Irish Dance Faq

Do I need a partner?

Nope.  You can just bring yourself or bring friends if you wish.  When dances involve partners, as in ceili figures and sets, we tend to pair more experienced dancers with newcomers.

How old/young do I need to be to dance?

Anyone who can stand up straight, walk without wobbling (much), and hop up and down on one foot without falling over is the right age to dance.  Practically speaking the group usually consists of grown-ups, although well behaved children have joined us from time to time.  It’s about the dancing, not the age.

Are there special clothes I should wear?

You should wear clothes you can move in comfortably.  Irish Dancing is energetic and can be fairly athletic once you get the hang of it.  T-shirts and sweats or shorts are standard attire for practice sessions.  When showing off your stuff in a pub, cotton shirts and skirts with tights or pants that stretch work well.

Do I need special shoes?

Not really.  Jazz shoes or small sneakers like Keds provide a little cushion without too much bulk.  Running shoes with big rubber soles sticking out in all directions will trip you up.  Your shoes should have a back (no slides or mules) and should not fall off your feet if you stand on tip toe.  If you have ghillies or reel shoes, bring them.  Once in a while we may use hard or “noisy” shoes but we normally stick with soft.  If you want to purchase Irish dance shoes, go web surfing or check our links page.

Do I need to be in shape to try this?

No, but be prepared to get into shape if you stick with it!  You can start slowly, keeping your movements low, and learn the technique while building stamina.  In work-out terms, Irish dancing can be low, medium, or high impact.  It’s up to you.  Dancing is aerobic exercise, so if you have a health concern check with your doctor before trying it.

What does “ceili” mean?

In a full-blown ceili (pronounced kay-lee) people play music, tell stories, sing songs, and dance.  When we talk about ceili dancing on this web site, we generally mean the group dances described in a little book called Ar Rince Foirne.  These are performed in groups of four, six, eight or more gents and ladies, usually arranged as partners.  Examples are the Walls of Limerick, the Siege of Ennis, and the Fairy Reel.  The figures from the book are used as competition material, but they are also fun to dance casually at a pub or ceili, such as the one held at the annual North Texas Irish Festival.  (Ooo, a hundred people dancing a jig and making the floor bounce is the best!)

What is set dancing and what’s the difference between set and ceili?

The terminology can be confusing, but when we say sets on this web page, we mean the kind of group dancing popular today in Ireland (and around the world) in which the feet stay low to the ground, and people dance in groups (sets) of eight.  If you find yourself in Ireland today, especially in County Clare and along the west coast, you are far more likely to see adults dancing the Clare Plain, Caledonian Set or the North Kerry Set than the Walls of Limerick or others listed above as ceili dances.  The styles are different, but both are challenging and entertaining.


If your question was not answered here, please feel free to contact us.

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