In the land of music and the time of dancing. The beauty of a great continent rests on the shoulder of an old kingdom. Its name — Ireland!

When you call on arts in Europe, you definitely cannot skip the Emerald Isle — Ireland. Apart from being one of Europe’s most beautiful countries, Ireland is known for producing many famed writers (four of whom hold the Nobel Prize for literature) and excelling in music and dancing!

Ireland
Ireland is one of Europe's most beautiful countries. It is home to cliffs, castles, and beautiful culture. Source: Unsplash

Oh, yes! Dancing! Irish dance styles are one of the most attractive English dances. Little wonder why the annual Irish Dancing World Championship, otherwise called the ‘Olympics of Irish dance’ has been attracting 25,000 spectators and more from over 30 countries for years.

Whether you’ve already learnt some aesthetic African dances, ballet, or some American dance steps, the Irish dance is another worthy collection you would love to have. Hold on tight as we dive in.

What is this Ireland dance?

Colourful! Splendorous! Artistic! The Irish dance, just like the Irish language and music, is a significant part of the culture of Ireland. It is a collection of traditional dance styles developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries from different dance forms like the English country dancing and French Quadrilles. At that time, the pristine dance was spread by “travelling dance masters” until different forms of the dance sprung later according to regional practice and use.

A group of Irish young female dancers
Irish dance is the pride of the Irish culture. It is colourful with its use of elaborate beautiful costumes. Source: Visual Hunt

You can do this Ireland dance alone or in the company of other learned dancers. In its early years, Irish dance styles were performed in small rural pubs and barns, hence, it consisted of a strict number of steps since there was no much room for dancing around. Unlike Oriental belly dancing, Irish dance often involves little upper body movement but quick and precise footwork. However, modern Irish dance styles have seen improved moves and steps as they find use in social arenas and competitions, and as entertaining performances all around the world.

Although they have similarities, Irish dance is quite different from American tap dancing. However, knowing one can help make the other easier. Remember that English country dancing is said to be one of the ancestor arts of the Irish dance.

This Ireland dance also got help in gaining popularity from the theatrical show, Riverdance. As a variant of the Irish dance, you will know Riverdance by its pretty, quick work of the feet and use of elaborate costumes. Since its modern origination more than twenty years ago, the Riverdance show — consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance — has visited 450 venues in the world and has brought the love of the Irish culture, through the Irish music and dance, to the heart of over 25 million people.

If it is said that dance art could be a passport to a life of fame and fortune, this is it.

Irish Dancing Steps and Styles: Which Excites You?

By function, Irish dance has two classes. However, learning for one doesn’t exclude you from the other use. It could either be;

Show dance: Choreographed specifically for the stage, it often involves many dancers simultaneously to upbeat music and executing different formations. It is the culture of many dance schools. Show performances can be used to raise awareness, as an interlude at events, or even as a mobile theatre just like the Riverdance. One key thing to know, however, is that show dances usually involve pre-recorded music.

Or

Competitive dance: Performing at competitions challenges individual mastery and artistry. Irish competitive dancers dance to the tune of a live musician or musicians without an opportunity for pre-rehearsed choreography. On bigger stages, teams of usually 8 dancers called ceili are also allowed to pull choreographed soft shoe dance. It should be no news that this form of dancing is tougher than the show dance owing to the element of surprise that can come from the musician at any time.

Whether for show or competition, dancers have about six Irish dance style options to choose from. But irrespective of which dance style it is, there are just two dance style techniques in Irish dance. These techniques are the Ballet Up technique and the Flat Down technique. The difference between the two techniques is just in the way the dancers use their feet. While the former describes a method of toe-dancing where the body weight is lifted off the floor, the former a technique consisting of the use of the heels in a flat, gliding motion with the bodyweight sinking into the floor.

Footwork
Irish dance styles share several moves with Ballet and Line dancing. Toe-dancing, jumping, and spinning are common steps in this Ireland dance. Source: Visual Hunt

It should, however, be said that different styles have different difficulty levels. So, it is vital as a beginner to know these varieties before choosing which to start with.

