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 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

Competitions in Irish dancing


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

Dance competitions are divided by age and level of expertise. 
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.


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.

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.