Irish Dance Styles
BRIMS offers classes in a variety of styles of Irish Dance, the general catchall term for several dance forms originating in Ireland. We have classes for all levels, from true beginner to advanced and for all ages.
Our instructors focus on non-competitive Irish dance. Although BRIMS instructors and students maintain a high standard for the instruction and performance of dance and music, the school does not participate in competitions.
Below are descriptions of the styles our instructors teach.
Irish Stepdance (hard and soft shoe) is generally characterized by a stiff upper body and fast and precise movements of the feet. It can be performed solo or in groups. Irish dancing is accompanied by Irish dance music: jigs, reels, slip jigs, polkas, slides and hornpipes. Whether in soft or hard shoes, dancers learn a body of movements, distinct to Irish dance, which, when combined, are termed “steps”.
Irish Dance Soft Shoe
Irish soft shoe dancing is performed in “soft” shoes, also known as ghillies. Soft shoes have flexible flat soles, similar to basic ballet flats, and lace up over the top of the foot. Soft shoe dancing is done high on the toes and is at once graceful and powerful.
Irish Dance Hard Shoe
Hard shoe dancing is a percussive style of dance. Modern hard shoes (also known as heavy shoes or jig shoes) have fiberglass heels and toes which produce a tapping sound when hit on the floor. Dancers in hard shoes tap and bang out rhythms to accompany Irish music. Many will recognize this style thanks to the popularity of Riverdance and other Irish dance stage shows where large numbers of dancers in hard shoes produce an exciting rhythmic drumming sound in unison.
Sean Nós (Old Style) Irish Dance
Sean nós (Irish for old style) predates Riverdance-style performance dance and has seen a huge revival of popularity around the world. Sean nós is characterized by a more relaxed upper body which allows for more freedom of movement in the arms and torso and is danced “close to the floor” with less of an emphasis on being high on the toes or crossing the feet. Individual style is highly valued in sean nós dance.
Cape Breton Traditional Dance
This percussive stepdance form hails from Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia, Canada. This form of traditional dance is closely related to percussive stepdance from Scotland and Ireland. Also performed closer to the floor than Irish hard shoe, it is more similar to sean nós dance than to competition style Irish dance.
Irish Social Dance (Sets and Céilí)
Irish set dances, which are danced by 4 couples in a square set and céilí dances, danced in long lines, are the social dances of Ireland. Different set dances are specific to distinct regions of Ireland. Céilí dances are group dances for varying numbers of dancers and are used in social gatherings and also in competition.