How irish dancing started now i understand

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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The History and Origins of Irish Dance

The history of Irish dance, one of the most distinctive parts of Irish culture, is intriguing. You may be familiar with events where girls in curly wigs and beautiful costumes with special shoes take to the stage to perform coordinated traditional dances at Irish heritage festivals, dance shows, or competitions.

The Origins of Irish Dancing

If you’ve ever seen this sort of thing, you might be asking yourself, how did all of this begin? Is Irish dance popular? What distinguishes Irish dance?

You might be surprised how big a part of Irish culture it has always been. This is why we celebrate Irish music and dance as a significant part of Irish American heritage.

Irish dancing is a traditional dance form that originated amongst the Celtic and Gaelic people of Ireland.

Table of Contents

  • How it All Began
  • The Normans’ Influence on Irish Dance
  • Evolution of More Formal Dance Steps and Routines
  • Modern Roots
  • Dancing Masters In Days Gone By
  • The Gaelic League
  • Dancing at the Crossroads
  • Riverdance’s Influence
  • Irish Dance in the United States

How it All Began

Back in 500 BC, there was a group of people called the druids who had first moved to Ireland.

They were an educated class of Celts who were religious figures and leaders in the earliest Irish culture. Dance was a very significant part of their religion. These Celtic dances would happen at religious celebrations, like dancing around sacred trees such as oak trees in circular formations, or other special occasions, like weddings.

The druids created something called a feis (pronounced fesh, and feiseanna plural which is pronounced as fesh-enna), which is a showcase for Irish dancing and music.

This was the very beginning of a rich history and the development of Irish dance as we know it today. Feiseanna are still held today wherever Irish dance and music are taught and celebrated, even in the United States.

The druids and Irish dance were deeply interconnected and their influence on Celtic culture continues to this very day.

A High Kick in Irish Dancing

The Normans’ Influence on Irish Dance

Changes came to Irish dancing in the 12th century. After the arrival of The Normans in 1169, they brought their own dances and culture to Ireland.

The Normans became more Irish than the Irish themselves, as the old saying goes. Their favorite dance was called Carol. A singer was surrounded by a circle of dancers who performed to the melodic notes of the caroller.

The Normans performed this dance in Irish villages and towns especially all around the province of Leinster, their stronghold.

The assimilation of these two cultures melded the druids’ and Normans’ dances together into brand new forms of dance that the world had never seen before. Irish step dancing was evolving.

Hard shoes for Irish dancing

Evolution of More Formal Dance Steps and Routines

Over the centuries more formal dances started to emerge in Ireland. By the 16th century there were three definitive dances that were often practiced by Irish people.

The Irish Hey or the Irish Hay involved people joining hands in a chain and moving in circles, passing under the arms of others at different points in the chain. This dance evolved into the reels we know today.

The Rinnce Fada (phonetically pronounced as rink-ah fad-ah) is said to have been created in honor of James II of England and Scotland. Remember, he arrived in Ireland with his armies. The people hoped he would restore the rights of Catholics all over Ireland. Unfortunately he lost the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and the rest is history.

The Rinnce Fada literally means the long dance. A row of men faced a row of women, who joined together one by one as couples starting at one end of the two lines. The couple danced together up and down the length of the rows of people, and then the next couple danced.

Was this dance named because the rows of people were very long? Or did it take a long time for all the couples to dance? Probably both reasons are true.

What makes the Rinnce Fada special is that all social classes joined in, when this dance was performed at a social gathering.

The Trenchmore evolved from an old Irish peasant dance.

These dances were still a pretty loose concept at this time, but the dances had started to be categorized, and line dances were gaining traction, forming a basis for future, more evolved versions, like the dances we’d see today.

Céilí dancing in County Donegal

Modern Roots

These original dances started to get a bit more formalized in the 18th century. That’s when the dances we are familiar with in modern times such as set dancing, céilí (social dancing), and sean nós (old style, less formal step dancing) came into the frame.

Here’s a list of the different Irish dance styles:

  • Traditional Irish Step Dancing – only the legs and feet are used to move as the dancer maintains a stiff upper body.
  • Modern Irish Step Dancing – this modern take on Irish dancing allows full body movement and is similar to ballet.
  • Irish Set Dancing – is sometimes called country dancing where couples dance together. This can also be called Irish Two Hand Dancing. It was influenced by the quadrille dance of Europe.
  • Irish Céilí Dancing – this is the traditional form of group dancing in Ireland.
  • Irish Sean Nós Dancing – is an old style of solo Irish dance that is more casual in form that traditional Irish step dancing.

Of course, all of these were performed with different types of traditional Irish music, which featured the fiddle, pipes, and other instruments that made the entire performance distinct from those of other cultures. There was a type of dance to suit everyone in an Irish community.

