Irish Dancing stems from a point in time where the Celts and the druids who wandered the island of Ireland, before the birth of Christianity and any outsider influences. The druids had many rituals involving the use of group dancing, predominantly in a circular fashion around scared trees. The Celts also had their own type of folk dancing, which used similar patterns of dance.
Of course, the dancing was accompanied by singing or music and took place mainly at religious ceremonies. One of the biggest held by Celtic communities was called the ‘Feis’ (which we still have today, but is usually more of a showcase of Irish dancing and music). Modern Irish dance competitions are also called feis or feiseanna.
In the 12th century, the Normans invaded and brought their own native dances and customs, which resulted in a change of the traditional circular formations to more line formations. It wasn't until the 18th century that Irish dancing became what it is today.
Today, Irish dancing is quite different to the dancing style of old, there are also many different types of Irish dances:
● The reel - it is a lively dance that involves jumping steps
● The jig - is a fast upbeat dance and is the most popular in Ireland. It can be a light or hard shoe dance
● The single jig - is similar to a regular jig, with slightly different rhythms
● The slip jig - is danced in a soft shoe and has graceful movements
● The hornpipe – has a slower tempo and danced with hard shoes
● All of these dances can be learned in our Irish dancing masterclass.
There are many other types of Irish dancing but what all these dances have in common are remnants in formations and patterns from the Celts, Druids and Normans.
You can’t talk about the history or Irish dancing and not talk about Riverdance. This amazing show brought the attention of Irish dance to a worldwide audience when it debuted at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. It was a 10 minute interval act that was choreographed and performed by Michael Flatley and Jean Butler and a large ensemble cast of Irish dancers. It was produced by John McColgan and Moya Doherty, and it was composed by Bill Wheelan. Because of this performance it was developed into a full length show and went on in the same year to perform at the Royal Variety Show. The audio was number one in the Irish charts for 18 consecutive weeks. And the show sold over 120,000 tickets in the first run of shows in Dublin.
Michael Flatley subsequently left Riverdance and created his own show called Lord of the Dance. This was also a huge success, selling to sold out arenas around the world and winning multiple awards.
These wonderful shows brought the history and legacy of Irish dancing from Ireland to the rest of the world. The creativity in Riverdance and Lord of the Dance made Irish dance what it is today.
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