Irish Dancing


Soft Dancing Shoes

A comprehensive guide to Irish Dancing. All you need to know about the fascinating world of Irish Dancing! Although this type of dancing has become more popular in recent years due to the influence of the amazing Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, the history of dancing in Ireland dates back hundreds of years. It is popular worldwide and the costumes, wigs and shoes are familiar to everyone!

Singing, performing and dancing is a huge part of Irish and Celtic culture, it is the land of music and dance! Irish dancers twist and turn at amazing speed beautifully in time with the music. Riverdance and Lord of The Dance are examples of the way that traditional Irish dancing has been brought into the 21st century.

About Ireland Index

The History of Irish Dancing?

The origin of Irish dancing is subject to much debate,  Travelling dance masters in the 18th and 19th century are believed to have introduced step dancing to Ireland. Immigrants keen to continue their heritage and culture brought Irish dancing to to America, Australia and England as they were forced to leave Ireland particularly after the Great Famine of the 1840's.

The Gaelic league (Conradh na Gaeilge) was formed in Dublin in 1893 and its aim was to promote the culture of Ireland, in particular its aim was to preserve the Gaelic Language and ensure it did not die out as English was being taught to children in school and was quickly becoming the official language of Ireland. The league was determined to keep the Irish language spoken in Ireland and to have it recognised as an official language of the EU. Irish finally became an official language of the EU on the 1st January 2007. Conradh na Gaeilge was also responsible for promoting other areas of Irish culture particularly Irish dancing. The Gaelic league organised the establishment of dancing classes all over Ireland and even set up classes for the children of Irish Immigrants in Boston and London in the early 1900's. The London branch of Conradh na Gaeilge was founded in 1894.

Irish Dancing - Myths and Legends
There are many references in Irish myths and legends about dancing. The myth Guleesh about a boy from County Mayo dancing is described beautifully: "The musicians were at the two ends of the hall, and they were playing the sweetest music that ever a man's ear heard, and there were young women and fine youths in the middle of the hall, dancing and turning, and going round so quickly and so lightly".

*** Irish Dancing ***

Irish Dancing ShoesIrish Dance Dress
Irish Dancing SchoolIrish Step Dance
Irish Dance Costume 

Irish Dancing Shoes
There are two types of dancing shoes used by solo step dancers, these are soft shoes (also referred to as ghillies) and hard shoes (often referred to as Hardies), both types of shoe are pictured below:

Image of Soft Dancing Shoes

Irish Dancing - Soft Shoes

Irish Dancing Hard Shoes Image


Irish Dancing - Hard Shoes


Irish Dancing Schools
The popularity of dancing is increasing! Dancing teachers all over the world teach second, third and fourth generation Irish girls and boys traditional jigs and reels. The outstanding success of productions such as Riverdance has encouraged even more children to learn to dance just like their ancestors. Irish dancers compete in competitions regularly, all hoping to qualify for the world championships which brings together competitors form all over the world to be recognised as the best! Find out what the characteristics of Irish Dancing are. Why do dancers perform with straight arms, held by their sides? Their upper body movements are limited yet the speed of the foot movements is extremely fast and precise, is there a reason for this?

Sheet Music Downloads plus Audio Files at Virtual Sheet Music

Dancing Costume
Costumes like the one shown below are worn by solo step dancers when performing in a public dancing performance. The image below is just an example of the type of costume worn. Dancing costumes come in a huge range of colors and fabrics from silk to velvet. Specialist designers produce costumes to order, these costumes are not cheap! A large market exists for second hand dancing dresses as most costumes are worn for a handful of times before their owner grows out of them.


Irish Dancing Costume

Picture of an Irish Dancing Costume


Irish Dancing History - Diaspora
What is diaspora? Diaspora is defined as 'the movement or settlement of people away from their ancestral homeland'. The Irish Diaspora are descendants of the native Irish immigrants forced to move away from their homeland for a variety of reasons including conflict and more recently in the 19th century due to the great Famine, known in Gaelic as 'An Gorta Mor'.

The Irish diaspora are spread all over the world and it is estimated that globally there are more than 80 million Irish Diaspora! Some are second or third generation Irish whilst others are fifth and sixth generation Irish! The Diaspora have kept their culture, heritage and traditions alive through music and dance. St Patrick's day is a celebration of Irish culture and traditional Irish music and dancing form a huge part of this now globally celebrated event. Other events are held for those of Irish heritage including 'The Gathering', an event held in 2013, the aim of the gathering was to encourage anyone with Irish heritage to return to Ireland and trace their families heritage, a gathering of the clans!

Celtic Dancing
Singing, performing and dancing is a huge part of Irish and Celtic culture, it is the land of music and dance! Irish dancers twist and turn at amazing speed beautifully in time with the music. Riverdance and Lord of The Dance are examples of the way that traditional Irish dancing has been brought into the 21st century. Both are world famous shows enjoyed by the Irish diaspora and those who wish they were!


Dancing Image

Irish Dancing

  • Irish Dancing History

  • Difference between hard & soft dancing shoes

  • Dancing Costumes

  • Ceilidhs (Ceílí)

  • Dancing schools

  • Benefits of dancing

  • Irish Dancing Myths & Legends

Dancing Shoes


Irish Dancing - Pictures and Videos
Discover the vast selection of pictures relating to Irish Dancing and illustrating how beautiful the costumes, dresses and shoes are. Irish Dancing is famous worldwide and the publicity received from the hit stage productions have brought this traditional past time completely up to date for the 21st century! Learn about the history of dancing and the popular Ceilidh as well as the costumes worn and benefits of this great past time. The pictures show the different costumes and musical instruments that are associated with this amazing country. A great resource for all ages. Useful as an history resource for kids and children of all ages as well as those wanting to learn more about the history and meaning of individual dances. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic within the dancing section. The videos enable fast access to the images and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles and pages can be accessed via the about Ireland Index - a great educational resource for everyone!


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