History of Irish Step Dancing

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Historical Origins Of Irish Step Dancing

The history of Irish step dancing traces its roots to Pre-Christian Ireland. Irish step dancing grew in tandem with Irish traditional music. Broadly divided into social and performance dancing, Irish step dancing drew its influence from old style step dancing which was for solo dancers and referred to as ‘sean-nos dance’. This form of step dancing came about in the 18th century. Irish step dancing is largely attributed to traveling Irish dance masters who introduced the movements of Irish step dancing to a wider populace.

The history of Irish step dancing reveals that modern step dancing can trace its lineage to these Irish dance masters who codified and refined Irish traditional dance. They made rules to encompass upper body and arm movements as well as foot placements and general dance routines. These then became the fundamentals on which modern Irish step dancing evolved.

Irish step dancing masters further choreographed several types of dance particular to the tunes of traditional Irish music. The steps were fixed for the specific tunes and these step dance routines were solo performances known as the Blackbird and Job of Journey Work. These beautiful and artistic routines have endured as a part of modern Irish step dancing today.

The history of Irish step dancing reveals that the Irish dance masters had instructed potential dancers to dance one dance step two times – once with either foot. Thus each Irish dance step is actually done two times. The dancers were also instructed to hold their arms more rigidly by the sides.

Modern Irish Step Dancing

Irish step dancing is now a modern form of dancing, which descended directly from the old-style of step dancing. The form of Irish step dancing that is most familiar to the general public is the Munster, otherwise known as the southern form of dancing. The Irish Dancing Commission has formalized this dance form. This dance form has flourished in the United States and Canada during festivals, brought to the New World by Irish people escaping the dreaded potato famines.

The history of Irish step dancing spans more than two thousand years. Pre-Christian inhabitants of Ireland developed step dancing for social purposes. Irish step dancing has endured to modern times as an energetic and lively dance routine.

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