threes of dancers (two partners with one partner) and fours (two couples side by side).
The dance is characterized by complex rearrangements within its set. In line and street dances, after the end of the story, the partners find themselves in other places and start the dance again with other counter-partners. Dances in a set usually have a complex dance structure with an introduction, an end, a "body" - the body of the dance that is repeated several times, and figures that are danced between the body and do not repeat.

Set Dancing - paired Irish social dances. Unlike keili, they are based on the relatively simple steps of French quadrilles.

Sean-nós, a distinctive style of traditional Irish song and dance, untouched by dance masters and the Gaelic League, preserved in the Connemara region.

Choreographed Figure Dances
These dances are based on standard Irish solo dances and caylees. But this is, above all, a spectacular form of dancing. There are many dancers here. Since this is, first of all, a show, when staging numbers, various deviations from the standards are allowed to increase entertainment. Most of the famous Irish dance shows are staged figure dances.

Each type of dance is performed to a traditional tune, which has its own time signature. The main types are jig, reel, chronpipe.

Jig is an old melody of Celtic origin. Depending on the musical size of the melody in which the dance is performed, light (double) jig, slip jig, single jig and treble jig are distinguished. The usual time signature for these types of jigs is 6/8.

The slip jig, performed in a special size 9, is a perfect stand out/8 and exclusively in soft shoes. It is the slip jig that is taken as the basis for the Riverdance show.

Single jig currently performed as light dance (no beats or sound) on 6/8 and on rare occasions on 12/8.
The Double Jig can be danced as a light dance (in soft shoes) or in hard shoes with rhythm tapping. If it is danced in hard shoes, then sometimes it refers to The Treble Jig, or The Heavy Jig, or The Double Jig, which are danced on 6/8.

The Heavy Jig is the only one that is danced exclusively in hard shoes, so that the dancer can especially emphasize the dance with sound and rhythm.

Reel originated in the second half of the 18th century in Scotland. The usual time signature of a reel is 4/4. Reel is danced in soft shoes (easy-reel) and in hard shoes (treble-reel). Men's "soft" reel is performed in special boots with a heel, but without heels on the toe. Often part of the show, but rarely performed in traditional competitions.
The hornpipe originated in Elizabethan England, where it was performed as a stage performance. In Ireland it is danced quite differently and has been danced to 2/4 or 4/4 music with stiff shoes since the mid-eighteenth century.

Irish dancewear and footwear
Irish dance shoes are divided into two types:
soft (English soft shoes)
hard (English hard shoes).

Soft shoes (ghillies or pumps) are light leather slippers without heels and heels, with long laces. Slippers are usually the same for both feet. Usually black leather is used for these shoes, but you can also find a colored pair for show performances.

Men's soft shoes - leather shoes with a soft sole and a small heel that allows dancers to make clicks even when dancing in soft shoes. Rigid shoes are more specific: shoes are usually black, with a small heel and a heel on the nose, which makes the nose rise and become a little bulging. For better fastening on the leg, in addition to the laces, they have a leather strap. For the production of heels and heels, various plastics are used.
Women's costume for Irish tap dance is often represented by a short dress with a rather wide skirt, since in this type of dance the main attention is paid to the movements of the legs, which in some dance steps must have time to make a fairly wide and fast movement. The dress is bright, often multi-colored, decorated with Celtic patterns. The women's suit is also complemented by white stockings, just below the knee length.

Men's Irish tap costume consists of rather narrow pants and a shirt, often with wide sleeves.

Irish Dancing Climbing
Irish dancing would have remained popular only on a national scale. But 1994 changed everything. It was in April this year at the Eurovision music show, which was held in Ireland, the world saw the dance show Riverdance, in which Irish dance champions Gene Butler and Michael Flatley participated. The show shocked the audience so much that several more projects soon appeared. Shows stand out among them:

Lord of the Dance
Lord of the Dance (“Lord of the Dance”, also “Lord of the Dance”, “King of the Dance”) is an Irish dance show choreographed by Michael Flatley in 1996. The soundtrack was composed by Ronan Hardiman.
The story show, based on Celtic folk music and Irish folk dances, has gained wide popularity. The troupe has repeatedly toured Europe and the United States.

Feet of Flames
Feet of Flames is an Irish dance show choreographed by Michael Flatley. Music by Ronan Hardiman. The Feet Of Flames show is a reworked, more modern version of Lord of the Dance. Although the plot of the show remained the same, the choreography of the dances changed, the musical compositions were re-arranged, the costumes and the composition of the participants changed.

