Irish Culture Part 1: Step dancing

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.

S in her team dress

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!

My daughter's solo Irish dancing dress

S. in her solo dress, black velvet with green trim

Some of the other girls' solo dresses

Girls in their fancy solo dresses

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!

About susannahsharp

I'm pursuing a life-long dream of writing now, something I am really enjoying. My first book should be out by Christmas. I want to blog about all things Irish; offering some book reviews for romantic, not smutty, books; and also things pertaining to reading and writing.
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6 Responses to Irish Culture Part 1: Step dancing

  1. Your Daughter looks amazing in her dress and with the dance. I am from an Irish family and I learned the old fashion Jig. My Grandparents moved from Ireland and St. Patricks day was as big as Christmas in our house. Great memories, and great post.

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Lynda. I’m not surprised you had a big to-do at St. Patrick’s Day in your family. We do, too. Salt Lake City has a parade (in fact that first picture of my daughter was taken at the parade route) and we personally have a big party. No alcohol, though, ’cause we don’t drink. But we still have green punch! Anyway, I’m glad this struck a chord with you! Thanks for dropping by.

  3. kendrajames4 says:

    Hi Susan
    Brings out my Irish side. My maiden name was Wallace (Scottish side), my mother was Sadler (Irish side). My dad was the typical dour Scot and my mother the fey Irish. My sister learned sword dancing. I did tap and remember performing the Yellow Rose of Texas at some big concert hall in Toronto. Lots of fun. I still love to dance, but not tap, LOL.
    Congratulations on your first book coming out in December. Mine, When Hearts Collide, also came out in December with Soul Mate Publishing. Let us toast each other with a wee dram to lots of book sales and many more books.

  4. Oh, Kendra! I’m so sorry I overlooked this reply to my post over the weekend. My stupid computer has been giving me grief with some missing plug-in so I hadn’t been over here to look until today when I am ready to post again.

    Anyway, thanks for commenting. Of course Wallace is Scottish! That is not a surprise, but I wasn’t aware of Sadler being Irish. That’s a great combination and I’m sure things were interesting at your house at times. I have watched my share of sword dancing, that’s for sure. I enjoy it quite a lot, although I have to admit a preference for the Irish. I took years of tap and ballet as well but never did really do them very well. Apparently, that’s the story of my life in many things.

    Congratulations for your book coming out. Mine is still being edited. Guess I should change that in my profile, huh? I’d forgotten about that . . . . Maybe it will encourage me to get off my butt and get it finished. I am self-publishing so it’s really up to me to get it off to the editor and get it out there!

  5. kendrajames4 says:

    Thanks for your congratulations on my book. Yes, I know about having to get off the butt. I have a couple of projects that I want to try self-publishing and I have a book an editor base asked me to send her.

  6. Pingback: St. Patrick’s Day: Part 1 | Susannah Sharp

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