History Of Traditional Irish Dancing

Like a lot of Ireland’s history  there is little recorded information on the origins of Irish dancing. We do know however, it has developed into a popular dance around the world and has taken on many different forms.

The history of Irish Dancing

When the Gaels arrived in Ireland they brought a new culture along with their own customs, which would have included some form of dancing. It is believed the Celts used dancing as part of religious rituals but how much of that is actually true is unknown.

We do know that the Celts did have a major influenced over today’s Irish dancing with their Celtic designs. Irish dancing dresses are beautifully designed with Celtic design that date back since the arrival of the Celts.

In Irish history we know that Christianity arrived in Ireland after the Celts which, like the Gaels, changed the local Irish culture and customs. As Christians converted the druids of Ireland into Christianity the earlier form of Irish dancing would have changed too although keep in mind we are talking about a period that spans over hundreds of years so the way people danced in Ireland was not changed over night.

Photo of Irish DancersDuring the 18th Century in Ireland the known Dance Master appeared. These were teachers of Irish dance that would travel around the country teaching the locals the art of dancing. They were seen as important figures as the helped the spread of Irish culture throughout the island. Even today, your Irish teacher should be given the utter most respect as they are teaching an ancient form of dance that is helping to keep the Irish culture alive as we know it.

In 19th Century Ireland the Great Potato famine occurred with many lives lost due to starvation. Those who could afford it left Ireland in search for better life.

After the famine and the leaving of Irish people population numbers in Ireland dramatically declined as did our culture, customs and traditions. A number of Irish people feared the worst for our culture so the Gaelic League was formed in the late 19th Century. The goal of the Gaelic League was to promote the Irish culture and customs which included the art of Irish dancing.

The Irish Dancing Commission was formed in 1929 that set-up the regulation of teachers, rules of dance and how competitions should be judged.

The Riverdance 

Although Irish dancing was popular in various countries around the globe it wasn’t until The Riverdance was shown on television that Irish Dance exploded into the mainstream.  The Riverdance was first performed in 1994 during an interval of the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Dublin. By 1995 it caught the fascination of millions world-wide.

Here is a short video of the Riverdance being performed in 1995.




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