Irish Dancing Facts: A Traditional Dance Form In Ireland | Kidadl


Irish Dancing Facts: A Traditional Dance Form In Ireland

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

Irish dance is a famous dancing form in Ireland that includes many other dancing styles that originated in Ireland.

Irish dancing is a dance form that requires clean, fast, and precise footwork and a rigid upper body. Dancers are supposed to dress up according to the dress code before performing on stage.

These days ceili dance is held all over the country to promote Ireland's traditional dances, music, and culture. Michael Flatley is one of the popular Irish dancers. He is a musician and choreographer and has danced in international shows like 'Lord of the Dance', 'Feet of Flames', 'Riverdance', and 'Celtic Tiger Live'. Some Irish dances are performed on music from a solo instrument like a flute, fiddle, or tin whistle. Irish dances like ceili are danced to traditional Irish music, a folk dance. Today Irish dances are so popular that they are taught globally, and even championships are held every year in Dublin at Easter. Irish dancers can perform Irish dances both solo and in a group. This dance form is for social or performing purposes and is also a competitive dance form. Irish dancers who compete in Irish dance competitions are known to dance a more modern form of Irish dance. Irish dances which are performed solo are sean-nós dance and Irish step dance. And Irish dances done socially are Irish festival dances and improvised steps. There are theatrical shows like 'Riverdance' that mostly consist of traditional Irish dancing and music. Did you know that the dress of competitive Irish dancers is embellished with Swarvoski crystals?

Irish Dance Costumes, Dresses, And Shoes

Irish dance also comprises a specific costume and shoes like any other traditional dance style. As Irish dance is all about clean, fast, and precise leg movements, shoes are very important in this dance style.

Costumes and dresses for Irish dance have changed a lot through the years. Female dancers at the beginner level can wear a plain blouse and simple dance skirts. A long time ago, traditionally, there was no dress code. People used to wear their 'Sunday best' for performances which are the clothes you wear to church. During the '70s and '80s, embroidered dresses with ornamentation became popular. Nowadays, many fabrics and designs have become famous for Irish dance. Some fabrics are velvet, embroidered organza, lace, sequin, and silk. Some costumes have stiff skirts. They are stiffened using Vilene and have intricate embroidery on them. Solo dancers in Irish dances are allowed to choose their dresses, and also, the main dance leads can choose their dresses. These days, dresses for females are made with heavy ornamentation. Costumes also include curling your hair or wearing a wig. The wigs worn are matched with the hair color, or the wig's color is completely different, like wearing a blonde wig on black hair. There are also matching tiaras to the dresses that girls wear. The dresses feature the culture of Ireland, and traditional elements are added to them. Different Irish dance schools have different skirts in their dresses, and skirts have either lace or an embroidery pattern copied from the 'Book of Kells', a medieval Irish Book. The boys' costume is a simple shirt, trousers, tie, and a vest. Vests are embroidered with vibrant colors, and trousers are black.

Irish dancers wear two types of shoes: soft shoes and hard shoes. Soft shoes are, called ghillies, are similar to ballet shoes as they are lace-up shoes. Female dancers only wear these shoes. Boys wear different shoes, which are called reel shoes. They are similar to jazz shoes and are made of black leather and hard heels. Soft shoes for boys are made so that the heel clicks are audible. Hard shoes are similar to tap dance shoes, but the heel and tip of these hard shoes are made from fiberglass rather than metals. Afterward, the hard shoes were made of different materials to reduce weight and increase the sound materials like resin were used to make taps and heels of the shoe.

The History Of Irish Dance

A beautiful dance-like Irish dance has a rich history, and it has seen many ups and downs. Let us look into some Irish history related to dance.

There is not much evidence of dancing available in Ireland before the 7th century. It is speculated that it is because of the destruction of written records during the raids done by Vikings. Words like 'Damhsa', a modern Irish word for dancing, did not start until the 16th century. The first evidence of dancing in Ireland is found in 1413 in an Irish documentary. The occasion was the Mayor of Waterford's visiting Baltimore County Cork in 1413, where people danced to celebrate Christmas eve. And the round dance tradition in Ireland was bought by the Norman invasion, which happened in the 12th century.

