Irish step dance is the modern form of Irish dancing and its roots lay in the old style step dancing – Both solo and social dances performed by travelling dancers, which took place as early as the 18th century. The modern form of step dancing is generally performed in a more formal setting, such as a competition or other public performance. The solo step dance has two main categories which are based on the type of shoe the dancer is wearing. Common soft shoes dances include the reel and various forms of the jig. Hard shoe dances include such dances as the hard jig, hornpipe and the traditional sets which are 36 dances which are based around set dances and steps.
Irish dancing is taken very seriously and in turn the costume that is worn by the dancers is very important, it has stayed rather simple in its appearance over the years, and looking your best was its main requirement. Firstly the shoes are separated into two distinct groups, the soft shoe which can also be called the ghillies, and the hard shoe which is similar to that of a tap shoe, except is made of lighter material, yet still comes in a larger appearance. In the early days these hard shoes would be made of wood, and the taps on the sole would be either leather or wood, however these days fibreglass is used due to its extremely light weight and unique sound it makes when dancing. Boys however will not wear the ghillies as this is traditionally worn by girls. The boys have a black shoe called the reel shoe which is made out of actual leather; some say it resembles that of a jazz shoe.
Many generations the dress that people would wear when participating in dancing was simply the best clothes in which you owned. However in more recent times embroidered dresses came into fashion and it appears that more formal dresses using sequins, lace and even silk. Pricing is rather expensive however and some dresses can get into the $1000 plus category of pricing.
Irish dance is a truly magnificent dance to watch when it is done properly. Over the years it has evolved to become a great form of dance, which has still stuck to its traditional roots. If you get the chance to see a competition we highly recommend it, as this is where the best of the best dance.