Reader Question: Step Dancing Lessons in Ireland

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I received a fabulous reader question that I'm sure many visitors to Ireland wonder about:

We are traveling to Ireland this summer with our 2 daughters (ages 3 & 4.5). I would love to explore a step dancing lesson for them during our trip. We are still finalizing our itinerary, but I am curious if this type of opportunity exists at all and if so where might be worth exploring.

Irish Dancers in Solo Dresses
Irish Dancers must compete in Feile to earn the sparkly “Solo Dresses”

A Little About Irish Dance

Now, my eldest daughter takes Irish dance lessons here at home and it was quite a wake up for me when she began.  When students begin they start in a soft shoe, called a ghillie, not a hard shoe like everyone knows from “Lord of the Dance”.  Hard shoe lessons usually begin after a year of soft shoe, and then slowly, as each movement is very precise.  As you can imagine, a lot of stomping goes on when the girls “graduate” to their hard shoes.

Where You Can Learn Irish Dance in Ireland

While you probably won't find anyplace to learn hard shoe Irish dance during your Irish vacation, you'll find plenty of places where you can learn ceili (kay-lee) dancing, or popular folk dancing.

The most fun place to pick up a few steps, or even a full set dance, is at a local festival.  Many festivals in Ireland include live traditional music- and where there is music you'll find dancing.  Because there are so many different types of ceili and set dancing, you'll likely find someone leading the dance and teaching the steps.

You may also be able to pick up a few steps at a local pub during an evening session. 

If you're wanting a more formal dance instruction, there are a few Irish Set Dancing classes you can attend for a nominal charge.

  • Ceili.ie lists classes in Dublin and Ballinafad, County Sligo
  • Ballyhoura, a vast area stretching from north Cork to east Limerick, has a large number of “Rambling Houses” that feature and teach Irish Set and Ceili Dancing.  If no link to the Rambling House is provided, contact Ballyhoura Country via email (info@ballyhoura.org) or Facebook.

    • Ballinvreena Crossroad Dances & Rambling House
    • ‘An Teach' Music and Dance Nights at Teach Dramalochta, County Limerick
    • Ardpatrick Irish Set and Ceili Dancing Classes at The Green Wood Inn, Ardpatrick, County Limerick
    • OpenAir Set Dancing at T'O Park, Labbamologga, Ballyanders, County Limerick
  • Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (Gathering of Musicians of Ireland) has a number of events listed on their website across the country that include music, dance and sports.

If you won't be visiting Ireland but would like to try ceili dancing, search for a local Irish Fest; you're likely to find a class or two there to get you started!

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