About Irish Dance
Irish dancing is considered to be one of the most athletic and complex dance styles in the world. It incorporates two kinds of shoes: the softshoe (or light shoe), which laces up the foot and resembles a ballet slipper, and the hardshoe (or heavy shoe), which has fiberglass tips and heels. Dancers begin learning softshoe dances first, and after mastering the basic dances, are permitted to move on to hardshoe. Students learn and practice jigs, reels, and hornpipes, as well as group (ceili) dances, danced to traditional Irish music.
How old do dancers need to be to start lessons?
It depends on the child. Dancers should be able to pay attention and follow directions for 45 minutes. It is also very helpful for dancers to know their right and left. For dancers that are not yet ready for the structured class of Irish dance, there are some wonderful pre-ballet programs that help dancers from 3-5 years old learn the basics. Generally, dancers are able to begin Irish dancing between the ages of 4 and 7, but you are never too old to start! Michael Flatley, the star of Riverdance, did not begin dancing until age 11. We do not currently offer them at our studio, but there are even classes for adults!
What should my dancer wear to class?
Dancers should wear a T-shirt with shorts or a skort. It is important to be able to see the dancers’ knees. For brand new beginners, either ballet slippers or socks are fine. If your dancer decides to stick with it, you will be provided with more information on purchasing Irish dance shoes and socks. New shoes cost approximately $50, but our school tries to facilitate the buying/selling of used shoes whenever possible to keep costs down.
should my dancer bring anything to class?
Dancers are encouraged to bring a water bottle. Irish dance is a very active endeavor, and dancers will usually have a brief water break during class. Snacks and sugary drinks are not permitted in class.
Can dancers go to competitions?
Yes. Our school is certified with An Coimisiun in Ireland. Many of our dancers compete at local, regional, and international competitions. If you are interested in getting involved in competitions, there will be opportunities to attend a local “feis” (pronounced “fesh”) in the fall. If you are not interested in competitions, that is ok too. We have many dancers that dance just for fun without the pressure of competition.
will i need to purchase a costume?
Yes. We hold an annual end-of-year recital every June where dancers from all classes are invited to show their friends and family what they have learned. In addition, there are often performance opportunities during the month of March (St. Patrick’s Day season!) and at other times during the year. We love sharing our dance with members of the community, so our dancers have done many performances at local senior centers, parish parties, school events, etc.
will there be a performance?
If your dancer wishes to dance in a competition or performance, they will be required to wear an Inishfree uniform. For beginners, this consists of a white blouse and green skirt. More information on how to order the costume will follow in the winter, but the uniform generally costs about $35. After the first year, you will have the option of continuing in the skirt and blouse or purchasing our school dress. Used dresses can cost from $200-$400 (depending on the age and condition of the dress) and new ones cost approximately $550.
This video, created by an Inishfree Massachusetts student as part of a school project, gives a glimpse into what Irish dancing looks like and how students practice!