Celtic Tiger
Celtic Tiger is an Irish dance show directed by co-star Michael Flatley. Celtic Tiger combines Irish dancing with ballet, flamenco, hip-hop and salsa. The music for the show was composed by Ronan Hardiman.

Dancing on Dangerous Groun d
Dancing on Dangerous Ground is an Irish dance show created by Jean Butler and Colin Dunn. It was presented in London at the Theater Royal Drury Lane (English) at 1999. The show had its American premiere in New York at Radio City Music Hall in 2000.

The dance show Riverdance was presented for the first time at the Eurovision Song Contest 1994. This performance featured Irish dance champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley and the Celtic choir Anúna; the music was composed by composer Bill Whelan. Flatley himself was the choreographer of his part, Jean Butler choreographed dances for herself and for the rest of the troupe. Riverdance the Show. Riverdance was produced and directed by a married couple, John McColgan and Moya Doherty. Riverdance still performs around the world today, albeit in a reduced format and in smaller venues.

Irish dance stars
Jean Butler is a professional Irish dancer. She was born on March 14 in Mineola, New York. She graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Theater and Drama. She received the Irish Post Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Irish Dancing" in April 1999. Her mother began teaching Jean Irish dancing when she was 4 years old. The famous teacher Donny Golden was invited. Jean also studied classical ballet and American tap dance, but her main focus was on Irish tap dance. Thanks to her talent, Jin has won regional and national tournaments and placed well in world competitions. Jean has performed with Green Fields of America and Cherish the Ladies; when she was 17, she made her Carnegie Hall debut at a The Chieftains concert. At 1994 at the invitation of producer Moya Docherty, Jean took part in a seven-minute break at the Eurovision Song Contest in a number called Riverdance.

Michael Flatley
Michael Ryan Flatley is an Irish-American dancer, choreographer, musician and producer, best known for directing the dance shows Lord of the Dance and Feet of Flames. Twice became the Guinness Book record holder as the fastest tap dancer in the world (28 beats per second in 1989, 35 beats per second in 1998). Michael was born on 16 July 1958 years old in Detroit and grew up in Chicago, USA. He began dancing at the age of eleven, at the age of seventeen he won the Irish National Dance Competition. In parallel, for some time he was successfully engaged in boxing. In 1975 he won the Chicago Golden Gloves championship. He also played the Irish transverse flute. Recorded a solo album. Since 1980 he has been a member of an Irish folk group where he played the flute. In 1978-79 he toured as a dancer with the band Green Fields of America. In 1994, Flatley became one of the main performers and choreographers of the dance show Riverdance. As an independent choreographer, Flatley founded Unicorn Entertainments Ltd and at 1996 put on his own show, Lord of the Dance.

As we can see, Irish dances are a living example of the fact that folk dance can be extremely popular both among the people themselves and outside one country. Moreover, it is not necessary to radically change the style in favor of modern trends. Irish dance performed to traditional music has not changed for centuries and at the same time lives in a watery rhythm with its people. Lively and dynamic, bright and imaginative Irish dance wins the hearts of not only spectators, but also professional dancers. And the proof of this is the major competitions and championships that will give birth all over the world and their youngest participants are less than 8 years old.

Traditional Irish dances are a constant source of inspiration for dancers, choreographers, choreographers and teachers. And, what is especially interesting is that the Irish dance choreography is simple and incredibly complex at the same time, and the picture of the dance captivates and holds the viewer's attention for two hours.


The first information about Irish dances dates back to c. From this time we have the first record of Irish peasant dance parties called feis, (pronounced " fesh "), however, the description of the dances themselves first appeared in the middle of the 16th century. and was rather lengthy and obscure. The Irish dances described included group dances, which were divided into "long" dances (dancers performed movements standing in long lines opposite each other), "round" dances (performed figures, standing in pairs in a circle), as well as dances with swords. It is not entirely clear which of the dances described at the time were actually Irish, and which clearly appeared in Ireland under the influence of French and Scottish dances. In any case, they were rather the progenitors of modern set dances and keili dances. However, all ancient Irish dances were characterized by a fast pace and side steps. Some dances were so popular that they crossed the sea and were adopted by the English. So, the often mentioned English country dance Trenchmore is the Irish Rince mor, that is, the “long dance” in a line.

