Irish step dancing is one of the more interesting activities a child, or adult, can do. It is especially impressive for those of Irish decent. There is nothing like the pride involved in a timeless “sport” that comes from your heritage. I call it a sport because it is very similar to one, albeit a unique one. It requires practice, patience, athletic ability and drive. Let’s look into it further.
Irish Step Dancing
I started my own daughter in Irish Step Dancing at a local place when she was 6. We were lucky there were two places in the area to choose from. Now there are at least 4, so the popularity is growing in many areas. Yet some areas still do not have access to this fine type of entertainment, sport and exercise.
I do not recommend a child beginning before 6 years of age. It seemed to me that the kids who started before then were simply wasting time and money for little return, until they turned 6 or older. