What is Irish dancing?

Irish dancing is best known for its fast leg movements and the dancer’s motionless upper body. Unlike other dance forms, in traditional Irish dance the dancers do not move their hands at all, emphasizing the precise footwork. In show-style dancing, the use of the body is freer.

Irish dancing is very technical, with a lot of attention paid to crossed legs and turnout. Ballet has also had an impact on modern Irish dancing, bringing a series of movements to it.

In Irish dance, traditional Irish music is a very important part of the sport. The dances are divided into different groups according to the style of music and the footwear used.
The tempo of the dances varies according to the level of the dancer and the type of dance.

Soft shoe dances are single jig, light jig, slip jig and light reel, and hard shoe dances are hornpipe, heavy jig and treble reel.
Reel and hornpipe are 2/4 or 4/4, slip jig 9/8 and other jigs 6/8.

Irish dancing as a hobby

Irish dancing can be practiced by anyone regardless of gender, age or skill level!
If you want a goal-oriented hobby, our dance school offers the opportunity to take grade exams for Irish dance or you can participate in competitions both in Finland and abroad.

With the sport, you get to know not only dance but also Irish music and culture.

Irish dance shoes


There are two types of footwear used in Irish dance, soft shoes and hard shoes.

Hard shoes (or jig shoes) are quite similar to tap dance shoes, except that the tips and heels of the shoes are made of fiberglass instead of metal.

Women and men wear different soft shoes. Women’s soft shoes (soft shoes, ghillies or pumps) are black lace-up leather shoes quite similar to ballet slippers.

Men’s soft shoes (reel shoes) are also made of leather but they are more like jazz shoes. However, mens soft shoes have fiberglass heels, like hard shoes that can be used to make different rhythms.

Pumps / Ghillies
Hard / Jig shoes
Reel shoes

Irish dance organizations


An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha or CLRG is the world’s largest Irish dance organization, founded in 1927. The objective of CLRG is to preserve and promote Irish Dancing, including step dancing, céili dancing and other team dancing, and also to promote the use of the Irish language.



Regional Council of Irish dancing teachers for Continental Europe and Asia, also known as RCCEA, is an expanding group of teachers certified and registered with CLRG. RCCEA organizes several competitions every year, the biggest of which is the Continental Europe & Asia Championships.


Degree titles of Irish dance teachers and judges

A dancer may choose to complete CLRG’s Irish dance teacher and adjudicator qualifications.

TMRF (Scrúdú Teastas Rince Céilí)
Irish dance teacher qualification to teach céilí dances only.

TCRG (Teagascóir Coimisiún Le Rinci Gaelacha)
Irish dance teacher qualification to teach both solo and céilí dances.

ADCRG (Ard Diploma Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha)
Qualification of a Irish dance teacher and a competition judge.

SDCRG (Scrúdaithoir Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha)
Qualification of a dance teacher as well as a competition and a examination judge.

Competitions and grade exams in Irish dancing


An Irish dance competition is referred to as a feis (plural feiseanna).
The word feis means “festival” in Irish.

Dancers are scored based on technique (placement of the feet, turn out, off of their heels, etc.), style (grace, power, etc.) and other items such as timing, rhythm, carriage, choreography and sounds in their hard shoe dances.

Dance competitions are divided by age and level of expertise. The levels are Beginner, Primary, Intermediate and Open.


Open Championship -leveled dancers take part in their annual regional Championship competition, which is known as an Oireachtas. This is also a qualifying event for the World Irish Dancing Championships (Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne).

The CLRG World Championships is the largest of all competitions, with thousands of dancers competing from all over the world. Other big competitions are, for example, All Irelands (Oireachtas Rince na hÉireann) and All Scotlands.

Grade Exams

The purpose of the grade exams is to create a strong foundation for Irish dance and to provide dancers with a sense of purpose in practicing the sport.
Grade exams differ from competitions in that each dancer is evaluated individually and receives a detailed written evaluation of their performance and a grade on the scale A+ to D-.

The grade exams consist of an optional “preliminary” level, followed by 12 levels, each of which requires increasingly more of the dancer’s skills, knowledge and abilities. All 12 grade exams must be completed in order for a dancer to apply for the TCRG teacher exam. All dancers who pass all 12 grade exams receive a diploma from the CLRG for their achievement (The Diploma of the Irish Dancing Commission).

Competing and taking grade exams in our dance school is completely voluntary.

Céilí dancing

Céilí dances are Irish group dances. Some of the céilí dances date back to the 16th century.
Most céilí dances are danced to reel or jig rhythms, but single jig and hornpipe rhythms also occur.

CLRG has published a book called Ár Rincí Céilí which has 30 different céilí dances. Those who do grade exams or prepare for TCRG exams, must know the dances.

You can compete with céilí dances even at the world championship level! Groups of two (2-hand), three (3-hand), four (4-hand), six (6-hand) or eight (8-hand) people can participate in competitions.

inSpiral Dance Company Finland and its céilí teams have participated in the RCCEA Mainland European Championships and the CLRG World Irish Dance Championships several times.


In Irish dancing, traditional Irish music is an important part of the sport. The dances are divided into different groups according to the style of music and the footwear used. The tempo of the dances varies according to the level of the dancers and the type of dance.

Single jig, light jig, slip jig and light reel dances are danced with soft shoes, while hornpipe, heavy (or treble) jig and treble reel are danced with hard shoes.
Reel and hornpipe are 2/4 or 4/4 time, slip jig 9/8 time and other jigs are 6/8 time.