Irish

Age and Levels:

Irish (Ages 6-18) – A traditional dance form originating in Ireland.  It is characterized by its rapid leg movements, and stationary arms.  We offer soft shoe and hard shoe Irish dance.

Irish Soft Shoe (Ages 6-18) - Includes foot work, leg movement, and jumps. Soft Shoe types include the reel, jig, slip jig, and ceili dances. A soft shoe, ghillie, is worn for this class.

 Irish Hard Shoe (Ages 13-18) – More difficult foot work, leg movement, and jumps. Leaps and clicks are introduced. Hard Shoe types are the reel, jig, and hornpipe.

Classes:

Our Irish classes meet once each week for 45-90 minutes depending on the experience level.

Thursdays 4:00-5:30 Ages  Advanced Hard Shoe

Thursdays  5:30-6:30 Ages 6-16 Irish I Beginning Soft Shoe

Thursdays 6:30-7:30 Ages 8-14 Irish II Soft Shoe

Thursdays 7:30-8:30 Ages 12-18 Irish III Soft Shoe with Introduction to Hard Shoe

Shoes:

Irish Shoes: Soft shoe Irish dancers wear a black, leather ghillie shoe, and hard shoe dancers wear traditional Irish Hard Shoes.

History:

Irish dancing has been enjoying renewed popularity in recent years, largely due to Irish dance stage shows like Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.

The nature of the Irish dance tradition has changed and adapted over the centuries to accomodate and reflect changing populations and the fusion of new cultures.  The history of Irish dancing is as a result a fascinating one.  The popular Irish dance stage shows of the past ten years have reinvigorated this cultural art, and today Irish dancing is healthy, vibrant, and enjoyed by people across the globe.

A Changing Vision of Irish Dance
Opinion is divided as to the exact origins of Irish dance.  What is certain is that it has been around in some form for centuries, although its early form would be far removed from modern Irish dance.  Irish dance has evolved and absorbed influences of new cultures over a long period of time to create hybrid offshoots, resulting in the three main forms of Irish dance today.  These are: social dance, including céilí and set dancing, seán-nós dancing, and step dancing, arguably the form which has received the most exposure in recent years.

Dance features prominently Ireland’s mythology and history.  The legends of Tara state that the first ever feis was held there millennia ago, and feiseanna held for trade and communication primarily, but often featured politics, sports and storytelling as well as dance.  The feis has remained, but today it is associated chiefly with music and dance, and is often a platform for solo and group step dancers to perform competitively for medals and trophies.

One of the most influential groups to settle in Ireland in terms of their impact on Irish dance were the Normans.  In 1413 the first instance of caroling was recorded – this was a Norman custom combining singing and dancing.

Step Dancing
In 1893 the Gaelic League was established to preserve and strengthen all elements of Irish culture.  Although their main focus was Irish language, they also organised Irish dancing classes and competitions, and were behind the founding of An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha in 1929.  The Commission, as it is also known, became responsible for the development and promotion of Irish dancing, and provided qualifications for teachers and adjudicators.  The Commission has a global reach – it has branches throughout the world, and organizes the World Championships.  Comhdháil Múinteoirí na Rincí Gaelacha was later set up to focus more on the training and welfare of dancing teachers, and has branches in Australia, Israel, Slovakia and England, as well as Ireland.

Modern Step Dancing
With the advent of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, Irish dancing costumes became looser, less restrained and more relaxed, relying less on the heavy ornamentation of the traditional style and focussing more on the feet and the steps, and not distracted by embellishment.  Dresses for group dances at competitions were replaced with simple one-colour short dresses worn with black tights, while the solo dresses remained sequinned and colourful.

The twenty-first century has lent some new conventions to Irish dance that would make it unrecognisable to the eighteenth century dance masters.  Fake tan, curly wigs, tiaras, heavy make-up and jewellery are as much a part of competitive dancing today as the music itself.  The male dancers have not escaped the ‘bling’ culture of the twenty-first century either – sequinned waistcoats, bejewelled shoe buckles and studded ties are available for them.

 

 
 
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