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Irish
So you want to be an Irish Dancer (karma: 35)
By IrishFeet Comments: 1575, member since Tue Jun 11, 2002
On Sun Jun 23, 2002 08:52 PM
Edited by IrishFeet (29959) on 2002-06-23 20:54:05
Made sticky by popytart (16950) on 2002-06-27 17:57:20

This is to everyone who ever had a question on how to start dancing, or what Irish dance is!



<b>The Style</b>: You can not compare Irish dance to any other dance form out there. Many people say to compare it to ballet or Highland. This is bad advice. Irish dance combines two aspects: softshoe and hardshoe. Softshoe does not require an excessive amount of flexibility, but being able to do a high kick is always a plus. Softshoe combines leaps and lots of travelling and a soft leather shoe is worn that has many names; ghillies, lights, pumps, and softshoes. Hardshoe is what dancers progress to after a few months to a year. The time it takes to get to hardshoe depends on the capability of the dancer, and how fast s/he progresses. Hardshoe is most recognized in Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. It is the rhythmic "tapping" made by the dancer. Like all aspects of Irish dance, the legs are crossed and turned out in hardshoe and all of the sounds are produced that way. All teachers choreograph their own steps. Only traditonal set (hardshoe) dances are pretty much universal.



<b>Finding Classes</b>: Unlike ballet, tap and many other forms of dancing, you need to find a school that only teaches Irish dance. This is because Irish dance is so different from any other dance. There is a governing body that dictates the rules of the dance, and being taught by a teacher who only does ballet and watched an Olive Hurley video to learn Irish dance is not correct. You'll want a teacher trained in Irish dance and who has her TCRG. TCRG is the certification that allows students to compete. A good site to find Irish dance schools all over the world is: www.geocities.com . . .



<b>First Lesson</b>: Your first lesson may start out rather slow, with lots of stretching to get your bodies warmed up and ready to go. You'll learn sevens and threes, the two basic movements of Irish dance. You may start a Jig or a Reel, too.



<b>Shoes</b>: There are three different kinds of shoes; ghillies (for girls), hardshoes, and reel shoes (for boys). You will not find these shoes in a regular dance store. Do not buy the ghillies they may sell at a regulary dance store, either. Those are most likely lyrical ghillies, and will not work well, and will not be allowed in competition. You'll most likely order your softshoes on the first day of class from a shop. Try www.antoniopacelli.com. Reel shoes are also not sold in regular dance stores. These shoes are for boys and have a fiberglass heel on them. Hardshoes are also selective and not sold in regular dance stores. Hardshoes are not like regular tap shoes. They never have metal "taps", because metal taps are not allowed in competition. The most common is fiberglass, but wood is also offered. Plastic was on the market a few years ago, but is not as effective as the first two listed.



<b>Costumes</b>: The first time you see an Irish dance solo dress you'll probably either a.) laugh b.) scream c.) scream and laugh d.) run away or, e.) stand and stare for a really long time. You'll see many good examples of female solo dresses in the Irish Photos board. Boys get solo outfits as well. These can be kilts, but are usually pants and a nice shirt and sometimes a jacket and cumberbund with a tie. You won't start out with a solo dress or outfit, though. You'll first get a school outfit. Sometimes beginners wear a white shirt and a nice skirt, but often you'll wear a nice dress, some fancier than others, with some Celtic knotwork on it. It's basically a school uniform.



<b>Misconceptions</b>: I must clear up some things, or this wouldn't be an effective article. Irish dance is NOT Riverdance, Riverdance - The Show is, for the most part, Irish dance. The loud "tapping" you see and hear is Irish hardshoe. This is not offered without softshoe. You can not just learn hardshoe, softshoe must come first and be continued throughout your lessons. You can't take hardshoe and not softshoe, like you can't take pointe with no experience. The biggest thing that makes me angry is when people say that Irish dance uses no turn out. <i>THIS IS NOT TRUE</i>! Turn-out is a <i>HUGE</i> part of Irish dance, although the degree is less severe than in ballet and Highland, turn-out is there. You can be any age and be successful in Irish dance. There are special Adult competitions and many schools offer adult classes! Don't be scared! Jump on in!



<b>Expenses</b>: Like all dance forms, Irish dance costs money. Lessons vary from school, to school and level, to level, but they are usually not very expensive. The costumes are expensive. A school dress can range from a mere $100, to as much as $500! And it's no better for solo dresses. Solos can range from a mere $200, all the way to $1500. All prices are USD. Ghillies cost anywhere from $40, to $80 for a pair of HPros. Hardshoes can cost anywhere from $80 to $300 depending on the company and make. Boys softshoes usually cost $50 - $90 depending on the material the heel is made out of, and whether there is one. Some younger boys simply wear jazz shoes at first. Capezio works best.