Soft shoes for Irish dancing

Dancing Masters In Days Gone By

In 1750, a position called the Dancing Master was created. A Dancing Master was a person who was extremely good at all of the dances, and they would go around to all the villages and towns in their area to teach traditional Irish dance lessons.

As dancemasters came to the fore in different regions, this culture of formalized training instilled a feeling of competition among Irish dancers. From village to village the desire to be the best spread.

Each Irish Dancing Master wanted to prove themself the most skilled teacher in the nation. Irish dancing was practiced all over Ireland.

In a previous post we traced the origins of the phrase hay foot, straw foot to these dancing masters who needed to help their students learn the difference between right and left.

Irish dancing flourished in the 18th century and spread to all parts of Ireland.

Shamrocks and Shoes

The Gaelic League

In 1893, the Gaelic League was established to try to revive knowledge of and excitement for Irish language and culture in Ireland, as the Irish language was threatened to die out.

The Irish suffered greatly during the years of the Great Irish Famine. Many who practiced Irish dancing either died or immigrated in this national calamity.

After the Famine, people turned their backs on some Irish traditions, including the language. They believed that learning to speak English, and adopting English ways was a vital step for survival in a cruel world.

By 1893 some Irish scholars recognized that we were losing our culture. The Gaelic League created specific rules to judge Irish dance and created formal competitions. They later handed off that responsibility to the Irish Dance Commission.

This is how Irish dance competitions began as we know them today. The world championships attract competitors from all over the world, to celebrate this unique dance style with deep roots in Ireland.

Dancing an Irish jig

Dancing at the Crossroads

In the early part of the 20th century, dancing at the crossroads was a summertime activity all over Ireland.

Young people would meet at a country crossroads, lay planks on the road, and dance their heart away. This was a wonderful time for young people to enjoy themselves on mild summer evenings when Irish days are long. Musicians would play Irish music, and dancers would rock those boards to the rhythmic beats of that traditional music.

Unfortunately the government of the day grew afraid of too much carousing and they banned the activitiy through the Public Dance Halls Act of 1935, moving all dancing indoors, where the activity could be supervised.

Sculpture in County Cork Remembering Dancing at the Crossroads

Riverdance’s Influence

In 1994, a group of Irish-American dancers featuring Jean Butler and Michael Flatley performed in the Eurovision Song Contest, a talent competition on TV. They had created a 7-minute routine to Irish music by composer Bill Whelan that they called Riverdance.

The audience was enthralled, not only the live audience at the venue, but people all over the world. Irish dancing captured the attention and imaginations of people from many varied backgrounds. Interest grew, and Irish dancing spread to many corners of the globe.

In 1995, a husband and wife duo named John McColgan and Moya Doherty expanded this performance into a stage show that took the world by storm.

Riverdance has since been performed at over 450 venues and viewed by over 25 million people, meaning it is one of the most popular dance productions in the world.

This phenomenon, although it began in Dublin, Ireland, is what sparked an interest in Irish dance among people in the United States ever since it opened in New York in 1996.

Lord of the Dance is an Irish dance production that has been a star attraction on the Las Vegas strip. It was created by Michael Flatley, one of the original performers of Riverdance.

Irish Dancing Today

Irish Dance in the United States

Today, there are plenty of options if you’d like to participate in or simply see Irish dance. Many dance studios in the United States offer Irish dance classes, and it’s still possible to find some local productions of Irish dance performances at concert halls and Irish culture festivals or events.

Most large cities in the USA have at least one school of Irish dance, and in cities such as Chicago and New York, with large Irish American poplulations there are many Irish dance schools to be found.

In the United States and Ireland there are many different Irish Dance Championships, some of which are known as Feiseanna (pronounced fesh-anna with the singular being Feis which is pronounced as fesh).

These competitions are designed to encourage students of Irish dance to improve their techniques and skills, with awards being bestowed upon the best championship dancers.

Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne (pronounced irr-ock-thus ring-ka nah krinn-ah) is the Irish name for the World Irish Dancing Championships. This is an annual Irish stepdance competition, which is held in diffferent locations around Irieland.

It is organized by An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha (pronounced phonetically as on kum-mish-oon leh ring-kee gale-ock-ah) which is the Irish Dancing Commission.

These competitions are organized by gender and age for solo dancers. There are also competitions for céilí dances. This competition is like the Olympics of Irish dancing. Each dancer must qualify to participate by winning at major Irish stepdance competitions held across the world.

If you would like to see it for yourself, I’d highly recommend going to see it live. You can also view a Riverdance DVD so you can experience the magic of Irish dance without even leaving your house.

Irish dance is a very significant part of our Irish cultural tradition. It’s held dear by Irish people all over the world. We see it as a symbol of our culture, one that has evolved, developed and survived over the centuries. 

