How old is irish dancing

The History of Irish Dance

Celtic StepsOur StoryThe History of Irish Dance

Ancient Celtic Dance

Although the exact roots and origins of early Irish dancing are lost in time, there is evidence to suggest a linkage between early forms of Celtic dance and that of modern Irish dance. The Celts were sun worshippers who practiced a pagan dance within a circular formation of stones which has some commonality to the circular formation of Irish set dancing. Celts were also said to have danced clockwise in circles on happy occasions and anti-clockwise when mourning.

They often included movements which involved repeated tapping of the feet on one spot – shades of Sean Nós – and modern solo dancing as well as setting steps in Irish and Scottish group dances.


The earliest reference to dance in Irish history details a visit between the Mayor of Waterford and Mayor of Baltimore. A processional combination of singing and dancing took place called carolling which originated from European folk dance histories and was thought to be introduced to the Irish by the Normans when they arrived in 1169.


The year of 1598 saw dance reels beginning to be published in a work entitled News from Scotland. The reel which is thought to be mostly Scottish in origin was said to be named after the Swedish ragla, which means to stagger, incline or move while walking, first to one side and then the other.


The Irish Jig is widely accepted as Irish in origin and was likely to have originated from an Irish Clan marching tune. The first jig was published by John Playford, a music publisher and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1986. Queen Elizabeth I was a very public advocate of the Irish Jig.


The three most popular dances mentioned in Irish records from this time include the hay, the rinnce fada (rince is the Irish word for dance) and the rinnce mór. The hay was thought be to circle or chain dance where people would chain in and out of each other in a circle.
The first mention of the Irish rinnce fada, which means the long dance, was recorded in 1689 as it was danced in honour of the arrival of James II to Ireland. It was believed he was already familiar with the dance which suggests it was already in practice long before this time.


The Irish people’s love of dancing has been well documented throughout the ages but perhaps John Dunton, an English bookseller and author, put it best when he wrote; ‘on Sundays and Holydays, all the people resorted with the piper to the village green, where the young folk dance till the cows come home. There was no occasion from which dancing was absent’.


The dance of the hornpipe is first mentioned in the time of Henry VIII by Chappell. This dance in particular, is generally excepted by most as being of English origin and is believed to have arrived in Ireland around the 18th century.

1700 – 1800

This era saw the introduction of the Irish Dancing Masters who travelled the country to teach their trade to the masses. They were strongly aware of and influenced by French dancing etiquette manners and deportment. These modern forms of dancing were adapted by the Irish Dancing Masters and passed on to their pupils who came from families of all classes throughout Ireland.
The Dance Masters taught a variety of dance principles from simple steps required for crossroad dancing to the more complicated French cotillions and quadrilles, all of which evolved into country set dances, with each locality adding their own characteristics and preferences.


The Gaelic League was founded in 1893. After centuries of British rule in Ireland, the aim of the League was to recreate a separate cultural Irish nation where the use of all English language, culture, games, dress, literature, music and dance was eliminated. While its aims were admirable, the order banned many dances which were popular at the time including round and country dances as well as quadrilles.


The year of 1897 marks the first ever public Ceílí which took place ironically, in London’s Bloomsbury Hall, organised by the Gaelic league, at which sets, quadrilles and waltzes were danced to Irish music.


This year saw the formation of the Gaelic Dancing League which endeavoured to resurrect some of the dances they had caused to disappear. When this was not possible, they composed others in their place. These included the Walls of Limerick and the famous Siege of Ennis.


In 1935, the Public Dance Halls Act was enforced which required all public dances to be licensed and laid down the conditions under which licenses might be issued by district justices. With the act came the end of a way of life in rural Ireland where dances in neighbouring houses were commonplace. Despite another obstacle to the growth of the culture of Irish dancing, the raw nature of set dancing did survive in the parts of Ireland which most valued tradition including counties Clare, Cork and Kerry.


The formation of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, meaning the Society of the Musicians of Ireland, which were dedicated to the promotion of music, song, dance and language in Ireland, lead to the strongest revival of interest in traditional Irish music and dance on record. People danced Ceílís and sets across the country and in the years to follow the movement inspired the rise of great Irish Ceílí bands like the Kilfenora, the Tulla, the Aughrim Slopes and the Castle.


In 1970, the birth of the Gaelic Athletic Association, a sub division of Comhaltas organised competitions where teams of dancers from around the country gathered together to share their own style of set dancing to all. This too inspired other communities to foster a pride in their own unique take on Irish dancing and look for and revive their own style of sets.


This decade saw a huge increase of set dancing workshops and set dancing Ceílís around the country of Ireland, with even GAA and ruby halls becoming practice grounds for Irish Dance and its pupils as the infectious nature of the craft captured the hearts of many. This spirit and enthusiasm for the culture of Irish dance is something that still to this day, remains strong in schools and communities across the country.

Research taken from Toss the Feather – Irish Set Dancing by Pat Murphy.

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)

Irish American Mom

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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.

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 appearance 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 payment 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.

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).

History of Irish Dancing - Alpha International Dance Center

Irish Dancing

Irish dancing dates back to the 11th century. Since that time, we have the first information about dance parties of Irish peasants, which are 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 that 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 keley 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.

In the course of 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.

Irish dances

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 a "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. In addition, 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 create the first dance schools, of which the most famous were schools in the South in the counties of 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 the 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 competitions were 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 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.

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