<b>Competitions</b>: Like soccer, baseball or any sport, Irish dance is highly competitive. While a lot of dancers choose not to compete, and equal amount of dancers do. Irish dance competitions called feiseanna (say it: FESH-AH-NA). The singular being feis (say it: FESH). Feis is Irish-Gaelic for festival. A true feis contains music, vocals, bread-making and art competitions, but primarily focuses on Irish dance. An Irish dance competition with only Irish dance is called a feile (say it: FAY-LA). Feiseanna are very fun to attend. They contain vendors and lots of girls with curly hair. A regional competition is an Oireachtas (say it: OH-ROCK-TUS). There is one for every region. There is a US Western and Southern to name a couple. These qualify you for Nationals and Worlds (Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne - say it: OH-ROCK-TUS RIN-KA NUH CRIN). There is also All-Irelands and many other competitions, but I won't go in depth.



Irish dance is really unique and is a very live dance form. It changes throughout the years, acquiring different dances and steps. It is very fun and I highly recommend this dance form to any one who is interested!



-Sarah

53 Replies to So you want to be an Irish Dancer

re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By misskarlie Comments: 22, member since Fri Jun 01, 2007
On Mon Jun 11, 2007 01:44 PM
do you have to be from irish decendants to be an irish dancer?
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Hop_123member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 4234, member since Sat Feb 03, 2007
On Mon Jun 11, 2007 02:06 PM
Not at all, though some people dance to connect with their Irish heritage, there is no requirement regarding ethnic background!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By tinydancer3825 Comments: 103, member since Mon Jun 11, 2007
On Mon Jun 11, 2007 09:35 PM
Nope! I am Italian, Gypsy, and almost everything found in Eastern Europe! I was at a feis and there were Asian and African Americans there, which made me feel so much better. I've also found that a lot of Indian Americans (like from India) are involved in Irish dance. Are you hesitant to start because you don't have Irish ancestry? I was! Now I am so glad I started dance!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Allianamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 501, member since Sat May 27, 2006
On Sun Jun 17, 2007 05:58 AM
No you don't need to be actually irish. :D
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Celticdreams Comments: 967, member since Tue Jul 03, 2007
On Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:18 AM
Can you describe the natural regular progression of an Irish dancer. How long does it take to get to the next level on average. When should a beginner start hard shoe?
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By PogMoGilliesmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 3157, member since Tue Apr 24, 2007
On Wed Jul 11, 2007 04:44 PM
Celticdreams wrote:

Can you describe the natural regular progression of an Irish dancer. How long does it take to get to the next level on average. When should a beginner start hard shoe?


Most schools start with a basic or beginner class in which you learn the easiest movements in soft shoe, and the two most traditional dances- the jig and the reel, with two steps of each of those dances (A step is 8 bars of dancing to the style of music 6/8 for jig and 4/4 for reel. You do the 8 bars on each foot, or repeating the right foot for a total of 16 bars) From there, you progress to learning the other two soft shoe dances, single jig and slip jig, learning multiple steps in each dance. After the softshoe basics are learned, then the hard shoe steps will begin.

It is hard to classify the progression because it depends on the school you dance with. Most schools move dancers up individually, depending on competition level or on testing in class. The speed depends on your personal ability to master the movement and technique. For instance- I spent one month in basics, three months in beginner 1, and one year in beginner 2. Others in my school have spent 3-5 months in basics, 1 month to 2 years in beginner 1, and 3 months to 4 years in beginner 2. Each level gets more difficult and has more steps to learn. The levels go- beginner, novice or intermediate, and champion. Schools will have 1-2 levels of each beginner 1, beginner 2 and so on.

Hard shoe also depends on the school. You will usually begin hard shoe in your second or third class level, because you need to be able to dance the soft shoe basics before tackling an entirely new style.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Celticdreams Comments: 967, member since Tue Jul 03, 2007
On Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:02 PM
Thanks for your help. I am only 3 months into Irish Dancing. My teacher has taught me 4 steps in the reel, 2 steps in the light jig and 1 step in the slip jig. I have also learned some ceili with another instructor. What exactly is the single jig? I still don't get the 6/8 thing or the 4/4 thing.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By SophTheLoaf Comments: 25, member since Sun Sep 23, 2007
On Mon Oct 01, 2007 10:08 AM
6/8 and 4/4 is the rythmn and beats of the music that musicians among us will know.

the 8 stands for quavers which if your not big on music you should think of as half beats.
the 4s are crotchets which are full beats.


In 6/8 there are 6 half beats to a bar, so you should be able to count 1-2-3 4-5-6 in a jig.
In 4/4 there are 4 full beats to a bar so you can count 1-2-3-4!

Hope that helps!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By iMaximus Comments: 437, member since Sun Sep 09, 2007
On Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:58 AM
stupid question, but how do you exactly pronounce feiseanna?

1) Fesh-uh-na (the "uh" being short so that the whole thing sounds like fesh-h-na and the emphasis on "fesh" --> FESH-hna)

2) Fesh-ah-na (with the emphasis on the "ah" so that it sounds like fesh-aaah-na
-->feshAAna)

Cus I've heard many people pronouncing it both ways, but never have I been sure which one is the correct pronounciation.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By irishdaydreamermember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 1538, member since Tue Jul 10, 2007
On Tue Oct 02, 2007 07:29 AM
iMaximus, it says in the post

Irish dance competitions called feiseanna (say it: FESH-AH-NA). The singular being feis (say it: FESH).