Irish dancing communities in cities all over the world are keeping our age old traditions alive, and passing our heritage on to the next generations.

Let’s hope we continue to share the joy and importance of Irish dancing for many generations to come.

Slán agus beannacht,

(Goodbye and blessings)

Mairéad –Irish American Mom

Pronunciation – slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th

Mairéad – rhymes with parade

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History of Irish Dance ⋆ Kelteria Dance School | Irish Dances

Viking raids destroyed most of the books from this period, as well as written records of any dances. However, the fact that one of the elements of the exquisite Gaelic culture was music and dance is undeniable.

Viking raids on Ireland ended in 1014 after the victory of King Brian Boru of Ireland at Clontarf. Irish dancing competitions originate from this period.

Brian Boru at Clontarf in 1014, painted in 1914
by James Ward. Photograph: courtesy of Dublin City Council

It was both a trade fair and political gatherings and cultural events with music, sports competitions, storytelling and craftsmanship. Over time, the cultural aspect has become central to Irish dance competitions. These events continue to this day. Although politics has faded into the background, they still have music, dance, crafts and trade.

The decline of Celtic culture

The Celtic tradition in Ireland quickly faded into oblivion during the twelfth century. The increase in foreign influence weakened the traditional arts, and in 1170 the conquest of Ireland by the Anglo-Norman knights took place. However, for the next two hundred years, the conquerors firmly entered the traditional Irish culture.

To prevent this merger, the Anglo-Irish Parliament passed the Rite of Kilkenny in 1366, which prescribed excommunication and severe penalties against all those who followed or were associated with native Irish customs. Another 128 years elapsed before the charter was enforced.

History records many dances performed by the Irish in the mid-1500s. These include the Rinnce Fada or Fading, where two rows of partners are opposite each other, the Irish Hey (figure dance), the jig (probably a group dance), the trenchmore (described as a large folk national dance (country dance) with free movements), and dances with a sword. It is not clear which dances among Irish, English and French influenced which, but it is characteristic that Irish dances had a faster tempo and side steps were present.

The British suppression of Irish culture continued, with the ban on bagpipes and the arrest of bagpipers exemplifying this. However, Queen Elizabeth I was "extremely pleased" with Irish songs and folk dances. The struggle for power between the Irish and the British continued throughout the 1600s. Penal laws passed in the late 1600s destroyed Irish commerce and industry.

Total prohibition and the emergence of secret schools

The education of Catholic children was also prohibited by law, which led to the emergence of secret schools (open-air schools for the poor). There was a degree of secrecy in traditional Irish culture. This period of brutal repression lasted over a hundred years, explaining the initial secrecy of the teaching of Irish dance.

National folk dances continued, one description says that on Sundays “a violin was played in every field and the girls danced to it until they were foaming at the mouth”; another states that "the youth danced until the cows were brought home. " The dancing continued throughout the 1700s, often during holidays, weddings, baptisms, and memorial rites. However, the Church sometimes condemned dancing.

An Irish Jig before royalty 18710012

The main influence on Irish dance and Irish culture was the emergence of dance masters around 1750, starting a controversial tradition that continues to this day. The dance masters typically traveled around the towns, staying in the villages with hospitable families (who were honored to be chosen as hosts) for about six weeks.

Teachers taught Irish dance in kitchens, agricultural outbuildings, crossroads, or open-air schools for the poor. Students primarily studied jig and reel. Sometimes the teacher would tie a rope around the student's leg to distinguish the right leg from the left.

The presence of an outstanding dance master in the village was a matter of pride for the society. Each dance master had a set of dance steps and over time created new ones. (Eight measures in music are called "step", hence the term "step dance". )

irish dancecing lesson

Sometimes the masters participated in competitions in Irish dancing, the winner was not the one who danced better, but the one who knew the most steps. The loser had to cede the territory of the city to the winner.

These masters have created many staged dances and Caylees, and they carefully guarded the art of creating dance steps. Dance masters created the first dance schools, the most famous being in County Kerry, Cork and Limerick. One dance master described himself as an "artificial rhythm walker" and "an instructor in the art of dance for youth".

The villagers paid the dance masters at the end of the third week of teaching, in "benefit performance". They paid the accompanying musician a week later. Sometimes a dance master was both a musician and a dancer at the same time! Obviously, the level of pay for dance masters was relatively high for Ireland, and room and board were included.

McCarthy and Wife Additional title Champion Irish jig dancers posed in Irish dress 1873

The suppression of Catholics continued during this time, but ways were found to avoid control. One story says that the Catholics sent a child to watch the meetings or masses they held in the cellars of the eateries. The child danced at a certain pace and with a special tact to warn the Catholics of the approaching soldiers.

During the 1800s, the pie dance was especially popular. The pie was placed on a stand in the center of the field, it was a prize for the best dancer. After the competition, the winner took the cake for himself. Attempts by parish priests to ban dancing were not uncommon, but proved to be largely ineffective.

