Dancing with The Celts – Irish Dancing Traditions

If there is anything that the Celts are more passionate about, it is dancing and celebration. Dancing is a significant part of the culture in Ireland. When outsiders look at the footwork, it is unique in every way, that is very difficult to follow. Most people who view the Irish dance, are excited by the way it is performed and show signs of enjoying the movements thoroughly. One of the reasons why the Irish dancing became very popular and well-known is because of the show “Riverdance.” The show has taken Irish and Celtic heritage to another level over the last two decades since it was first performed.

In history, whenever people danced, they only wore their best clothes for the occasion. However, in today’s generation, when the Irish take the stage, they are adorned in different types of costumes. Female dancers wear dresses that have the Celtic knot as the design with sparkles and intricate embroidery. Male dancers wear trousers and long shirts that have a button-down and sometimes wear a best with their attire. The most important part of the dancer’s clothing is their shoes. While women wear soft ballet types of shoes, the men wear reel shoes that are very similar to the ones worn while tap dancing.

There are four different types of dances that are Celtic. They are:

  • Ceili Dancing
  • Set Dancing
  • Step Dance
  • Sean-Nos Dancing

Ceili Dancing

The Ceili dance has its foundations set as far as the 15th century. The dance is of the folk variety and is performed as couples. The couples dance together and in the group to the same song. Partners are swapped, and the group is very involved in the dance ritual. The main feature of the Ceili dance is the pointed toes and the extension of the hands and feet.

Set Dancing

The set dancing is a very rural form of dancing. The origins of the set dance come from the Quadrille which was practices in the courts. The dance requires at least four couples to participate and move in a square. At a time, two pairs cross each other in the square and change their positions. The dance will require that dancers use their entire feet without any pointing.

Step Dance

For groups and individuals, the step dance is a perfect one. Many times, the step dance is performed by couples, it is not necessary. The upper bodies of the dancers are rigid throughout the stepdance. Fast hops, high kicks, and complex feet movements are scattered throughout the dance.

Sean-Nos Dancing

The main difference between the Sean-Nos and other Irish dances is the footwork. It is effortless to spot when someone is dancing the Sean-Nos. Their feet are usually firmly planted on the ground and stay parallel, unlike the other Irish dances. The hips and arms are moved a lot while the upper body stays lax. Dancers are allowed to improvise their steps and their movements with the Sean-nos, therefore, it is not organized.