Written by Jake Fuller
Mention Irish dance and most people probably think of the formations of groups that dance in complete synchronization such as the famous Riverdance, Lord of the Dance or other venues where dancers display dancing perfection. Did you know that this is only one form of Irish dancing that has actually only been around since about 1994? It’s true.
There are many different styles of Irish dancing but for those who are only familiar with Riverdance and others, there is no question that this style of Irish step dancing is mesmerizing. As groups long enough to stretch across the entire stage are moving together with combinations of tap the toes, leg steps and precise feet gestures, their upper bodies are kept quite rigid.
This dancing tends to nearly defy logic as the smiling faces of the dancers seem to belong on top of another body below the waist. It is important to understand that you cannot give credit to modern dances such as Riverdance without acknowledging their origins, which are the old-style step dances that evolved near the end of the 18th century.
Back during that time, there was a limited amount of space in which to dance. This may explain the stiff upper body and the need to make sure that the foot sounds were prominent enough to be heard. Old-style Irish step dancing was based on completing each dance step with both the right foot and the left foot but by using the right foot first.
Another style of Irish dance is Irish ceili dance or Irish social dance. A group of two to 16 people can perform an Irish ceili dance in a circle or in a long line. Although a ceili is recognized as a social gathering, when it is an Irish ceili dance, it is a process where the steps are spoken over the microphone or loudly enough to be heard by the dancers beforehand. This is done for those in the group who may not know what to do next.
Anyone can enjoy Irish dance but it takes practice to memorize the choreographed moves and to learn the postures that these dances are famous for. Irish dancing is also a great way to exercise your muscles and get in shape. You may this type of dancing so addictive that you’re Irish dancing whenever you can, which is a good thing.
There are many traditions that stand out in Irish dancing from the old-style step dancing to the new dance sets that can be witnessed in dancing events like Lord of the Dance. Whether you want to learn the hard shoe dances or the soft shoe dances, you can enjoy some of the wonderful things about this style of dance that calls people back to it again and again.
Did you know that there can be as many as 36 dances in a set? Not for the faint hearted but you may be surprised to find the mastery of these steps creates desire to learn more!
More History of Dance