Irish Set Dancing? Is it like the dancing featured in
Do I need to bring
partner to any of your events?
Set Dancing once and I got really dizzy. Is this normal?
How are dance
Are the dances
my learning in class?
need to be
very fit to do Irish Set Dancing?
What should I wear?
Do I need to bring anything
class or event?
What is Irish Set Dancing? Is it
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Do I need to be very fit to do
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
should I wear?
Kate Armstrong and Lynette Murphy compare footwear
at the Yarralumla
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
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
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.