How to do the irish dance
About Irish Dance — Inishfree Massachusetts
Irish dancing is considered to be one of the most athletic and complex dance styles in the world. It incorporates two kinds of shoes: the softshoe (or light shoe), which laces up the foot and resembles a ballet slipper, and the hardshoe (or heavy shoe), which has fiberglass tips and heels. Dancers begin learning softshoe dances first, and after mastering the basic dances, are permitted to move on to hardshoe. Students learn and practice jigs, reels, and hornpipes, as well as group (ceili) dances, danced to traditional Irish music.
How old do dancers need to be to start lessons?
It depends on the child. Dancers should be able to pay attention and follow directions for 45 minutes. It is also very helpful for dancers to know their right and left. For dancers that are not yet ready for the structured class of Irish dance, there are some wonderful pre-ballet programs that help dancers from 3-5 years old learn the basics. Generally, dancers are able to begin Irish dancing between the ages of 3.5 and 7, but you are never too old to start! Michael Flatley, the star of Riverdance, did not begin dancing until age 11. We do not currently offer them at our studio, but there are even classes for adults!
What should my dancer wear to class?
Dancers should wear a T-shirt with shorts or a skort. It is important to be able to see the dancers’ knees. For brand new beginners, either ballet slippers or socks are fine. If your dancer decides to stick with it, you will be provided with more information on purchasing Irish dance shoes and socks. New shoes cost approximately $50, but our school tries to facilitate the buying/selling of used shoes whenever possible to keep costs down.
should my dancer bring anything to class?
Dancers are encouraged to bring a water bottle. Irish dance is a very active endeavor, and dancers will usually have a brief water break during class. Snacks and sugary drinks are not permitted in class.
Can dancers go to competitions?
Yes. Our school is certified with An Coimisiun in Ireland. Many of our dancers compete at local, regional, and international competitions. If you are interested in getting involved in competitions, there will be opportunities to attend a local “feis” (pronounced “fesh”) in the fall. If you are not interested in competitions, that is ok too. We have many dancers that dance just for fun without the pressure of competition.
will i need to purchase a costume?
If your dancer wishes to dance in a competition or performance, they will be required to wear an Inishfree uniform. For beginners, this consists of a white blouse and green skirt. More information on how to order the costume will follow in the winter, but the uniform generally costs about $35. After the first year, you will have the option of continuing in the skirt and blouse or renting our school dress.
will there be a performance?
Yes. We hold an annual end-of-year recital every June where dancers from all classes are invited to show their friends and family what they have learned. In addition, there are often performance opportunities during the month of March (St. Patrick’s Day season!) and at other times during the year. We love sharing our dance with members of the community, so our dancers have done many performances at local senior centers, parish parties, school events, etc.
This video, created by an Inishfree Massachusetts student as part of a school project, gives a glimpse into what Irish dancing looks like and how students practice!
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.
how to dance Irish dances, video lessons
Ireland is an unusual and mysterious country, the unique charm of which is given by evergreen hills, ancient castles, and of course amazing dances. National dances are performed only to Irish music and look very beautiful and spectacular, thanks to the speed of movement and rhythm. Currently, this dance direction is extremely popular in many countries. There are many schools and studios that teach jig, reel or hornpipe, but you can learn how to dance Irish dances on your own. Depending on the technique of performance and the number of participants, the following varieties are distinguished:
- Solo, is a rhythmic and clear movement of the legs, while the body and arms are motionless, one person is dancing.
- Group, performed by a group of up to 16 people, and include elements of solo dances with rebuilding in a circle, line or column and the inclusion of hands.
- Folk or social, characterized by simple quadrille-like movements, danced in pairs.
For those who decide to learn how to dance Irish dances on their own, video lessons for beginners will be an excellent tool. It is better to start with a solo direction, which includes: jig, reel, hornpipe and solo sets. nine0003
Performed to the music of the violin. Fun and cheerful jig, consists of traditional jumps and special steps. The jumps are quite high, which makes a lasting impression, but at the initial stage, you should not jump high. First you need to learn how to properly hold the body and press your hands, and most importantly, land softly. Dynamic and spectacular Irish dances can be a serious challenge for beginners.
Reel is believed to be of Scottish origin, but has been heavily modified to include true Irish elements. Great for beginners and is usually the starting point for learning how to dance Irish dance properly. May be fast or slow. nine0003
Fast paced reels have a set of simple movements, while slow ones are characterized by a more complex set of figures, including high jumps. The technique of execution, depending on the type of footwear, can be soft or hard.
