Dancing and music hold a significant place in Irish culture. Not just for special occasions, dance and socializing are part of regular life. Traditionally Irish dance was taught to every person as a child, boys and girls. Everyone in a community would dance and enjoy music regularly at community socials, known as “ceilis” (pronounced kay-lees). These parties were essential times of sharing news and communing with neighbors.
While the origin of dance in Ireland goes back thousands of years, Irish dance as we know it today began developing in the 18th century when “Dancing Masters” would travel around the country teaching dance to the people. During this time the form and techniques of the dance were developed and over time have been refined to become the more standardized form that we see today.
In 1893 the Gaelic League was established to preserve Irish language and culture. The Gaelic League organized dance classes and competitions to keep the tradition alive. This began the tradition of the “feis” – the lively and popular Irish dance competition that still exists today.
Irish Dance found a global stage when the electrifying stage show, Riverdance, took the world by storm in 1994. People from all over the world were captivated by Irish dance. Over twenty years later there are still record numbers of people throughout the world learning and practicing these traditional dances.