Irish Set Dancing in Canberra


Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is Irish Set Dancing? Is it like the dancing featured in Riverdance?
Do I need to bring a partner to any of your events?
I tried Irish Set Dancing once and I got really dizzy. Is this normal?
How are dance classes structured?
Are the dances always called?
How can I support my learning in class?
Do I need to be very fit to do Irish Set Dancing?
What should I wear?
Do I need to bring anything to a class or event?




What is Irish Set Dancing? Is it like the dancing featured in Riverdance?
Irish Set Dancing is a form of traditional folk dance which is now practiced all over the world. It is danced in sets of eight dancers (four couples) to traditional Irish folk tunes such as reels, jigs, polkas, slides and hornpipes. It isn't like Riverdance which featured more solo forms of dance (step dancing) but the music is similar. There are several short videos of Irish Set Dancing on youtube - search on 'irish set dancing' or 'set dancing' for the latest selection. Please note that some of the videos are of formal displays while others show classes or more informal dancing.


Do I need to bring a partner to any of your events?

Definitely not! Irish Set Dancing is a social form of dance and it is expected that throughout a class or dance that you will dance with different people. Sometimes we have more females than males but fortunately we have some females who are able and willing to dance in the male position so sitting out is kept to a minimum.

I tried Irish Set Dancing once and I got really dizzy. Is this normal?

Some people find that they get quite dizzy when they start doing Irish set dancing. There are quite a few moves that involve turning around (sometimes quite a few times) either with a partner or solo. If you watch the room spin past you can get quite dizzy and this definitely reduces the level of enjoyment. There are some techniques for reducing the problem which we can teach you (keeping your eyes on your partner who is 'still' in relation to you, reducing the number of spins etc) and most dancers find that with experience this problem disappears.

How are dance classes structured?

The class begins with a short warm up dance. Then we usually learn a new dance or revise it from previous classes. Dances are normally taught through a combination of 'walk throughs' (walking through the parts and steps of the dance), 'talk throughs' or recaps (verbal instructions) and then dancing to a 'call' (the teacher calls out the instructions over the music). Sometimes we repeat the dance to smooth out any rough bits. We stop for refreshments about half way through the class and then do a familiar dance towards the end of class.


Are the dances always called?

Normally the dances are called but sometimes we challenge ourselves by trying to dance all or part of a dance without calling. This approach is adopted to help dancers become less reliant on the caller, learn the dance 'by heart' and increase confidence in inviting a new dancer to dance.


How can I support my learning in class?

There are many ways you can fast track your progress in this form of dance - attend more than one class if you can, come to our workshop and the ceilis and go to festivals that feature Irish set dancing. In addition you can download instructions for the dances you are learning, practice steps and dances at home and listen to Irish music.

Do I need to be very fit to do Irish Set Dancing?

No, but some fitness helps. Even if you are a bit unfit to begin with you will find that your 'dance fitness' will improve as you progress.

Comparing shoes
Kate Armstrong and Lynette Murphy compare footwear
at the Yarralumla Woolshed.
What should I wear?

Irish Set Dancing can be quite energetic so wearing layers is recommended. Many women find skirts comfortable and some men wear shorts. Shoes are probably the most critical element. When you begin a pair of comfortable shoes that have a bit of a heel and that can't come off are recommended ('slip ons' are not great). Leather soles are really useful as rubber-soled shoes tend to grip and put pressure on hip, knee and ankle joints.

If you decide to pursue this form of dance then a pair of set dancing shoes with leather soles are recommended. Ask anyone in the class about their shoes and they will be happy to head you in the right direction. In the photo to the right two dancers get down to the serious business of comparing their shoes - these are 'character' shoes with leather soles and a heel and can be purchased from Blochs.


Do I need to bring anything to a class or event?

A bottle of water is handy and some people bring a small towel, especially in summer. For the ceilis we ask dancers to bring a plate of food for supper - this does not need to be large, homemade, expensive or elaborate.