Several Irish jigs and Irish step dance accounts are heavily found in the 16th century. 1569 Sir Henry Sydney wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth, in which he expressed keenness on the Irish jigs in Galway. In the 17th century, Irish dance became popular, and there is much evidence proving the same.

The growth of dancing in Ireland was hand in hand with traditional Irish music. Even during the 18th and early 19th centuries, traveling dance teachers in Ireland traveled across the country teaching dance.

Irish Dance Today

Presently, Irish dance costumes are recognized worldwide; peasants' dresses from 200 years ago inspire these dresses worn by dancers these days. Dancing costumes of females have embroidery and a cape attached to shoulders by a tara brooch. Dancing costumes of men also include a cloak draped from the shoulders.

Presently in Ireland, Ceili dances are held all over the country to promote traditional Irish dance, storytelling, and music. Ceili dances are famous folk dances, and these are dance styles based on Irish hey, long dances, quadrilles, and round dances. There is also an organization in Ireland called the Gaelic league, and it promotes Irish cultures in the country and worldwide.

Irish dance is a beautiful dance to look at, and it comes with many health benefits like increased core strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility. There are many Irish dance styles: Irish Set Dancing, Irish Step Dancing-Traditional, Irish Ceili Dance, Irish Set Dancing, Old-style Sean Nós Dancing, Irish Step Dancing-Modern, and Irish Two-Hand Dancing.

Current Irish dance form is developed from several dance forms like French quadrilles, native Irish dance, and English country dancing.


Why is Irish dancing important?

From the early 20th-century Irish dance styles became a significant part of Irish culture, and many organizations promoted and codified various dance forms and created standardized styles and competitive structures.

Was dancing banned in Ireland?

Yes, Irish dancing was banned in Ireland during oppression, and it was done to eradicate Irish culture from Ireland. English people also banned other things like songs, music, sport, and language.

Why do Irish dancers not use their arms?

There is no clear reason why Irish dancers do not use their hands and upper body while dancing. But there are many theories related to it, like suppression of Irish cultures due to the English occupation of Ireland, Irish people would go to pubs and used to dance with their upper body rigid so that English people wouldn't know if they were dancing.

Why do Irish dancers have straight arms?

There are many theories on why Irish dancers have straight arms while dancing. One important theory is that Queen Elizabeth liked Irish dances and called Irish dancers in her court to enjoy, but they danced with their upper bodies rigid to show defiance and show that they are not enjoying. Another theory is that the church didn't want boys and girls to hold hands; they kept their arms straight to look mannered.

What do the Irish call step dancing?

Irish call Irish step dance a performance dance style that originated from the Irish dance. Dancers can perform this dance style solo or in a group also; many competitions are held worldwide on this dance type, and the competitions are called 'Feiseanna'.

Why is Irish dancing so expensive?

Irish dancing is so expensive because the cost the learning or performing includes the costs of hair items, soft and hard shoes, solo dresses, lesson fees, practice gear, and competition fees. The cost of an Irish Dance class can go up to $50-$60 per month for classes held once a week.

At what age should you ideally start Irish dancing?

The youngest age at which beginners are accepted is five years, and most of the children start dancing between the age of five and eight years.

What is festival-style Irish dancing?

Festival-style Irish dancing is the traditional dancing style of Northern Ireland. This Festival Irish dancing is practiced in England, Northern Ireland, and mainland Europe.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

Sridevi's passion for writing has allowed her to explore different writing domains, and she has written various articles on kids, families, animals, celebrities, technology, and marketing domains. She has done her Masters in Clinical Research from Manipal University and PG Diploma in Journalism From Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She has written numerous articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories, which have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. She is fluent in four languages and likes to spend her spare time with family and friends. She loves to read, travel, cook, paint, and listen to music.

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?