• Emily Hiller:
  • 08 January 2014

History of Irish dancing

Some historical facts about irish dancing!

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What are the different types of Irish dancing?

Many people do not know what the different kinds of Irish dancing so here I will explain them.

The main type of dancing is called Irish step dancing. Solo dancing is performed at competitions or displays throughout the year. Dancers train many years to compete at competitions.

There are different names for the dances, the first dance you would normally learn is called the ‘reel’ this dance means a whirling or spinning dance.  Other dances include various jigs, this word comes from an old French word ‘gigue’ meaning small fiddle.  These dances are thought to have been a creation from the dance masters in the 18th/19th century, which we still carry out today.

After you have learnt all your soft dances, you will use a different kind of shoes, which is called a jig shoe or hard shoe. These dances specialise in different rhythms. The first hard-shoe dance I learnt was my treble reel, other dances include hard jig, hor npipe and set dances.

Soft shoes were introduced in 1924 for the girls, Boys did dance in them for a while but quit in the 1970s. The soft shoes we wear today are made of soft leather and the hards shoes have fiberglass toe tips and hollow heels.

There are many different set dances such as St. Patricks Day which every dancer does with exactly the same steps with no alterations. Once you have mastered this you will move onto other sets such as the Blackbird, which will have more difficult steps such as rocking or clicks. The soldiers returning home from the Napoleonic wars introduced Irish set dancing in 1816.

Irish dancing music usually consumed the bagpipe, an accordion, a fiddle and piano accompany nowadays dancers. In 1601 English authorities outlawed the pipers and their instruments were destroyed, they overcome this problem by making whistles from corn cobs. The instrument, which is similar today, is the tin whistle.

Michael Flatley was the first American to win the World Irish dancing championships. Michael Flatley created and choreographed the show called Riverdance, Lord of the Dance , Celtic Tiger and Feet of Flames. I think every Irish dancer thinks of Michael Flately as a huge inspiration. Michael Flatley's path to stardom provdes what the human spirit can accomplish when relentless drive and determination converge with dreams.


'Excellent service...we changed the shoes 3 times but nothing was a problem for the staff who sent the last pair by special delivery as we had a competition the next day.'

Ian - UK
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