The Irish dance world—as seen by an Irish dancer

Since St. Patricks Day is here I decided to write a story about the Irish dance that I and many people do.

When I was six years old, I started Irish dance. I never knew how popular it was in the United States until many people started telling me that they had started as well. There are two sides of Irish dance: competitive and noncompetitive. I do the noncompetitive. Both non-competitive and competitive Irish dancers have many shows in March because of St. Patrick’s Day.

I dance for Ballet Arts. Many of our shows are at nursing homes, but a few are big shows for a crowd. At Ballet Arts, there are four levels. In beginner,  you learn basic steps. Then, in advanced beginner, you get soft shoes that are similar to a highland shoe or a ballet slipper.

Once you study two years, you move to novice, where you are given hard shoes. These sometimes get mixed up with tap shoes, though they are similar to a tap shoe because the heel and toe are fiberglass. In order to receive these, you have to work hard. Finally, the prizewinner here for me—most advanced level. That’s when dancers do many shows.

In order to preform or compete, you have to get a costume. For my costume, I wear cuffs which have a Celtic pattern on them, a matching skirt and a black leotard and black tights, as well as a wig. Even if you compete or are a non-competitive Irish dancer, you have to wear a wig or curl your hair. Many people found that getting a wig is easier, so one by one little by little, people got wigs instead of curling their hair.

In Irish dance, the dancers only use their legs and their feet, nothing else. Did you know that Irish Step Dance is the only dance in the world that doesn’t utilize the arms? There are a two theories on why dancers don’t use their arms. The first one is that Irish farmers worked so long in the fields that they didn’t want to dance with their arms because they were too tired to use them. The second one is that when the British invaded Ireland, they said you cannot dance at all, so then the Irish people living there danced without their arms in protest.