What Are the Oireachtas?

What Are the Oireachtas?

Plug the word Oireachtas into Google, and you may be initially a little confused. Your top results likely will be all about the Republic of Ireland’s national parliament. 

Oireachtas (pronounced ‘o-rock-tus’) is Irish for gathering. And for those in the know, an Oireachtas is an annual championship for Irish Dance held at the regional level. 


What Are the Oireachtas?

While these gatherings often function as qualifying events for National and World Competitions, Oireachtas are prestigious events in their own right and held by organizations in association with An Coimisiún Le Rincí Gaelacha, An Comhdhail na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha, or other international dance associations.

All down the Appalachian Mountains, Scotch-Irish heritage runs deep, so it should be no surprise that Irish Dancing is alive and well in our area. 

Irish Dance

Traditional Irish Dance is the form you may have seen popularized in shows such as Riverdance. Generally performed solo or in small groups, it is characterized by a rigid upper body and intricate footwork and may be referred to as Irish Stepdance. It was born out of native Irish dancing and developed throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. 

As Irish music and dance became more internationally popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, its modern forms were codified. Irish dance falls into two broad categories, ‘hard shoe’ and ‘soft shoe’. 

While each style of dance features different accompanying music, in ‘soft shoe’ dancing, the shoes are lightweight and not intended to make a sound, and ‘hard shoe’ dancing uses shoes similar to tap dancing.

The type of shoe has a significant impact on the style of dancing performed. Soft shoe dancing is energetic, with dramatic lifts, kicks, and jumps that require strength and control. It can often resemble something more akin to ballet. Hard shoe dancing is powerful and percussive, dominated by intricate foot rhythms and comparably more athletic movements.

Most Irish dancers have a solid foundation in both styles of dancing. But whichever type interests you most, there is always an opportunity to learn and improve.

Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America

The Southern Region Oireachtas for United States Irish Dancers is hosted by the Irish Dance Teachers Association of North America (IDTANA). Founded in 1964, IDTANA operates in tandem with An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CLRG) out of Dublin, Ireland. Its goal is to promote Irish Dance throughout North America, and it hosts Oireachtas for each region.

Solo Competition

Those interested in dancing and competing for a solo title at an Oireachtas will be divided by age and gender, not by skill level. Dancers showcase their skill in both hard and soft shoe dancing before judges across three rounds of performance. The exact dance and music set to be performed are selected beforehand for all dancers, so competitors are judged on skill alone.

Team Dance

Team dancing is a significant part of any Oireachtas, with competitions for Ceili Teams, Figure Choreography, and Dance Drama. Like the solo competitions, Ceili dances are performed according to strict specifications, while Figure Choreography and Dance Drama allow room for more individualization from the groups.

Team-based competition puts increased importance on team skill, precision, and creativity. 

Opportunities for Irish Dance in Asheville

The Asheville Performing Arts Academy proudly partners with the Carpenter Academy of Irish Dance (CAID). The CAID Asheville has around 30 students and is accepting new beginners and transfer students on an open enrollment basis. While its youngest is four years old, CAID offers instruction for high school students through adults in retirement to be a part of fun, fellowship, exercise, and Irish culture.

We have a number of Irish Dance class options available for those interested, including:

  • Beginners Class: Introduction to Irish dance with a focus on soft shoe skills and step work.
  • New Novice Class: For those with a bit of experience, it continues soft shoe skills and introduces hard shoe styles.
  • Intermediate Class: For those who can dance full rounds, this class focuses on technical improvement for competitions.
  • Advanced Class: Focused on champion-level dancers and preparation for Oireachtas with an emphasis on technique, style, and fitness.
  • Adult Class: This class is for any new or returning adult dancers who want to learn the basics of Irish Dance. This class will focus on solo steps and team dances and building community through dance.

If you have some experience but aren’t sure exactly where you may fall, don’t worry. All dancers are evaluated by CAID-certified staff to determine the best class placement for them. Your competition level may not always dictate the best class.

Our classes are held on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Dancers regularly compete throughout the year, mainly within a few hour's drive from Asheville, but more competitions are available for those who don’t mind the travel. Dancers actively competing attend 8-12 competitions annually. We are proud to foster a fun, creative environment that also produces dancers of the best skill level.

About the Asheville Performing Arts Academy

The Asheville Performing Arts Academy is a school based on unlimited opportunities for students to explore their interests in music, dance, and drama. It is our hope to build art and awareness in the community and provide a home for families to pursue their dreams.

With classes for students of all ages, the Asheville Performing Arts Academy is your place to discover the love of music, drama, and dance in your life. You can find us on Shiloh Road in South Asheville. Please be mindful of our studio policies, and if you have any questions about the APAA or any of our Irish Dance offerings, we are happy to answer your questions. You can contact us by phone or send us a message online.

Asheville Performing Arts Academy… where the arts come alive!