Resources: Irish Dancing

Irish dancing has seen a major boost in recent years with the global success of Riverdance and, Michael Flatley’s, Lord of the Dance. There are three dance schools that operate in Crawley who wish to extend their welcome for more participants.

Historically, the Feis has been an important part of rural cultural life. Children, teenagers and adults compete in separate competitions for titles and prizes. Today, Irish dancing has evolved yet retains most of the traditional elements of dance. There are group and solo competitions where dancers are graded by age from six to seventeen and then into the senior categories.

There are dancing championships in all four provinces, and winners of these provincial competitions qualify for the All Ireland Championships and also for World Championship titles.

The Irish word ceili originally referred to a gathering of neighbours in a house to have an enjoyable time, dancing, playing music and storytelling. Today it can refer to an informal evening of dancing. Ceilis are held in large towns and country districts where young and old enjoy together group dances.

The ceili can be traced back to pre-famine times, when dancing at the crossroads was a popular rural pastime. These dances were usually held on Sunday evenings in summer when young people would gather at the crossroads. A fiddler often performed the music with his upturned hat beside him for a collection. The fiddler began with a lively reel but he had to play it several times before the dancers joined in.

The worldwide success of Riverdance and, more recently, Lord of the Dance has placed Irish dance on the international stage. Dancing schools are filled with young pupils keen to imitate and learn the dancing styles that brought traditional Irish dance international acclaim. Today there are many opportunities to watch and enjoy Irish dancing.

For youngsters, in and around Crawley, there are a number of dance schools that operate classes throughout the week including the Andromeda School of Irish Dancing and the O’Brien School of Irish Dancing.