Gaelic League Ard Fheis and Oireachtas 1913

Establishment of the Irish Dance Commission

This period dates back to 1893 when the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) was founded. This group contributed to the revival of Irish culture, which for centuries was suppressed by England. In 1929 the "Commission for Irish Dancing" (Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha) was founded in order to lay down rules regarding teaching, judging and competition.

Up to 19For 29 years, there have been many types of local dances, music, costumes and rules for Irish dancing competitions. This led to the development of standards to be followed in competition. Throughout the 20th century, Irish dance has changed dance techniques, costumes and venues.

For example, during the period of the dance masters, stages were much smaller, including tabletops, door leaves, and sometimes the "stage" was just a crossroads. (An old poem called the dance of "light walking on the floor"). The dance ability test included dancing on top of a barrel or on a soap table!

As the stage grew in size, there were at least two changes to the dance. The range of motion of the dancers on the various stages was greatly increased (the judge now deducted points if the dancer did not "use the stage"), and dance steps that required a significant amount of space (such as the running jump) became possible.

The venue has also changed over time, from barns or open areas where flat trucks were used as a stage (and still are) to rooms in hotels, schools or fairgrounds. areas in general. (Note that the fairgrounds hosted ancient Irish dance competitions and their use is especially appropriate in a historical context.)

During the 20th century Irish dance developed in different ways. Education began at a younger age. Among the students, girls began to predominate, not boys (the turning point occurred before 1930).

Girls performing a solo dance in a competition were very rare until the 1920s. The dance styles also changed; for example, hands and palms did not always have to be in exactly the same position during solo dances. Previously, in some cases, they were more relaxed and even placed on the hips.

Apparently, the influence of parish priests led to keeping the hands in one position; some argue that it was not all that provocative, others are convinced that the Church was trying to increase the self-control of the dancers. Hand movements are still present in figure (group) dances.

The ability to dance was useful to many immigrants from Ireland in the 19th century. They could rarely find suitable work in the USA (the east of the country was full of ads that said they were not hiring Irish people) and therefore began a career in show business.

On Broadway, tap dance became popular, which appeared due to the fusion of the African-American "shoe dance" and the Irish "tap dance". In the early 1900s Irish show groups traveled around the USA, entertaining the audience with national songs and dances. Becoming a show for the public, Irish dance began to differ from the original national one.

In the 30s 20th century there was a keili (another name is a figured dance). In the 50s. 20th century Irish dances made their way into the show grounds, they were shown on the Sullivan Show and other television programs, and competitions among masters resumed.

In 1969 Dublin hosted the World Irish Dancing Championships and since then they have gained momentum around the world.

The culmination and turning point, after which the whole world learned about Irish dance, was the performance of the Irish dance show Riverdance at the Eurovision Song Contest on April 30, 1994, which was held in Ireland. And in February 1995, the Riverdance dance show was first shown at the Point Theater (Dublin, Ireland). The show is touring to this day.

By 2021, the world of Irish dance will have dozens of different shows in different parts of the world. Several Irish dance commissions have been set up. Hundreds of thousands of people in different countries began to practice Irish dance. Dance technique has become much more complex and more acrobatic, and dresses are more technological and colorful.


  • Brennan, Helen. The Story of Irish Dance (Mount Eagle Publications, Ltd., 1999).
  • Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine,
    1845-1850 (SHoughton Mifflin; Reprint edition, 2005).
  • Burgard, Anna Marlis, Leighanne Dees. Flying Feet: A Story of Irish Dance (Chronicle
    Books, 2005).

Mary Makalis, President of the Republic of Ireland

January 27, 2004, 20:30

[Liratorial version]

Mary Makalis:

"Main - Do not give up!"

Born 1951 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Graduated from Queen's University Belfast with a law degree.
1975 - Professor at Trinity College Dublin.
1979 - correspondent for Irish television.
Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast in the 1990s.
Since October 30, 1997 - President of Ireland.

Before the elections in 1997, the name of this woman was known only in a narrow circle of friends and relatives. Today she is the people's choice, having won on October 30, 1997 years in the presidential elections in Ireland with the largest margin in the history of this country. The name of the new star that has broken out on the Irish political horizon is Mary McAleese.

The future president was born on June 27, 1951 in Belfast in a family of Northern Irish Catholics.

McAleese's campaign public appearances often featured the theme "my barefoot father." When her father was 14 years old, he was forced to leave his home in the South of Ireland and go to the North in search of work. In his school photo, all the children are barefoot.

Speaking to young audiences, Mary McAleese loves to talk about growing up as the oldest of 9 siblings. She had to get up first and send everyone to school, and at night she looked after the youngest.

