Irish  Dancing

Celtic Fire Irish Dancers

Celtic Fire Irish Performance
on the
Missouri State University Campus
Ozarks Celebration Festival, 2007


To stop confusion to the reader, clogging is not Irish dance.  Although you will find Irish influence within clogging.  Clogging is a mixture of Irish, Scottish, English, Canadian, and many other influences, and is a rapid ever changing dance today.  On the other hand, Irish dance is a "parental" dance coming direct from the Celtic culture, and the traditional part of Irish dance has virtually remained unchanged for centuries.  While the onset of dance troupes, such as Riverdance and Lord of The Dance, it has somewhat altered some steps and the type of music, it's traditional version is still steady today as it has been in history.  Through time and lost information, even the purest of dance will change some, naturally.  Some changes are noted below!

Little is known about the early history of Irish dance due to Viking raiders who destroyed most books from the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Viking raids ended in 1014 and Feisianna began.  A Feisianna was a combination trade fair, political gathering and cultural event with sporting events, storytelling, crafts (including vendors) music and dance!

During the 12th century, Celtic tradition in Ireland declined. In 1366 the Statute of Kilkenny was decreed imposing heavy penalties against anyone practicing Irish customs.  Dance declined for awhile, then continued on in secret.

From the late 17th century dance and music were the main forms of entertainment in Ireland.

During the 18th and 19th centuries "crossroads dancing" became very popular.  During inclement weather dancers moved into kitchens and barns.

The clergy condemned "crossroads dancing" so the Gaelic League introduced the first Ceili in 1897.  This enabled dancers to be indoors under supervision.   Note - This Ceili was not held in Ireland, but in London October 30th 1897!

In 1929 the Irish Dancing Commission was founded to establish rules in teaching, judging, and competitions and continues to do so today.

In the 20th century dance instruction began at an earlier age.  Who was instructed changed from mostly males to mostly females.  Girls dancing solos in competition were rare before the 1920s.

Dance styles also changed, arms and hands were not always held rigid during solo dances.  They were previously more relaxed and more often hands were on their waists.

In the 1930s and 1940s enthusiasm was low, due to immigration and unemployment, therefore interest in music and dance was down.

Early descriptions of dancers sometimes note they were barefoot.  Soft shoes were introduced in 1924 for girls.  Boys used them for a while but quit in the 1970s. Hard shoes have also evolved in style and technology.  Dancers now use fiberglass toe tips and hollow heels.

Previously nails were used.  The nail heads made sound.  Dancers often inserted coins between sole and toe tip to make more sound.

Bubble Heels were invented around 1985.  They are prohibited at Feisianna.

The four types of Irish music and associated dances are the jig, reel, hornpipe, and set dances.  There are several main Irish step dances: reel, light jig, heavy jig, single jig, and the hornpipe.

There are two distinctive forms of Irish dancing; solo dances and figure dances.

For more information on Irish dance, the link below is a good source.

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Since 1986

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