Dancing holds a fundamental role within the Irish artistic heritage for its historical and cultural value, and for its spectacular and funny nature. You will have the opportunity to know closely this refined and passionate discipline in all its style and facets, enjoying both the performance of our talented dancers and the riveting sound of music.
Traditional Dance School:
The School is free and open to the public every day. Here is where you will learn the steps and main movements thanks to our expert Irish and Celtic dance teachers.
Classes are open and suitable to everyone, kids and grown-ups, experts and neophytes, dance enthusiasts and just curious passers-by. You may learn group and solo dancing, so show off those new moves during the Festival!
Dancefloor and Entertainment:
The show gets interactive at the Irish Festival! Every day you may join our groups and dance teachers to blow off some steam to the beat of the exciting Irish and Celtic melodies. Besides, the various folk concerts will be the perfect opportunity to let loose on the dance floor until daybreak, as the classic Irish Pub tradition dictates.
Let’s learn a little more about Traditional Irish Dancing:
The expression “Irish Dance” includes various types of dancing, like Set and Ceili Dancing (group dancing), Step Dance or Solo Dance.
All of them, however, owe a lot to the work of dance Masters, first appeared in Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century. They used to travel from village to village, where they usually stayed for about six weeks and gave dance lessons.
Only the most capable students were taught the complex steps for solo dancing, the ones with the “battering” technique (stamp your feet on the ground to emphasize the beating of music). To get a louder sound, dancers used to put coins in their shoes or nails under the soles, near the tip of the shoe, for a stronger metallic sound.
Clearly you needed a wooden surface to dance like this: in fact, they often danced on tables or on temporarily removed doors, laid down on the floor for the sole purpose. The Masters frequently challenged each other in solo dancing competitions where the prize was stealing the opponent’s “turf”, so that the winner would increase the number of his students.
Alongside solo dancing and group dancing called Ceili – from the Gaelic word meaning dance party – another branch of group dancing called Set Dancing developed in Ireland. This kind of dance originated from the French quadrille, imported into Ireland and modified by dance masters to conform to local music.
They were performed by groups of four pairs of dancers arranged in a square called “set”, and became quite popular but were later ostracized by the Irish government, the Catholic Church and The Gaelic League – an institution born in 1893 to preserve the Irish national identity (often repressed by the English) by promoting the Gaelic language and various manifestations of the Irish culture, including dancing.
Set dances were therefore accused of being spurious because of their foreign origin and were never accepted by the Church, whom had always seen dancing as an immoral activity after all. They were ostracized by the Irish Government with the Dance Hall Act (1935) through which they forbid its performance unless owning a special permit, very difficult to obtain. Ceili dances, on the other hand, were the League’s favourites because they were believed to be more genuine and authentic, being directly created by Irish dance masters; furthermore, the rigid posture with the arms attached to the body and the scarce physical contact (there is no “waltz grip” in Ceili dancing) made these dances more acceptable for the Church.
All of that determined the success of Ceili dancing over Set dancing for several years. Set dances only recently regained popularity (about 1970’s – 1980’s) and now they’re back on the top in the majority of Ceilis – Irish dance parties. Ceili and Step dances have been particularly lucky, competition wise, and in the last 15 years in show-business as well.
The rigorously traditional Step dances have been enhanced by arms, head and chest movements, which are untraditional but made the dance more expressive to be presented on stage all over the world. This style has taken the name of Riverdance, and keeps being performed in an impressive number of lucky Irish dancing shows.
Nowadays, this kind of performance cohabitates with the rigorously traditional Step dancing, which is defined by the absolute stillness of the upper body in contrast with the speed of foot movements; this is an important style that continues to be preserved with care alongside with Ceili and Set dancing because it’s a precious cultural heritage as well as the origin of every modern and innovative form of Irish dancing.