After graduating with honors from school, the girl entered the Queen's University of Belfast, where she received a law degree.

In 1975 McAleese moved to Dublin, the capital of Ireland. Here, at the age of 24, she becomes the youngest professor at the prestigious Trinity College University, teaching criminal law.

In 1979, an outstanding woman takes a job as a correspondent for Irish television, succeeding in this journalistic path.

Since the early 1980s, McAleese has been actively involved in the struggle between the Catholic Church and the movement for the liberal transformation of Irish society. Being a staunch Catholic, she publicly opposes the lifting of the ban on contraceptives, divorce and abortion. Her activities were so highly appreciated by the church hierarchy that at 1984 McAleese is included in the delegation representing the Church at the national forum "New Ireland".

In the same year, she takes her first steps in the political arena, joining the then ruling Fianna Fail party. In 1987, he ran for her in the Parliament of Ireland, but unsuccessfully. Immediately after the defeat, McAleese returns to Belfast with her husband and three children, disappearing from public life in Ireland for a long time.

McAleese during this period works in Belfast, becomes Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast - the first woman and the first Catholic in this position.

She is remembered again only in September 1997, before the start of the nationwide campaign to elect a new president.

In the elections, she won 59.5 percent of the vote, while her main rival, the opposition candidate, MEP Mary Banotti, won 40.5 percent.

Mary McAleese - a native of Northern Ireland - remains an Irish nationalist, considering the reunification of Northern Ireland with Southern Ireland necessary. Many of her statements on this issue sound today the same as those of her predecessor in the presidency, Mary Robinson.

In her introductions, McAleese never mentions that Protestant gunmen destroyed her parents' house on Crumlin Road, that her father's two pubs were set on fire and blown up, that her younger brother was severely beaten and left to die in the street. He is completely deaf now.

“I don't want people to think that my past is weighing me down. My commitment to tolerance and readiness to forgive has nothing to do with the suffering that I had to endure,” she says.

Commenting on the McAleese victory, Irish political observers argued that Ireland has turned its face towards conservatism and the new president is its standard bearer. The liberal revolution that began in the 1970s is over, the majority of the population is tired of the changes and is nostalgic for traditional values. This is manifested even in music, in the first place in the Irish hit parade is the album-collection of church hymns "Faith of Our Fathers".

The presidential elections have confirmed the strengthening of nationalist sentiment in Ireland, strengthening the position of circles in favor of more active support for the Catholic minority in Ulster.

McAleese is the first Irish head of state to be born, raised and living in Northern Ireland (UK). And although the president's direct influence on foreign policy, including on Ulster, is reduced to zero by the constitution, her very presence in the presidential palace is seen as a guarantee of Ireland's inseparable connection with the Catholic community of Ulster.

McAleese was inaugurated and took office on November 11, 1997.

On that day, Ireland saluted the country's new president, 46-year-old Mary McAleese, a professor of law from Belfast. The ceremony of her inauguration took place in the ancient residence of the Irish kings - Dublin Castle. In the presence of members of the government and parliamentarians, church leaders and representatives of the international community, McAleese took an oath and, having received the state seal from the supreme judge, was proclaimed the 8th President of the Republic of Ireland.

According to the Constitution, the president does not have executive power, the fate of the country and the well-being of fellow citizens depend not on him, but on the government. The appointment of the president is different - to represent Ireland, to be the spokesman for national aspirations. However, its powers are much broader than purely representative ones. The President stands guard over the Constitution and, if necessary, has the right to reject any law prepared by the Government and Parliament. He single-handedly decides on the dissolution of parliament, and is also the supreme commander in chief.

Speaking at her inauguration, McAleese announced the main goal of her presidency is to resolve more than a quarter of a century of conflict in Northern Ireland. “It is time to overcome hostility and build bridges of reconciliation and understanding between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Ireland and the UK,” she said.

Addressing her compatriots, McAleese called for support as the first ever president from Northern Ireland. “I hope that my election will help national unity, move Ireland towards peace and mutual respect,” she stressed.

She also stated priorities for her seven-year presidency.

First, she pointed out, it is necessary to bring national legislation into line with the will of the people, as stated in the Constitution.

Second, the President must be "open and accessible" to all Irish people and be responsive to their concerns.

Third, McAleese should become Ireland's plenipotentiary 'ambassador' abroad, representing Ireland as 'a vibrant, modern country with a young, highly educated population, a pluralistic outlook and a healthy entrepreneurial spirit'.

McAleese has three children - the eldest daughter Emma (b. 1982) and twins - a girl Sara-Marie and a boy - Justin (b. 1985).

Mary McAleese was fond of rowing at a young age, like her youngest daughter.

Now, according to unconfirmed reports, Macalis is fond of linguistics, studies foreign languages ​​

north of Europe, and neither winter nor snow. There are no seasons. Eternal Spring - Gulf Stream!