Includes jumps and tap dance elements, touching the floor alternately with the heel and toe, creates a drumming effect. Hands are usually located on the belt or extended at the seams, and swings are made with a leg bent at the knee. It is performed only in hard shoes and is the most difficult to master. Somewhat similar to the reel, the hornpipe is notable for its particular dotted rhythm and emphasis on the first count. It can also be slow and fast. nine0003
Set solo dances
A distinctive feature is a special set melody, which can be traditional or author's, and differs in its structure from ordinary Irish music. Under such melodies, unique dance compositions are developed, intended for participation in competitions, which will include complex steps and non-traditional elements. From generation to generation in Ireland, the music and steps of solo sets created in the distant past and called traditional are transmitted. nine0003
Irish dancing is not only an amazing charge of positive energy and energy, but also a great way to increase stamina and improve physical fitness. Having mastered the basic elements, you can continue to use lessons for beginners to learn Irish dances, or contact a special studio. Speed, clarity and rhythm of movements will come with regular practice.
Teacher of modern and classical dance, participant in international competitions. Teaching activity in dance schools for 8 years. nine0003
Irish dancing: features and benefits for the body
In the distant Middle Ages, Irish peasants liked to gather on green lawns to shake themselves up and relax after hard work. The dancers lined up in long lines, danced round dances and even danced with swords...
Irish dance gained world fame after the release of the River Dance and Lord of the Dance shows, as well as after the showing of some foreign films where irish dance was mentioned. Those who have seen with their own eyes how the dancers, lined up in orderly rows, uninterruptedly beat the stage with their feet in heavy shoes, assure that it is simply impossible to sit still! It makes you want to practice the Irish tap dance yourself. Is it possible? nine0003
Of course, yes! Today, Irish dancing is one of the trendy and popular fitness workouts. An ideal option for those who are fed up with shaping, step and want something like that. But before you rush into the dance, it is important to remember that Irish dancing is not just a few hastily learned elements with which you can surprise your friends at the disco. This is a complex system that requires regular training and willpower. For example, to become an Irish dance coach, you need to go through twelve stages of training and devote several years to this business. Only then will you be able to write out Celtic patterns with your feet. nine0003
What should you be prepared for?
Irish dance - group. Therefore, in training, you will have to give up any liberties: in collective classes, you will be destined for the role of a cog in a large mechanism. Don't be scared, it's not scary! On the contrary, a group dance gradually develops a sense of partnership, when you feel one whole with other people. Psychologists say that such training is especially useful for those who have difficulty joining the team. Or afraid of communication. nine0003
Another curious feature is that it is better not to practice any other dances before starting training. That is, the less prepared you are, the faster you will master Irish choreography.
The thing is that classical choreographic training often gets in the way. In ballet, the feet (as well as the hips) are strongly turned to the sides - here, on the contrary, the legs are always crossed. And forget about the hands.
How's it going?
Training takes place in the middle of a spacious hall, in which there is not a single mirror. Surprising, isn't it? But the mirror in this dance is superfluous, because it distracts the dancer from the learning process. So you can learn about your mistakes only from the teacher, who clearly monitors each student.
The lesson begins with a 10-15-minute warm-up, during which the main muscle groups are warmed up, and then the elements are worked out. Basically, the load falls on the lower part of the legs: calf muscles, feet. nine0003
First of all, you need to get used to a rather unusual posture. The Irish dance is performed on the toes (the dancer raises his heels and stands on his toes), the upper body is motionless, the arms are always lowered. The basic rule is fast footwork.
Yes, this fitness is not easy. Burns up to 800 calories per hour of exercise! In this case, the load is distributed evenly. nine0003
Alas, it will be difficult for those who have been stepped on by a bear. Because Irish music has a clear rhythm and requires the same precise steps. It's important to hit the mark! And in the foot! Therefore, before dancing Irish step, clicking your heels, you will have to memorize all the elements of the dance without music and learn how to beat the count with your feet.
All movements should look light and graceful. And this, to be honest, is not an easy task. Try to rhythmically make elements of breathtaking complexity with your legs, and leave your upper body completely motionless, as if there is nothing difficult for you in this! nine0003
After just a few weeks of training, you will notice how your abs are pumped up and your posture improves. This fitness will give you chiseled calves and smooth thighs.
What to wear? Imagination draws the dress of a medieval princess. By the way, such fantasies may well come true. Because the costumes of dancers can be safely called a work of art: all the colors of the rainbow, unusual cut and silhouette, lace, embroidery are appropriate here. nine0003
The classic dancer costume in Ireland is as follows: a women's A-line dress with a very stiff skirt above the knee. A train is attached to the left shoulder and right hip with a brooch. On her feet are black or white stockings, high-heeled shoes. The hair of the dancers is curled, sometimes wigs are used, and the hairstyle is decorated with a diadem or an elegant crown. Naturally, we are talking about costumes for concert performances.
For a regular workout, you can wear a top, T-shirt, T-shirt and, of course, breeches. Legs up to the knee must be open, otherwise it will be difficult for the coach to correct possible errors in the position of the legs. Well, at home you can train by throwing on a light short cotton robe or other spacious clothes. nine0003
Nothing but advantages
By joining Irish dancing, you will not only learn how to control your body and coordinate movements with unprecedented ease, but also awaken the spirit of competition in yourself.