About Irish Dance
Types of Irish Dancing
An opportunity for everyone
Traditional Irish step dancing can be subdivided into different types and categories, which adds many exciting and different dynamics to the art form. Unlike some other traditional or cultural dance forms, which may only have one standard format, Irish dancing is unique in being able to offer several opportunities for dancers to both learn and perform with 3 primary types; solo dancing, ceili or team dancing, and show dancing.
Solo dancing is where most people begin their Irish dance journey, with specially choreographed routines meant to be performed by a single dancer. The dancer’s arms are held completely still at the sides of their body, while the lower half of the body performs very intricate, fast, and powerful movements and combinations. Solo Irish dancing is performed both in soft shoes and hard shoes, and the steps are choreographed to match each of the different music categories that make up traditional Irish dance music.
Apart from certain traditional, standardized dances, most Irish dance schools will create their own choreography, which is unique to that school.
In a competitive setting, 1-3 dancers will typically dance at the same time, on the same stage, to the same music being played. While they execute their steps, dancers will move around the stage trying to position themselves in the most advantageous spots on the floor, while also avoiding mishaps like collisions with other dancers, sliping, or tripping. Dancers compete to gain the adjudicator’s attention in order to score points based on a variety of factors like timing, rhythm, technique, and more.
Ceili & Teams
Team dances use simple footwork to create beautiful, intricate formations. Smaller team dances, such as 2-hands and 3-hands (performed by two and three dancers, respectively), are choreographed by each dance school and can be performed at a local feis (competition). Larger team dances, such as 4-hands, 6-hands, or 8-hands, known as ceili dances, are standardized by CLRG While the order of movements, number of dancers, and music requirements are set, Irish dance schools are given the liberty to make stylistic interpretations of these traditional dances, allowing the art form to evolve as it stays true to its rich historical roots.
Other popular team dances include figure choreographies and dance dramas. Figures are modern numbers for 8-16 dancers, which allow choreographers to push the boundaries of Irish dancing with new formations, arm movements, and more. These are rightfully the highlight event at every major competition. Dance dramas, another crowd favorite, provide the most creative freedom, allowing for stage sets, backdrops, costume changes and props as dancers act out a story on stage.
Irish Dance offers opportunities for all dancers interested in competition. Over 200 registered local competitions take place each year, with events offered to boys and girls, divided by age group brackets, by experience level, and by solo and team dancing. Local competitions (“feiseanna” in Irish) lead up to Regional Championships, where dancers can compete to qualify for their National Championships and the World Championships. Our annual North American Irish Dance Championships is hosted by a different region each year, and has been held in fabulous venues in Montreal, Vancouver, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and many more. The annual World Championships also moves each year, and has been held in Dublin, Belfast, Killarney, London, Glasgow, Montreal and Greensboro. Irish Dancing competitions truly offer dancers a passport to the world!
Your local accredited and vetted Irish Dance school provides a safe and interactive place where your dancer will benefit from recreational activity, while making friends and being part of a team. Competition and performances are not for everyone, but the health benefits and camaraderie of Irish Dance are for all to enjoy! Join a class and instantly enjoy the movement and the music, with choreography adapted for children and adults alike. Dance classes are filled with laughter as dancers learn new movements and support each other.
Performance & Shows
Many people are first introduced to Irish dance through shows. Whether you’ve seen a local school performing to the public on St. Patrick’s Day, or have watched a professional production like Riverdance or Lord of the Dance, Irish show dancing is both entertaining to watch and fun to participate in.
Irish dance offers many performance opportunities, for all dancers who are interested. Most local dance schools perform throughout the year, especially in the springtime around St. Patrick’s Day. Teachers work with dancers on routines that take traditional Irish Dance to new places, sometimes incorporating different music genres and themes. While competitive performances typically use specific music and costumes, public shows allow for unlimited creativity for the teacher and dancers. Eventually, your dancer might join one of the numerous professional Irish dance shows touring the world annually.