So yes you have heard one person saying it right.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Beautiful_Ballet Comments: 36, member since Thu Dec 06, 2007
On Mon Dec 10, 2007 01:34 AM
This is a really great post!! Thanks for all the advice!! I don't exactly know what this word means since I'm a new member, but I'll say it any way:

KARMA

:)
PS: Can somebody tell me what that word means?? ^^^
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By foreverclovers Comments: 341, member since Sat Mar 04, 2006
On Mon Dec 10, 2007 02:22 AM
^Beautiful_Ballet, awarding karma means that you found the user's post informative, funny, interesting/thought provoking, useful etc and therefore think it is deserving of merit. You can award karma by clicking the 'Rate' button below the post, and then typing a quick note as to why you think the post is deserving of karma.

The user will then receive a 'karma point,' which contribute to those little moon icons next to people's usernames first appearing and then getting lighter and lighter.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Beautiful_Ballet Comments: 36, member since Thu Dec 06, 2007
On Tue Dec 11, 2007 01:09 AM
Thanks so can you add Karma even if you are not a full member(i have 3 more days)
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Clodaghmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 951, member since Wed Dec 27, 2006
On Mon Dec 24, 2007 06:42 AM
Just one thing on the pronouncations. Feiseanna- Fesh-en-ah.... and rince na cruinne- rinka na crina...

Na in Irish is prounanced Na not Nuh.

OH and are you sure on Feiseanna meaning Festival? I really dont think it does. Feile means festival and ive never heard Feiseanna used except in regards to Irish dancing competitions.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By pretty_blue_eyesmember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 888, member since Wed Apr 11, 2007
On Fri Jan 11, 2008 02:18 PM
very good advice but I dont think ill ever be able to do all them complicated steps!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Ghilliegirl4 Comments: 128, member since Mon Apr 04, 2005
On Fri Jan 11, 2008 09:14 PM
What a fun post! I love the piece on Riverdance, everyone always asks if I do Riverdancing...=/

Just thought I'd add that a new solo dress from Gavin costs about $3000 US dollars...twice your price range!! =)
Also, I'm pretty sure Oireachtas Rince Na Cruinne has an ah at the end like: Oh-rock-tis-rink-ah-na-crin-ya.

Great post! Karma!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Dannsair23 Comments: 115, member since Fri Nov 09, 2007
On Wed Feb 13, 2008 09:26 PM
Fantastic post! I wish everyone who has said anything like, "So you do clogging/Riverdance/tapdance/Scottish Dance!" And has then proceeded to do an imitation of me would read this- also the people who say that Irish Dance isn't a highly athletic, compeititive sport!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By worldchampion Comments: 605, member since Fri Jul 06, 2007
On Fri Jun 27, 2008 02:10 PM
the slightly sad thing about this is when looking at the dress prices posted originally, they look cheap compared to how they are now! Now a cheap solo is about $900 to more than $5000!!!!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By mo925206 Comments: 20, member since Mon Dec 08, 2008
On Mon Dec 08, 2008 09:47 AM
Spend about a year in beg. maybe a year and a half between beg and advanced beg. A year or two in novice. Sometimes 2-3 years in open prizewinner sometimes only one. Moving from novice into prizewinner and prelims into champs are the most difficult adjustments. A dancer will want to make sure they know what the next level of dancers dance like. Have them watch and see the difference ask dancers from the school how much they practice and what they did to move up to the next level. Moving from prelims to champs can take again 2-3 years. At this point all technical things must be there. Turn out, crossing, timing, posture, points, loud beats, etc. If a dancer has mastered the basic fundamentals they should have no problem placing in prelims. Those ready to build off the fundamentals and make everything a bit grander are ready for champs.
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By clarabel Comments: 399, member since Sat Dec 06, 2008
On Fri Dec 19, 2008 08:16 AM
this is a good post it was good you took the time time to make this post because not mamy people know what Irish Dancing is!!!!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By Bella_rina1993 Comments: 23, member since Sun Nov 19, 2006
On Sat Jan 03, 2009 03:02 AM
I used to do Irish dancing when I was younger. I haven't done it for years, but have been doing ballet practically all my life and am RAD Advanced 2. Do you think it would be difficult to pick up?
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By dancerkatie Comments: 50, member since Sat Dec 27, 2008
On Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:14 AM
Alliana wrote:

No you don't need to be actually irish. :D


lol that would be funny going in to your irish dancing and not being aloud in because your not irish
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By rainbow_rawr Comments: 642, member since Wed Mar 11, 2009
On Sat Mar 14, 2009 01:25 PM
lol my school costume cost $600!
re: So you want to be an Irish Dancer
By ceiliqueen23member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 206, member since Wed Mar 25, 2009
On Thu Mar 26, 2009 04:19 PM
this is a very helpful sight thanks for all the info I will use it all
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