Irish dances

During the English colonization, the persecution of all manifestations of Irish culture intensified. Punitive laws that were introduced by the British in the middle of the XVII century. forbade the teaching of the Irish to anything, including music and dance. Therefore, for more than 150 years, Irish dancing has been taught in secret. Dance culture existed in the form of clandestine classes held in the villages by itinerant dance teachers (so-called dance masters) and in the form of large country parties where people danced in groups, often led by the same masters. Information has been preserved that at rural parties for a long time there was a custom to put "on patrol" at a distance from the rest of the dancers a smart dancer boy. Seeing the enemy, the boy had to make as many conditional movements as he saw soldiers on the road, and then the adults themselves assessed how dangerous it was for their occupations. Also, dance masters held classes in crowded pubs and simply in large kitchens, standing on a table or on the bottom of a large barrel.

The appearance of dance masters in the first third of the 18th century marked the beginning of the modern dance school. Usually dapper craftsmen, dressed in the latest fashion, went from village to village, stopping at one of the houses. Moreover, it was considered a great honor to give shelter to a dance teacher. The dance master was usually hired for a month. At the end of the third week, he was paid for dancing lessons, and at the end of the fourth week, the accompanying musicians were paid. Therefore, many dance teachers tried to combine the professions of a dancer and a musician, first showing the movements, and then accompanying their students on the harp or bagpipes, and later on the violin. Each teacher gathered students in a designated place and taught them simple "fashionable" dances from his repertoire. It was thanks to the masters of dance that the forms of jig and ril known to us appeared. All movements were combined in the dance into elements, each was designed for 8 measures of music and was called "step" or "step". Therefore, in relation to jigs and reels, which were originally taught by dance masters, and later also in relation to hornpipes, the term "step dancing" is used. It is important to understand that Irish "step dancing" was originally associated with "steps" - elements of eight measures, and not with "tap dancing" - kicks in hard shoes, which we usually understand as the word "step". Although, of course, such strokes are included in the "steps" of modern dances in hard shoes in the form of movements.

Irish dances

At that time, mass dances were regularly banned not only by the British authorities, but also by Catholic priests who were under the ban, but enjoyed great authority. They considered the movements of the arms and legs during the dance to be "lewd". Therefore, in the original, old school of Irish dance, the dancers kept their hands still all the time. However, some researchers say that the masters themselves introduced the requirement to fix the hands, primarily not because of the prohibitions of the church, but on purpose to complicate the dance and increase self-control and attract the attention of the audience.

The best dance masters at the end of the 18th century. began to establish the first dance schools, of which the best known were those in the South in counties Kerry, Cork and Limerick. There were famous schools in other cities. Each master could invent his own movements (jumps, jumps, turns). Different schools differed in the set of movements used in dances.

Often, dance masters of the old school held competitions among themselves, and the winner was the one who could use more steps and jumps in the dance than his rivals, and not the one who, say, danced more artistically or performed movements cleaner. And the loser, along with his school, had to leave the city or village where the competition was held and make room for the winning master and his students. So the first dance competitions between masters served not only to identify the best, but also to divide the spheres of influence between schools.

At the beginning of the 19th century. in Irish villages and small towns, pie competitions also became popular. A large pie was placed in the center of the dance floor and served as a prize for the best dancer, who eventually "took the pie". The style of solo dancing that the dance masters brought was called Sean-nos or old school (manner). Solo dances remained the lot of the masters. The preparation of the best students took place during mass group dances, French quadrilles and cotillions rethought in an Irish way, which made it possible to involve many people in dancing, make new couples, and identify the best. Over time, each of the students, who firmly remembered the sequence of movements in the dance, could become an instructor himself. The rigidly defined sequence of steps performed served as the basis for group dances and the caylee dances that descended from them during the creation of the Gaelic league of caylee dances, which developed from elements of step dancing and French square dances.

Types of dances

Jig (jig)

It is also mentioned in materials on the ancient history of Ireland (two jigs - "The Kerry Dance" and "The Kesh Jig"). There are several variations of the jig: single (or soft), double (eng. double jig ), triple (eng. treble jig ) and slip jig (eng. slip jig ). The musical size of the jig is 6/8 (the emphasis in the rhythm is on: one-two-three four-five-six). The size of the sliding jig is 9/8 (one-two-three four-five-six seven-eight-nine). Single or single jig - dance in soft shoes (soft shoe, ghillies, irish dancing pumps). Triple or treble jig - dance in hard boots with heels (eng. hard shoes ). A sliding or slip jig is danced in soft shoes. The dance includes many jumps, pirouettes, swings. The sliding jig is danced mainly by women, but since the late 1980s, a movement has been gaining momentum for the return of men to this dance.