Green pastures all year round. Evergreen trees. Palm trees grow on the streets. Cherry blossoms in December. Favorite color is, you guessed it, green. Green planes, green buses. Even the school uniform is green...

Emerald Isle! Eire - so lovingly call their land the Irish themselves.

Ireland! A country that loves to surprise.

Here the brewers thought of publishing an encyclopedia that became a world bestseller – the Guinness Book of Records. Here, the state emblem depicts a musical instrument - a harp. And they play football here not quite usually - with their hands, it turns out to be Galik football, however, they play great with their feet!

There is something to be surprised!

Mikhail Gusman: It is believed that the Irish are looking at the world somehow in the deposit. What, in your opinion, is the secret of the Irish idea, and is there one?

Mary MACALIS: I'm sure she exists. I think the Irish idea, the feeling of being Irish, is a very real phenomenon. This is not a myth.

And wherever I meet the Irish, they will always welcome me, even if we don't know each other. As soon as I get into their house, literally in three minutes, it turns out that we have a lot in common, which we didn’t even know about: we are cousins, or our cousins ​​know each other, or they live nearby. And this is the essence of the Irish: as soon as we meet, we start something akin to cross-examination, like lawyers in court, to find common ground, which we are sure exists, and only has not yet been found! And that makes us a family, a clan.

M.G.: Perhaps the nation is also united by the Irish culture, which is very ancient...

M.M.: We were born in it. We, like Russia, draw from very rich sources. First of all, it is the Irish language, one of the oldest languages ​​in the world. Language is a great treasure, because through it we have access to our rich history, in which there has always been a lot of literature, a lot of music, a lot of dancing,

Irish dancing... An unsolved mystery. Did you know that in Ireland dancing is like a historical record? The history of the country can be literally seen by watching the magical pattern of body movements.

The first people appeared on the island around 8000 BC. And the first dances were performed by the Druids. The dance had ritual significance. In the IV century BC. The island was inhabited by Celtic tribes. Coming from the mainland to Ireland, the Celts brought with them dances, elements of which have survived to this day. The Sean-Nos dance is still popular, even competitions are held to perform this dance.

In the 9th century, the Vikings frequented the lands of Ireland. The Normans - the ancestors of the modern English - appeared later, in the 12th century. They brought the Carol style to the island, which greatly influenced the development of Irish dance. The leader of the party in Carol stands in the center of the circle and sings a song that is picked up by the dancers surrounding him in a round dance.

Ireland was annexed to the English crown, and for 800 years, until 1921 years old, remained a British colony. It became bilingual: English was added to the Gaelic language, which belongs to the Celtic group.

M.G.: Your country is rich in literary talents. The names of Swift, Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Oscar Wilde, writers who had Irish roots, are known all over the world, including in Russia. What is the secret of such popularity? And what do you find most interesting about contemporary Irish culture?

М. М.: Our country has gone through a lot. For centuries we have been a colony of our closest neighbor, Great Britain. And this filled the soul of the people with suffering. Many things that could not be said aloud were discussed in the houses and kept in the hearts. which served as an excellent source of poetry. Ireland is the home of four Nobel Prize winners in Literature, which we are very proud of.


Love is a leaf on a branch

She told me.

But I was stupid and young.

And I don't agree with her.

(William Butler Yeats)23, just two years after Ireland gained independence.

“The only lesson to be learned from history is that people do not learn any lessons from history,” wrote George Bernard Shaw, 1925 Nobel laureate. The writer who made paradox the basis of his artistic method is Irish by origin and a native of Dublin.

"In moments of crisis, she is no more useful than an old school tie." You'll never guess what it's about. In the most religious country in Europe, an Irish avant-garde classic, Nobel Prize winner, jokes about the Bible like this 19Samuel Beckett is 69. It's not even a paradox. Absurdity, and its author is the founder of the "theatre of the absurd".

In 1995, another Irish poet and essayist, Seamus Heaney, joined the Nobel laureates.

M.M.: In addition, we have a huge cohort of very good scientists, poets and writers who are not world famous, but are not Nobel laureates. So we have a rich literary tradition.

“If Dublin had once been destroyed to the ground, it could be rebuilt according to my novel,” wrote the Irishman James Joyce in his famous novel Ulysses, one of the most mysterious novels in world literature, where in one day a hero named Leopold Bloom moves around Dublin from one drinking establishment to another.

Oscar Wilde, an Irishman by nationality and a native Dubliner, appealed to beauty in the age of practicality.

And the dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity College graduate Jonathan Swift wrote an adventurous novel Gulliver's Travels.

Here, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, a sacred place for every Irish Catholic, Swift is buried.

