Although a traditional Irishman is known to hate the 'stage Irishman', he is believed to hold a soft spot for dance. Thus, despite the efforts of the Church to condemn it, people continued to dance with fervor. In fact it is said, that the early dancers kept their arms straight to avoid begin caught by a passing priest. The world knows about Irish dances because of the popular Riverdance style that demands complex leg work. But Irish dance isn't all about just one style, there are several styles that are reflective of Celtic culture. Here is a list of styles that form an integral part of Irish culture.
Ceili Dancing: They can be broadly classified into informal and performing dance. The informal or social dancing can be further divided into ceili and set dancing. This is the most informal of all and often performed at fairs and cross roads and social functions. The crackdown of all forms of dance by the Catholic clergy literally destroyed this art form. The impact was so great that after the Gaelic Revival when the Gaelic League decided to resurrect, it was practically lost and new steps had to be codified.
Set Dancing: This is the more structured form of dancing. In an attempt to discourage dancing, the clergy decided to tone down the steps and standardize it to reflect Christian traditions. They also did not want the girls and boys to hold their hands together and hence asked them to hold their arms on their waist. It is performed by four couples who are arranged on the sides of a square. Dancers remain flat on their feet when dancing and avoid leaps and traveling movements. Another striking feature of these dances is the costume. The dresses are elaborate and involve use of elaborate designs that are inspired by Irish culture.
Sean-nós: This is most unregulated and liberated form of Irish dance and associated with Connemara. It is known to a visual expression of the music, wherein the dancer uses his arms, shoulders, hips and feet to accentuate the music. It is no surprise that the dancer has a close relationship with the musician.
Waltz: Although the waltz did not originate in Ireland, the Irish have surely contributed to its various adaptations. Thus well known dances like Stack of Barley, Day Gordons, Shoe the Donkey are a regular in almost every ceili and the Irish have come up dance solutions for these songs.
The author of this article loves to write about Irish dance forms and the different aspects related to the dance including Irish dance dresses and dance solutions.