Irish Dance Shoes - Soft Shoes
The image below shows a pair of soft shoes worn by female Irish solo step dancers. The shoes are know by a variety of different names including ghillies, light shoes and pumps. They are very similar in design to ballet shoes but tie with laces instead of elastic. Many young dancers use ballet shoes when they first start solo Irish dancing lessons, this allows the parents to see if their child is keen to continue with lessons as ballet shoes are much cheaper than soft shoes. It is generally a good idea to check with your child's dance teacher to see if they keep a stock of second hand ghillies. Children's feet grow so quickly, it can be very expensive to buy new dance shoes every few months. Ghillies are also worn by women in Scottish Highland dance and men in Scottish Country dancing! Soft shoes are made in leather with long laces that criss-cross across the front of the shoe, often wrapped around the sole of the foot before being tied like a sneaker or trainer in a bow. Unlike other lace up shoes the laces are fed through slots in the leather and not eyelets.
Picture of an Irish Dance Soft Shoes
Irish Dance Shoes - Reel Shoes
Men competing in solo dancing competitions wear 'Reel Shoes'. Reel shoes are similar in appearance to jazz shoes but have a hard heel which allows the dancer to make a series of 'clicks' during traditional soft shoe dances. The soles of the reel shoes are much more flexible than jazz shoes.
Irish Dance Shoes - Why do dancers wear wigs?
Irish dancers have to keep their body rigid whilst dancing, this does not apply to their hair! The bounce of curls can emphasise the height of the jumps and allow the dancer to be more expressive. Traditionally girls hair was kept long and those with straight hair always had their hair styled into ringlet curls in advance of a dancing competition. This was often the worst part for the girls, having to sleep with uncomfortable 'rollers', 'curler's' or 'rags' in their hair overnight. Nowadays wigs are commonplace and worn by Irish dancers performing at competitions all over the world. Wigs are a very popular choice for those with short or naturally straight hair and preferred in place of the uncomfortable curlers. The dancing wigs are very realistic and can be made to suit the color of the dancers individual hair color.
Irish Dance - Traditional Image
Irish Dancing Shoes - Benefits of Dancing
Irish dancing is not just about footwork and a beautiful dance shoes! Although the dancers move their feet at a breathtaking rate and their costumes are amazing, timing and rhythm is also extremely important. Other benefits of Irish dancing are:
Increased Physical Fitness
Fantastic and fun exercise
Increased concentration levels
Helps form a competitive spirit
Builds self esteem
Helps to improve stage presence
Promotes Irish Culture
Friendship amongst dancers attending lessons