It originated about 1000 years ago in Scotland and was further developed by the Irish dance masters (two reels, "Kelsey's Wee Reel" and "Miss MacLeod's Reel"). Reel time signature is 4/4. Reel is a "running" dance by nature. Reel is danced by both women and men. Women dance reel in soft shoes, men in special soft shoes with heels (eng. reel shoes ).

Hornpipe (hornpipe)

Appeared about a year, from English miniatures (two hornpipes - "Ricketts" Hornpipe" and "The Ladies Hornpipe") At first it was danced exclusively by men in boots with hard soles, but now it is performed by both men and women. It is said that for the first time, women of the Irish county Cork began to dance it along with men... The musical size of the hornpipe is 4/4, reminiscent of a slow reel with an emphasis on the first and third beats (one-and-e two-and-e three-and-e four-and-e ).

Irish dancing in Russia and the CIS

  • Moscow
  • St. Petersburg
    • Green Ribbon School of Irish Dance (Peterhof)
  • Minsk
  • Kharkiv

See also

Wikimedia Foundation . 2010 .

See what "Irish dance" is in other dictionaries:

    Irish step dance is a type of demonstration dance that originated in Ireland and developed from traditional Irish dances. Irish solo dance is developing in most countries with a large Irish diaspora ... Wikipedia

    Irish step dance is a type of performance dance that originated in Ireland and developed from traditional Irish dance. Irish solo dance is developing in most countries with a large Irish diaspora ... Wikipedia

    Irish Ballet - Irish Ballet Company, first prof. nat. troupe in Ireland. The creation of this team was the beginning of the development of prof. ballet suit in Ireland. The main troupe in 1974 (receives a grant from the Council of Claims in the Republic of Ireland). First ... ... Ballet. Encyclopedia

    This term has other meanings, see tap dance. Tap-dancing is a kind of dance, the characteristic feature of which is rhythmic percussive footwork. Another name for step (from English step dance, from step "step"; in ... ... Wikipedia

Irish Dance Company

Grades 8-9, second year of study

Topic of the lesson : " Traditional Irish dance : history, features, specifics.

Educational technologies: interactive learning.

Type of activity : Irish dance in soft shoes.

Purpose of the lesson: Systematization and deepening of students' knowledge of traditional Irish dances.

Lesson objectives:

  1. Introducing pupils to the musical traditions of the peoples of the world.
  2. Unleashing creativity and pupils.

Educational tasks:

  1. Developed and e creative independence of pupils.
  2. General culture formation l and features pupils.
  3. Formation of the ability to work in a team and individually.

Didactic support for the lesson:

Musical accompaniment: traditional Irish music Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, Cross Reel, stage dance music.

Dance class.

Basic knowledge and skills : elements and combinations of Irish dance in soft shoes.

Lesson structure: Work in creative groups.

Lesson scenario

Part I: preparatory phase.

On the eve of the lesson, the pupils are divided into groups and receive buildings - to prepare material for a report on the types of traditional Irish dances in soft shoes, as well as on the history of Irish dance, its specifics and features.

Part II: History Revived

Teacher: welcomes students and guests, and announces the name of the event, talks about the team, participants and the topic of the lesson.

Masha: Dedicated to Ireland...

To this emerald island
The goddess brought people,
And a woman's soul, fate,
And the thorny, difficult path
Ireland found so.
And hundreds of years since then.
She fought and fought,
And again she gave life to people,
And she took them to Tir-Na-Nog,
And again she called for deeds.
And fate gave us its chance:
At the very edge of the ocean,
Behind the lush green meadows,
Peer into the distance of her centuries,
See the shadow of ancient events,
Hear the Celtic ringing of swords,
Druid magic of speeches,
And bewitched by the goddess,
We are eternal bards from now on,
O Eire, your beauty! (Author Dubkova O.)

Dasha : You can talk about the mythology of the Celts, about the Celtic languages ​​and Celtic ornaments. Usually anything is hidden behind this concept, from "elven" dances to American tap dance, stylized as Irish. There are many interesting national dance traditions - Breton, Scottish, Irish. By and large, they are all Celtic dances. But very, very different. There are different "traditional" (with a well-established set of movements and strictly defined music) dances, so there is also a division into "individual" and "mass". Irish dances are dances in soft shoes (solo and group) and hard shoes (solo).

Nastya : the Irish dance movement began in our country - by copying the movements that could be seen on the cassette. When meeting with professional teachers, the surprise of realizing that how to dancing was great. Unfortunately, even being a talented and experienced choreographer, one can not consider the subtleties that make up the essence and technique of dance. You can copy the bindings, but get only styling. The similarity of many movements with American tap and classical ballet is very misleading.