Here are the 6 exciting styles of the Ireland dance:

  • Traditional Irish Step Dancing where the legs and feet are flat down
  • Modern Irish Step Dancing involving full-body moves with ballet up technique
  • Irish Sean Nos Dancing – Flat Down ­
  • Irish Set Dancing – Flat Down
  • Irish Two-Hand Dancing – Flat Down
  • Irish Ceili Dancing – Ballet Up

Within these broad styles, there are sub-variants like polkas, hornpipes, and jigs. The kind of music also, often, dictates the style. While the traditional Irish step dancing goes with upbeat music, you may have to do the treble jig for music with a slow tempo.

Some Basic Irish Dance Steps

Irish dancing is a serious business. This is not some random steps and sways. It is, therefore, important for students to exercise their bodies before hopping, jumping, spinning, and leaping.

Taking some time to stretch your body, massage your feet, and shake your waist can help you learn faster and better and prevent you from injuries that could result from a stiff body.

Now that you have your body straightened and limbs flexed, consider these basic Irish dancing steps and see if you can pull off some.

Cabriole: This is another step in the Irish dance borrowed from ballet. Here, the dancer leaps into the air while his/her left leg beats against the right calf before the dancer lands on his/her left leg.

Chasse: This step can be said to be adapted from ballet. As a French word, it means ‘to chase’. To do this move, the dancer points the right foot forward, keeping it turned out touching the floor with just the toe. Then, raises the right leg — still outstretched — up into the air while standing on the toe or ball of the left foot. Then, hop with the left leg, land on the right with just the toe, drop the left foot forward, and then, bring the right foot just behind the left while crossed.

Click: The passing of one foot by the other foot in such a way that the heels of the shoes hit each other and make a clicking sound.

Over: You cannot be tired of jumps and leaps in Irish dance. This step requires the dancer to leap from one foot into the air with one leg extended and the other tucked beneath before he/she lands on the opposite foot from the one he/she leapt.

Switch: This is a basic move whereby the dancer, with legs crossed and feet, turned out, jumps straight up in a place, and switches the position of the feet, i.e. the one in front goes back and vice versa.

Ha-ha! I know. You cannot possibly learn these moves just by reading their descriptions. You should go on to watch some how-to videos online on these Irish moves or — better still — take Irish dancing lessons.

Take Irish Dance Classes in Nigeria

Whatever you want to learn, Spanish dance styles, American, African, or Indian dance styles, taking classes is well advised. In Nigeria, there are not too many dance schools that offer Irish dancing lessons. More so, learning Irish dancing merely by binge-watching online videos on the art of Irish dancing will not do much good. If you are serious about dance art and would love to learn it the best way, consider finding a tutor on Superprof.

Superprof has the best crop of dance tutors in whose company you can journey from being a white belt Irish dancer to a black belt Irish stepdancer. Even if you want to take your class through webcam, there are tutors on Superprof who have developed effective tutoring strategies for online learning according to best practices. Each tutor has a dashboard carrying his/her profile, methodology, rate, and reviews. These are expected to guide your decision at hiring the best tutor for you.

No doubt, learning how to Irish dance just got more fun and easier with Superprof.

How to Prep For Your Irish Dance Classes

Having decided to hire a tutor for your Irish dancing lessons, your challenges are halved. You must also, on your part, prepare so that your learning curve will not be slowed.

Foremost, you need to prepare your mind and be confident that your classes will be great moments. When you are optimistic and gay, you help your teacher to be lively and fun too. The opposite is the case if your dance tutor has to push you every time.

Then, it is important to get your dance gears. Costumes are a part of dance arts, especially for a dance that requires elaborate costumes like the Ireland dance. You may want to check out dance accessories shops near you or check out some online dance stores.

Also, if you will be hiring a private home tutor, you should prepare your dance space beforehand. Although the Irish dance doesn’t require an expanse, you still will need to get that dance room ready for you and your tutor.

Now that you have read enough to even teach a course on the Irish culture, it is time to do some jigs and switches. For the best tutors, you know where!

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Muhammad

A Nigerian freelance SEO Writer-cum-Editor and 2019 Writing Fellow of ALWF who blends creativity with rich content to produce sterling copy — persuasive, informative, or expository. He loves nature and trains in Karate, and he loves to help others grow — individuals and brands.