Today I wanted to share a bit of Irish dancing to give you a hint of Irish culture. My daughter has done Irish step dancing for seven years and I thought it would be fun share with you some various videos, some from the web, some from my own movies.
Of course, we all know Riverdance:
Irish step dancing, like Riverdance, is a beautiful style of dancing and I love to watch it. To me, when they are wearing their soft shoes, or ghillies (kind of a fancy ballet shoe except with leather on the bottom to give some padding), and dancing well, they almost look like they are flying, barely touching the ground and then only lightly. Of course, I know that isn’t true because my daughter’s feet are always blistered and bruised so I know they hit the ground with a lot of force.
Here’s a soft shoe dance:
When they wear their hard shoes, they try to hit the surface really hard to make the most noise possible with the little fiberglass tips they have on the toe and ankle. Again, I have seen the evidence of how hard they strike on my daughter’s ankles where she sometimes kicks herself in practice.
Here’s a hard shoe dance:
When an Irish dancer starts, she just wears a basic outfit, usually a skirt and blouse. Then as she advances, she will earn the right to wear her school’s dress. These can often be very elaborate, with all sorts of embroidery and applique, reflecting that school’s colors and style.
This is my daughter, a few years ago, in her team dress. Notice the black and the school colors, purple, green, and red.
Eventually, if she advances far enough, she can design her own dress, called a solo dress, that will be completely unique to her. These are very elaborate and can sometimes cost thousands of dollars. The idea behind the fancy dresses is to make the judges at competitions notice you. So they are usually very sparkly with lots of vibrant color and jewels. By the way, the girls wear wigs to get their hair this curly!
This is the same daughter, a couple years ago, in her own solo dress. She loves it! And here is also a picture of some of the other girls in their fancy dresses. Each one is different. We’ve seen some hideous ones over the years, but these are all nice.
Each school has their own steps for most of the dances and these are kept very secret. In fact, we are not allowed to film other schools dancing at competitions in case we have intentions of stealing the steps. There are a few standardized dances that are the same all over the world. One of these is called “St. Patrick’s Day,” and although the music is catchy, it’s not our favorite because it never changes from year to year or level to level. The other dances change quite often, even if they build on the same basic steps.
Here’s my daughter’s school dancing one of their fanciest dances:
I also wanted to mention that for a glimpse inside the world of serious competitive Irish dancing in a fascinating movie, I cannot recommend highly enough the movie Jig. It’s marvelous and so fun to watch. It’s available to rent from netflix and probably elsewhere. Here’s the trailer:
Hope you enjoyed seeing a few Irish step dances. I’ll probably post others at a later time!