Masha : Irish dances involve different muscle groups which are rarely used in everyday life. Even professional dancers need some time to work out the technique and “turn on” the necessary muscle groups, let alone amateurs. Help to evaluate your capabilities feshies - Irish dance competitions, in which dancers from different countries participate.

Diana : Feis - festival of Irish culture, with competitions in dancing , language, with a musical program and exhibitions. But most often it is a dance competition that is called fesh. Competitions are held in the categories: solo dances, sets, keley, figure dances in the author's choreography and "dance drama" (implying the presence of a plot).

Polina : the calling card of Irish dances is reels, although this Irish dance came from Scotland, judging by the references in literature, only at the end of the 18th century. The Scottish reels quickly took root, but were transformed into the Irish manner and began to differ from the original source. Reel - as a rule, a very lively melody, under which one is drawn to start dancing. Ril goes back to the ancient hey or hay dance, which existed as early as the beginning of the 16th century. There is a version that the dance imitates the movements of a deer.

5 pupils perform Lead around and the first two steps of the traditional dance Easy Reel as a demonstration of the above.

Anya : Men rarely dance slip jigs at competitions, this is a women's dance. Although there are exceptions at feshas, ​​and for teachers, the performance of any dance is a rule. Slip jig (hop jig, aka "sliding jig") is a dance that is performed to the music on 9/8. This is an exclusively female dance, which is why Irish folk dances are sometimes called "Irish ballet" - for graceful jumps and glides. Slip jig has long been a pair dance (in pairs - a man and a woman). If one couple danced, then it was a "round" dance, if there were several couples, then the couples stood in a line, and changed places in the dance.

4 pupils perform Lead around and the first two steps of the traditional dance Slip Jig.

Lera : jig - this is the word that comes to mind when referring to Irish dances, which is not surprising - this is the most ancient type of dance. There are several jig, the division depends on time signature and the nature of the dance: simple or single (single jig), heavy jig (double - double jig and triple - treble jig) and slip jig (slip jig). The word "jig" comes from a common Germanic root meaning "repetitive movements".

Nastya : all these beautiful words - jig, reel, hornpipe - first of all, musical meters, and only then - dances that are performed to the appropriate music. So it’s quite possible to sing and play reel, jig, and hornpipe, and not just dance. In addition, it is possible to combine different sizes in one dance, this is typical for group dances.

8 pupils perform three steps of the traditional Light Jig dance.

Alena : a beginner dancer meets a lot of terms: jig, reel, hornpipe, keley, set, step, fashion ... Irish dances are surprisingly democratic in the sense that they provide an opportunity for self-realization for both inveterate egoists and collectivist enthusiasts. Solo dances - an opportunity to show personal abilities, group dances (ceili, figure, group set dances) - a great chance to practice in creating an effective team.

8 students perform the traditional Cross Reel dance.

Olya : who were the Irish dance teachers? Professional dancers traveled all over the country, staying in one place from nine days to six weeks. They were always accompanied by a piper or violinist. The master looked impressive: he usually wore a "Carolingian" hat - a voluminous soft-brimmed hat, a tailcoat with tails, narrow breeches to the knees, white stockings and "ball" shoes. In his hands the master held a cane with a silver head and a silk tassel. Dressed in this way, the master occupied a position higher than his piper or violinist, all local residents, and especially students, should treat him with respect.

Zhenya : the master considered himself a true gentleman, and behaved accordingly.
The arrival of a professional dancer was a real event. Usually he negotiated with the farmer and rented a building or a barn from him, in which classes were held. If the farmer had enough space in the house or barn, the teacher himself settled there. In return, the teacher gave free lessons to the farmer's children. If there was no place in the courtyard, the students took turns letting the teacher spend the night. There is evidence that sometimes teachers had to resort to the "hay-straw" technique - tying them to the feet of the students so that they could distinguish the left foot from the right! To explain the correct rhythm and sequence of steps, teachers had to compose rhymes such as these simple lines: "Step-jump, do-step-jump, swing-pike and turn."

Nina : the dance master, as a rule, was a bachelor; he did not have a permanent home and traveled from house to house within a radius of twenty miles. The glory of the master was not only and not so much the actual virtuoso performance, but the ability to compose dance steps. This skill was guarded by the master with the greatest care.
Even now, the status of a dance teacher is largely determined by his ability to compose new dances.

Katya : With the advent of teachers in Irish dancing, solo performances began to flourish.

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