For the Love of Irish Dance

For the Love of Irish Dance

It is believed that Irish Dance’s origins go back to the very beginning of time. First with the Druids pagan rituals, then later with Celts in celebrations. 

As Ireland became a Christian nation, dancing became even more popular and a significant part of the culture until Britain took over, stripping Ireland of a lot of its heritage and culture.

If you’ve ever watched Irish Dancing, you’ll notice that there is very little arm movement. It’s not a mere coincidence but is rooted in the origins of the dance. In the mid-1700s Irish Dance masters surfaced and traveled to different villages teaching dance. 

There was very little room for movement. With either dancing on a table, or a door, or in some other very small space, the artistry of the dance was displayed in footwork.


This was something especially displayed in the famous Irish Dance of the tradition of Riverdance. Riverdance is typically what most people think of when they think of Irish Dance, and it became popular in 1994 at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Though popular in America, for several hundred years, Irish dancing had been a thing of the past in Ireland. Only Irish-Americans saw to it that their children learned their family history, and culture, by taking Irish Dance lessons and learning jigs and reels. 

Riverdance at Eurovision was the beginning of bringing Irish Dance back to the surface for many. 

The Seven Styles of Irish Dance

Many people, when they hear Irish Dance, they typically think of Riverdance. Though Irish Dancing is much more than just River Dancing, it is broken down into several different types.

  • Traditional Irish Step Dancing: Consists of male and female dancers in long lines, circles, and squares. Performances are accompanied by fast tempo traditional Irish music.
  • Modern Irish Step Dancing: Female dancers perform ballet up like dancing with leg swings, jumping, and sashaying while wearing soft shoes called ghillies. Males will wear tap shoes.
  • Irish Set Dancing: Couples dancing in four sets, starting together with the same choreography and then split, highlighting individual couples one at a time.
  • Irish Ceili Dancing: This Celtic word is pronounced, “kay-lee.” It is the most traditional folk dancing native to Ireland, where it originated in the 1500s.
  • Irish Sean Nos Dancing: The only Irish dance performed solo, and there is the freedom to move the arms.
  • Irish Two-Hand Dancing: Couples Dance with repeated patterns with an appearance of gliding; it was a large part of socializing in the history of Ireland.
  • Riverdance: As mentioned before, Riverdance was first performed in 1994/1995, and it was a combination of traditional Irish dance while also incorporating flamenco and Russian dervish nuances.

As we can see, Irish Dancing is more complex than most people may think. There’s a lot of art and stylings that set it apart. While like many other dances, this one is rich with history.

The Carpenter Academy of Irish Dance (CAID)

Through APAA, CAID teaches Traditional Irish Dance classes for all ages and all levels. Heather Gallagher, the Asheville Director, has been dancing since the age of four and seeks opportunities for self-expression through dance while also maintaining the tradition of Irish Dance. 

With classes as low as $65 a month, you or your child could begin to learn the beautiful and unique art of Irish Dance and hopefully fall in love with it as much as we are. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the different classes and ratings, you can visit our website. You may also feel free to call us and talk with us directly at (828) 253-4000.

Health and Safety for CAID and APAA

Both The Carpenter Academy of Irish Dance and all of the Asheville Performing Arts Academy are dedicated to the health of you and our surrounding community. With that being said, at the time, we are requiring masks during classes; however, there are plenty of breaks for you to get fresh air outside without a mask. 

We also are only taking eight students per class at the moment to allow for social distancing. Of course, we also ask for each person to carefully examine themselves and their health before attending class. 

To avoid unnecessary exposure, we are taking the precaution of asking those with any illness or symptoms to refrain from entering the studio. We’re also asking at this time for no visitors outside of our students. 

These are the guidelines that were updated for February 2022. If any of our policies change, they will be updated on our website.