Claddagh School of Irish Dancing



There are two types of competitive Irish Dancing, namely Ceilli dancing which involves more than one dancer, and solo or step dancing which is for individuals.

The individual dancers compete in 6 main dances (5 for boys) which are split into 'light' and 'heavy' named after the shoes in which they are danced.

Each of the dances has a particular tempo and character but each teacher or dancing school will have their own choreography or steps for the dance so no two schools do them exactly the same!

There are also a number of set dances which are danced to particular pieces of music. For more information on set dances click here.


Light Dances

These are generally the first dances which new students will learn and are danced in light shoes (also know as ghillies, pumps and pomps, see here for more information). The dances (in the order they are taught at The Boyd School of Irish Dancing) are:




This dance originated in Scotland and is a relatively fast dance in 4/4 time (there are 4 beats to a bar). At the advanced level it tends to have lots of powerful lifts and jumps and is an athletic dance


Light Jig

The light jig is one of the oldest of the dances and as such has most consistency between dancing schools. It is danced in 6/8 time (counted 123456) and should look ...well light!


Hop Jig

Also in 6/8 time this dance is sometimes called the single jig. As the name suggests it is full of hops!


Slip Jig

The slip jig is only danced by girls, and occasionally young boys. It takes it's inspiration from ballet and is a graceful dance. It is in a 9/8 rhythm (counted 123456789)



Heavy Dances

The heavy dances are taught once most of the light dances have been learnt. The dancers wear heavy shoes with wood or fibreglass blocks on the heel and toes to make the distinctive noise:


Heavy Jig

The heavy jig is also in 6/8 time but is slower than the light shoe jigs. It can be an aggressive dance with lots of stamping!  


Originating from England this was a male dance but it is now danced by both boys and girls. It is one of the most difficult dances. It is in 4/4 or 2/4 time.  


With all dances, beginners dances are usually danced at a faster tempo than more advanced versions of the dance - slower music means more (and more complex) steps are needed!



Structure of Dances

The solo dances follow the same structure and are made up of three sections or 'steps';

1.  The Lead-Around  (danced in a circle)

2.  The First Step

3.  The Second Step

Often each of these steps will consist of choreography for a number of bars (at the lower levels this is usually 4) danced first on the 'right foot' and then on the left (i.e. they are repeated with the opposite foot doing each step).


Dancing Style

    "Tall and straight my father taught me, this is how we dance" (Riverdance)

To dance well there are many things a dancer needs to remember:

  1. Listen to the music and keep in time to it

  2. Stand tall with a straight posture; head up, shoulders back

  3. Arms straight by the sides with fists lightly clenched

  4. Dance high on the toes (on tip-toes)

  5. Feet turned out (that is toes pointing out)

  6. Pointed toes with arched feet

  7. Straight legs (in steps where they should be straight!)

  8. Move confidently over the floor

  9. Enjoy dancing and let it show through !


 More Information

A Basic Reel

The website attempts to explain a basic reel. Remember though all schools will do the dance slightly differently
Light Shoe Steps A list of advanced light shoe dance moves (with all the various names) from a popular Irish dancing discussion board
Heavy Shoe Steps As the above but for heavy shoes !


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