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Irish Dancing is a sport that began centuries ago in Ireland, and has since migrated to other parts of the world.  There are three types of Irish Dance: Step Dancing, Ceili Dancing and Set Dancing. Both Ceili and Set Dancing are performed with other dancers and are both social dance forms.  Step Dancing is solo oriented and is more formalized.

Age to start Irish Dance....

There is no real age requirements for Irish dance.  On average most students begin at seven years old.  However there are programs available for younger children as well as adults.  A child must be able to stay in class without a parent and must follow basic dance instruction in order to begin Irish Dance.  If you want your child to compete as a solo dancer and achieve high awards consider starting them at a young age.

Levels of Irish Dance....

The levels of Irish dance will vary depending on the region where you live but usually coincide with beginner, novice, prizewinner, and championship levels. 

Everyone begins with the light jig, then moves to reel, then slip jig, and then progresses to hard shoe.  Your child will progress levels within each dance and not all dances at the same time. Progression is a matter of skill, age and experience.   For instance they could have slip jig in novice and all the rest of their dances in beginner.  Listed below is an example of how progression takes place.

  • A beginner is someone who has just started Irish dance lessons. 
  • A beginner becomes an advanced beginner the following year.
  • If a dancer places 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a dance he/she will progress to novice in that particular dance.
  • A novice dancer who places 1st, moves up to prizewinner in that particular dance.
  • A prizewinner who has placed 1st in a reel or slip jig and a jig or hornpipe moves up to preliminary championships
  • Any dancer who wins two 1st places in preliminary championships in one calendar year, must move on to open championship.

Timing, posture, rhythm, presentation, execution and complexity of steps are all considered by the adjudicator when judging a dancer.



Registration will vary based on the studio.  Contact your dance studio in early Spring to find out their registration policy.  It is ideal to start your child in classes in the beginning of a session. Most studios will register in late Spring or early Summer for September classes.  Enrollment for new students, at some studios, is on-going throughout the year.  Sometimes a studio will offer a trial period for one month and then after that you will be committing for the entire season or session.  Normally these programs are very popular and space is limited so don't delay registration or you may miss out!



Irish dance classes meet one time per week on a regular schedule.  A class will run for 1 hour.  When you register for dance you are signing up for the entire season.  Classes will run all year long with performances throughout.  Good attendance is imperative.  Absences and tardiness will result in your child missing important instruction time.

Practice in dance is extremely under-rated. Dance students many times do not consider practice an integral part of their learning.  This is in fact a fallacy;  practice is a necessity to show consistent progress. In order for your child to correctly perform several different dance elements they must be able to do it automatically without thinking about the moves.  This will only come from repetition.  Children should practice what they remember.  If your child does not remember a step or move it will be reviewed many times in class until it becomes easy for them to memorize. They can also write down their steps in a notebook after each class to help them remember what to practice.




Irish Dance can get expensive as your child progresses.  Cost include: lesson fees, hard and soft shoes, solo dresses, hair items, feis (competition) fees and practice gear. 

An Irish Dance class will normally cost 50.00 to 60.00 dollars per month for one class per week.  Your total tuition will be based on the total number of classes your child takes per month.  You will receive a discounted rate for multiple classes.  Payment is made on a monthly basis or some studios will group costs into four tuition payments for the year.  In addition, you will be charged a one time processing fee of 25.00 or 30.00 dollar.  You will also need to purchase practice wear and the proper shoes for the class that your child is taking.


Your child will participate in numerous performances throughout the year: charity functions, weddings, parades and feisanna to name a few.  Different schools have different requirements for dress for these events.  You will need to check with your teacher to find out their policy. 



The majority of dance studios do not have a standard attire for practice.  Most girls are required to wear biker shorts or tights with a tee shirt.  Boys usually wear soccer shorts and a tee shirt. It is necessary for the dance instructor to have an unrestricted view of legs, knees and feet.   Dance socks, called poodle socks, should be worn.  It is important to bring a water bottle to class.  Dance bag to hold all of the equipment is optional but practical.

