Five, six, seven, eight...
Irish people have been twirling and crafting stories through dance for centuries. While traditional Irish dance has evolved over time, a handful of dancers still perform using traditional movements.
The Evolution Of Irish Dance
Gary O’Brien, an Irish dancer, performs at Celtic Nights, a dinner show that celebrates Irish culture through music, storytelling and dance. He said the show is unique because it focuses on the traditional aspects of Irish culture.
“They’re not going to see this anywhere else in Ireland, especially as traditional as we do it,” O’Brien said. “We don’t really fuse any other dance with it.”
Gary O'Brien performs in the Celtic Nights dance show at the Arlington Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.
Most traditional dances involve the dancer keeping their arms by their sides and letting their legs do the heavy lifting. There are multiple stories of why people thought the tradition started and for O’Brien, it dates back to when the English ruled Ireland.
“They didn’t want us to dance,” O’Brien said. “They were trying to kill that tradition.”
O’Brien said they used to hold dance classes in churches. Because the churches had high windows, only the upper half of dancers' bodies were visible. If the dancers held their arms by their sides and only moved their legs, it didn’t look like they were dancing.
Today, even the most traditional Irish dancers sometime incorporate arm movements to make their performances more dynamic. The Irish diaspora also influenced Irish dance through the merging of different cultures.
“We’re kind of fusing Irish dance (with) tap and hip hop, just to make it that much fresher,” O’Brien said.
Niamh McMahon performs in the Celtic Nights dance show at the Arlington Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.
Other dancers have also noticed different dance forms blending with traditional Irish dance in recent years. Niamh McMahon, a primary school teacher and Celtic Nights Irish dancer, said she’s seen ballet being incorporated into Irish dance.
“You have a lot of leaps up in the air and different kinds of movements with your feet,” McMahon said.
Ever since she was a child, McMahon said she has been dancing. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather, who was a champion Irish dancer.
“I come from a family where Irish music and Irish dance and Irish culture are important,” McMahon said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am without it.”
Top 3 Must Dos
The Celtic Nights show is at the Arlington Hotel, which is about a 10-minute drive from most places in Dublin.
The Arlington Hotel is about a 30-minute walk from most places in the city.