Stapleton School Of Dancing

Irish Dance

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What is Irish Dancing

Irish dance is a type of traditional dance form that originated in Ireland. Irish dance can be divided between social Irish dance and performance Irish dance. Irish social dances include céilí and set dancing. Irish céilí dances are danced in various formations of couples from 2 to 16 people. Irish set dances are danced inquadrilles, or 4 couples arranged in a square formation.

Irish performance dance is traditionally known as stepdance, popularized by the famous “Riverdance” show. Stepdance is known for its rapid leg movements and stationary body and arms. Solo stepdances can be performed in soft shoes or hard shoes.

The History

The dancing traditions of Ireland probably grew in close association with traditional Irish music. Although its origins are unclear, Irish dancing was later influenced by dance forms from the Continent, especially the Quadrille. Travelling dancing masters taught all over Ireland, as late as the 18th and early 19th centuries. During this time, places for competitions and fairs were always small, so there was little room for the Dance Masters to perform. They would dance on tabletops, sometimes even the top of a barrel. Because of this, the dancing styles were very contained, with hands rigid at the sides, and a lack of arm movement and travelling across the stage. It is often said that when the British soldiers banned dancing across the land, the Irish would shut the bottom of their doors and continue to dance only using their feet–with their arms rigid by their sides. As time went on, larger places for dance competitions and performances were found, so styles grew to include more movement, more dancing across the stage as seen, for example, in Riverdance.