As for shoes, Irish dancing shoes have become recognizable icons of the sport.  Initially your child can wear any type of soft dance shoe such as ballet shoes. Once they begin to perform or compete it is necessary to purchase Irish Dance shoes. There are two types: soft shoes (ghillies) and hard shoes (jig shoes).

Boy's Reel shoes

Boy's Reel Shoes Approximate Cost $70

Hard Shoes (Jig Shoes)   Approximate cost $70 - $125       
Girl's Soft Shoes "Pumps or Ghillies" Approximate cost  $40

Beginners and Advanced Beginners wear soft shoes only. They are made from soft leather that conforms to the foot and laces around the ankle. These should be tight on the foot for proper and safe execution of the dances.  Step dancers wear two different types of shoes: Soft shoes and Hard Shoes.  Girls and boys wear different types of soft shoes but the same type of hard shoe.  Hard shoes have fiberglass toes and heels that produce the distinctive and mesmerizing rhythms.


Entering competitions is encouraged in studios but is not mandatory. Beginning students are not required to wear full costumes to enter competitions.  Each dance school has its own special costume that delineates the spirit of the school.  Girls wear a "team or school dress" if they are competing in non-solo competition or if they are a beginner.  This will many times consist of a skirt or jumper and white blouse with a peter pan collar. Short sleeve blouses are worn in the Spring and Summer and long sleeve are worn in the Winter.

In competition (Feis), the attire is very strict.  Once a female reaches a certain level of competition it will be necessary to purchase a solo dress.  Solo dresses are one of a kind and will be made for your child.  A solo dress can run between $750 - $1500 depending on the detail of the dress. 

Most male dancers do not wear an elaborate costume.  Boys often wear black pants with a white shirt and tie or sometimes the traditional kilt with knee socks.  Some will also add the embroidered belt. 



Dance Studio Evaluation...

There are several things to consider when evaluating a dance studio.  First, you should determine the size of the classes.  The fewer students in a class the more personalized attention each student will receive.  Second, you need to know what all of the hidden costs are.  Third, check to make sure there is someone available at all times to answer your questions.  The office staff who is also the full time instructor may be spreading themselves much too thin.  Lastly, discuss with them their involvement with competition and what other activities are offered to the students throughout the year.  For instance how do they get their students out into the community to dance? 

Children who are involved with dance tend to perform better in school due to the fact that they have learned the importance of dedication, focus and practice. Irish dance is great exercise and will increase poise.  In addition,  dance also gives your child a sense of self confidence that will help them in the future.

Music to purchase....

You should invest in a wide variety of CD's for your dancer to practice to.  These CD's can be purchased on-line, at competitions or in dance studios.  Titles by Pat King, Olive Hurley, Tony Nother, Jim Butkem or Merv Bell are good choices. 

Irish Dance competitions follow rules created by the Irish Dancing Commission in Dublin, Ireland.  All registered teachers and feisanna must abide by these set rules.  In addition, the Irish Dancing Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA) set rules on a region basis that are required to be used in the United States and Canada.



Pronounced "Kay-lee". An irish dance party with group and pairs dancing.



An Irish dance competition.  Pronunced "Fesh



The soft dance shoes with laces used by girls and women.




A traditional hard shoe dance.



A judge at a feiseanna.


Beginner Level where most dancers begin.
 Light Jig


A traditional soft shoe dance.


Other Great Activities for Kids....


ART A wonderful way for children to express their creativity, while at the same time learning fundamental skills that will improve their artistic endeavors.


THEATER teaches the importance of dedication, focus and practice.



SCUBA teaches you to set goals and progress steadily towards them with the help of your instructors.


GYMNASTICS is the foundation for all sports because it teaches your child to control their body.


BIKING is a great family activity and it is something that kids love to do.