M.Y.: Once a year the whole planet becomes one big Ireland. I mean March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, when carnivals are held all over the world. They are also held in Moscow: more than ten years ago, the first carnival took place in the city center and has since become a tradition. By the way, it is very popular in our country. What is the secret of this holiday and where do its origins come from?

MM: The Irish are respected all over the world: they are good friends, good neighbors, good colleagues, good husbands, good wives, and remain so wherever they go. I think the main distinguishing feature of the Irish is that they bring joy to life. No matter what troubles we had to endure, we enjoyed life. On St. Patrick's Day, we take to the streets and show everyone: we are proud of our country, our culture. We are glad that life is in full swing in us, spirit and body are one. We are alive, and this is a holiday.

No one knows in what year Saint Patrick died, who converted almost the entire Irish people to Christianity and founded the Irish Church in 30 years. Either in 461, or 463. However, it is believed that he died on March 17, and after his death, according to legend, the sun did not set for 12 days and nights. Now every year on March 17 the whole world walks.

Four trebles starting on the right foot, double treble on the right foot - hop back on the right foot, swish on the left foot, swish on the right foot, tamping on the left foot, simple slide on the left foot. . These words, so incomprehensible to the uninitiated, nevertheless, are known in almost every country in the world. It is with these movements that a solo dance or a solo set "St. Patrick's Day" begins.

music was in our hearts, poetry was with us, dance was with us, and we wanted to share it, because it was the only gift we could bring.

Cheerful, friendly, restless people scattered like seeds in the wind all over the globe. And there were shoots everywhere!

Some statistics. There are over 40 million Irish people in the world today. Of these, 3.8 are on the island of Ireland. The remaining 37 million Irish and their descendants are scattered around the world by various waves of Irish emigration.

M. M.: Very many Irish emigrated under the most difficult circumstances. They were poor, hope was all they had. They were often sick, poorly dressed, poorly educated, malnourished, and when they came to countries like America, Canada, Australia, they did menial, hopeless work, work that no one else wanted to do. They had to endure persecution and insults, read the inscriptions: the Irish are not allowed to enter. And what did my compatriots do? As soon as they settled down, they began to think about how to make life easier for the next wave of emigrants. The Irish created organizations that helped newcomers, equipped places where new emigrants would feel cozy and comfortable, where they could find work and housing. And this has been repeated in every generation. Everything was done for complete strangers.

. “The dancer dances until he returns to the village,” says the saying of the time. The priests called the dances “crazy”, “bringing misfortune”, and the movements of the dancers’ hands were obscene. And then the hands in the dances became motionless. This feature remains to this day. The Irish did not go further than this concession. The struggle for their dances has become part of the struggle for freedom...

Nevertheless, a lot of political leaders have grown up from among the Irish, who have reached the heights of power. Every fourth of the American presidents had Irish roots, and among them John F. Kennedy, a well-known and popular American president.

MM: Irish love for equality has been known for centuries. And I'm not surprised that many American presidents had Irish roots: they were driven by this feeling. In some way, the desire for equality makes a person happy, makes him realize his importance. But not at the expense of other people. We Irish are a nation of people who passionately believe in equality, in the uniqueness and holiness of each person.

M.G.: Do I understand you correctly, Madam President: Mary McAleese's passion for equality led her to law school and in some way pushed her to choose the legal profession?

M.M.: I think so. I grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Childhood and youth fell on a very difficult time. When I was 18 years old, I saw how my native street was on fire. It was people in military uniforms, the so-called forces of law and order, who burned the houses of Catholics. And they did it for the sole reason that the houses belonged to Catholics.

I, like many of my peers, witnessed this. And we had to make a difficult decision about our future. We had many different opportunities. We could have escaped the island and left Ireland and forgotten about the problem. We could have tried to change things peacefully, or we could have used the traditional method that many chose to use force against force. I chose the constitutional, political way out of the crisis, the way of dialogue.

I grew up in a Christian family and we were taught to love one another. In particular, they taught the attitude towards the enemy, who is sent to test us, to check whether we are true Christians. If a person does not love his enemy, then he is a bad Christian.

These are the foundations on which my parents raised me, and on which I raised my children. Mary McAleese moved to Dublin, where at 24 she became the youngest professor at the prestigious Trinity College.

as if I were a journalist. That's how I went to television, worked there for two years in the information service. I got a great opportunity to get to know my country better, to get to know Europe better, and I think I began to understand world politics much better.

In Ireland, one of the most religious countries in Europe, it has always been difficult for women to fight for their rights. A special place for women is associated with their role in the family, but the roles in public life were difficult to get...

of the year. No woman has ever been a minister until the age of 1979 years!

It was quite a bold decision. I was the eldest of eight children, no one before me had studied at the university. And the opinion of the priest of our parish was typical for that time. He told me, "You can't do this for two reasons: first, you're a woman, and second, no one in your family has anything to do with jurisprudence." But he was wrong on both counts. Maybe by saying this, he awakened in me a passion, a special Irish stubbornness: if someone tells us that we cannot, we make every effort to prove the opposite.

