What is Irish Stepdancing?: Traditional Jig Puts a Spring in Step
With St. Patrick’s Day comes green Guinness and the annual parade, but more traditionally, the Irish can celebrate their heritage once they answer the question: what exactly is traditional Irish stepdance?
If you chicken out of the Irish stepdancing dare, we've got those looking for good 'crack' on St. Paddy's day covered with toasts, drinking songs and famous quotes:
- Happy St Patricks Day: Erin Go Bragh Translation of Irish Saying
- St Patricks Day Music: Irish Music and Drinking Songs
- Irish Sayings and Quotes for St. Patrick's Day 2010
What is Irish Stepdance?
Irish stepdance is considered a modern form of old-style stepdance, taught in the early 1900s by traveling dancers. The jig involves rapid movement of the legs while keeping one’s arms at one's sides and moving sideways in sync.
Professional dancers train extensively to perform well at Irish dance. While it looks like they perform it with ease, it’s much harder than it looks.
“They're going to be sweaty and hot and red-faced by the end,” said Katie Kinney, a teacher at Clarkson School of Irish Dance in Manchester. “Working out at a gym is nothing compared to this. Their hearts are racing. They're pushing and jumping and sprinting as hard as they can.”
- Turn your feet out 45 degrees
- Stand on your toes
- Cross your feet
- Arms by your sides
- Listen to the music
- Remember your steps
Dancers cross their legs and hop on their back leg while lifting their other knee, then sidestep to the right of the stage. They switch their legs and lift the opposite knee and sidestep back, while also pointing their toes as they kick.
Irish Stepdance Attire
Moves get more advanced as dancers perform faster and more complicated combinations of kicks, points and taps. Dancers wear a hard or soft shoe, depending on if they want to create an audible rhythm with their steps or if the dance is quieter, such as a light jig.
Costumes might vary if they are designed for a specific event. Women wear a velvet dress and green sash while men wear a dress shirt, pants and tie. Optional attire includes wigs and tiaras, often worn by more professional dancers.
From Irish Stepping to Riverdance Tour
Perhaps the most popular display of Irish stepping is the Riverdance, a theatre show featuring a large group of dancers first introduced in 1994.
The Riverdance is currently on its farewell tour, 15 years after it debuted at the Eurovision Song Contest. The troupe is currently touring the eastern United States and will perform shows in the United Kingdom. They will finish the tour with 68 performances at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, Ireland from June 23 to August 28.