Vibrancy, vivacity and energy are the hallmarks of Irish dancing. The movements and expression of the dancer, coupled with bright garments and rich tapestry reflect the opulence of the cultural dance heritage of Ireland. Talking about the history of Irish dance, various dance styles have been practiced since times immemorial. However, all the types of dancing are linked to each other, either structurally and historically. While the structural root of Irish dance is found in step-dance, its historical root lies in ceili dance. To get detailed information about each of the various styles of Irish Dance, their history and structure, browse through the following lines.
Interesting Information On Origin & Background Of Irish Dance
An informal tradition of dance, excerpts of Ceili dance have been found in past centuries in the different dance forms such as sword dances, round dances, line dances and progressive line dances. Popularly known as 'rince fada', the dance is usually performed by three person moving side by side, each holding the end of white handkerchief, followed by the rest of dancers in pairs. While the dance form was destroyed in the late 19th century with the Gaelic Revival, it was later restored. The modern Ceili dance form today emphasizes the height, turn-out, dancing on the toes, extension of leg and foot, long reach and quick movements.
Irish step dancing owes its existence to the dance masters of the 18th century. In the yesteryears, dance masters would travel from town to town teaching people who were financially well-off certain basic dancing steps. They taught people steps, the 8-bar units, which till today remains as the base of dancing in Ireland. The dancing steps involved both the movements needed for various dances and the foot percussion, called battering, mainly used for rhythmic emphasis. Competitions were held and dancers were asked to perform on table-top or similar small stage.
One of the main essentials of this style was dancing in a limited space. Greatest tributes were paid to those who could perform the complete dance in a confined area. However, with time, there was an influx of various styles. The earlier posture and style gave way to a new belief. While united legs, no traveling, lack of high kicks and little or no turning were the characteristic feature of the traditional step dance, the modern style induced traveling steps, circular lead-in's, sevens-and-threes and turns. However, be it conventional or contemporary, step dancing is one of the most vibrant dance style known globally.
Set Dances in Step Dancing
In the modern times, set dance style has been introduced in step dancing. The style involves dancing of steps to certain particular tunes.The characteristic feature about such a dancing style is that instead of the conventional 8-bar structure usually used in social dancing, the set dance tunes generally have a one or two part structure with 8 or 12 bars in the first part and 12, 14, 16, or even more bars in the second.The movements and footwork carried out interpret the set tune.
Traditionally initiated in France, set dancing was brought to Ireland by the dance masters. They transformed the dance style into Irish traditional music, modifying and elaborating it to show off their dancing prowess. One of the distinctive characteristics about set dancing is that it varied from region to region. The dance form found better acceptance and practice in areas that were strongly traditional. Conventionally, set dance form involved dance done by four couples, arranged to form a square. It is usually practiced flat on feet, avoiding the leaps and traveling movements of the ceili dances
Waltzes and Couples Dancing
Very little is known about waltzes and couples dancing that is traditional to Ireland. Though not originally from Ireland, Irish people have moulded Waltzes dance to suit their style of dancing. Irish waltzes have been interspersed with ceili or set dances. Despite the fact that it is an adapted form of dance, dances like 'Pride of Erin', 'Waltz Marguerite' and 'St. Margaret's Waltz' speak volumes about the beauty and exquisiteness of the style.