MG: I know that you have two daughters and a son. How often do you manage to communicate with them? What secrets do they share with you, and you share with them?

MM: I have enough time for my children. But now, rather, they do not have time for mom and dad. They are young, adults and very busy. Our oldest girl is 21 years old.

MG: This is a common problem.

MM: Yes, absolutely. Our youngest children are 18, we only see them when they are hungry or have run out of money.

M.G.: I know this.

MM: We have to put up with it. We have wonderful relationships with children. And that's how they've always been. On the very day they were born, we agreed that we would discuss everything with the children, but we would not punish, we would not spank, even slightly. And we never did. What is the result? We are a family in which it is customary not to hide anything from each other, to solve any problem together. Like all parents, we would like to spend more time with them. But we understand that our children have already grown up. They have their own novels. They explore the world, make a career, study and work. Therefore, they are no longer interested in sitting at home and watching me knit. They are more interested in being with friends. But that's for now. Yes, the moment when they themselves become parents and experience happiness from the fact that they are now mom and dad. Just like I was happy.

Today, an ancient people is experiencing a surge of young blood. 37% of the population has not yet reached the age of 20. And according to the forecasts of sociologists, the rejuvenation of the nation will not stop in the near future - here is one of the highest birth rates in Europe.

New generations of Irish people no longer need to leave the country. Only in the last ten years has life changed so much that there is serious talk of an Irish economic miracle. Until recently, located somewhere, very close to the countries of the "third world", today, in terms of economic growth, Ireland is not inferior to many developed European countries. Increasingly, slow-paced, patriarchal, conservative Ireland is being referred to as the “Celtic Tiger”...

Success did not come by chance and not in one day. Its origins lie in the now distant 1973, when Ireland joined the European Economic Community.

With the first minutes of 2004, a special period began in the life of Ireland. It will last exactly six months - that is how long Ireland will preside over the EEC. During this time, Europe will be able to get to know the phenomenon of the “Celtic tiger” living in the “emerald country” better.

M.G.: For many centuries, very few women managed to become the head of state. You didn't just succeed, Madam President. As far as I can tell, you are very successful in leading your country. There are such concepts: the pinnacle of career, the pinnacle of power, the pinnacle of success. You managed to conquer all three peaks. What could you wish to young people in Ireland, in Russia, who stand at the foot of these peaks?

М.М.: The main thing is not to give up!

I think there is a truth that is universal today in almost the entire world. Our world is like a bird with one wing, because we do not use and continue to lose the talent of women, their genius. Without proper education and support, they are still doomed to secondary roles in society. To all those young women who are reading this interview, I would like to call for determination.

MG: Madam President, our countries recently celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations. How do you assess the current state of relations between our countries, what priorities do you see in the future?

М. М.: Our generation is very lucky, because we managed to see different times in the relations between our countries. I was born ten years after the start of the Second World War, and since childhood I remember how every night at my house, in Belfast, we prayed for Russia. Later, Russia became a country unfamiliar to us, when all ties were broken due to the Cold War, and the opportunity to establish friendly relations between our states was lost.

Now we will have a common European border with Russia, which is very important for us: we want to be good neighbors, friends and partners for Russians. We want to have opportunities for economic cooperation, which we hope will bring jobs to many Russians and prosperity to the people of Ireland. Finally, we want to get to know the Russian people better.

And in order for the President of Ireland to get to know our country and our culture better, we brought souvenirs from Moscow: books and, of course, the traditional white bottle.

We interviewed on New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, and these days all over the world people give gifts to each other, and we were no exception.

M.M.: Book? She is great! I can't wait to read it. If you don't mind, I will share this book with my father. He is almost 80, now too old to leave Ireland. But the father says that if he had the opportunity to travel, the only place he would most like to go is Russia, or rather, Moscow. He has a passion for your country, which he passed on to me.

M.G.: Here is another Russian symbol, let the traditional white bottle be on your Christmas table.

MM: I think my father will like this "symbol". My father owns a pub, so I grew up in a pub. Therefore, he has a professional taste for good alcohol.

M.G.: And then we will try to find out how much your father liked our souvenir.

MM: Yes, of course. I guarantee that he will be happy to receive both the book and the wonderful contents of this bottle.

Ireland, while changing, remains itself. But are the Irish themselves changing? Still many of them are redheads, still they cannot live without pubs. And it is still true that these people fell in love with the whole world.

Why does the culture of a distant small country attract us so much? Why do people of different nationalities around the world, as if by agreement, celebrate St. Patrick's Day and open schools of Irish dance in their countries, day after day frantically comprehending its wisdom ... This riddle we were not able to solve even by the end of our conversation.

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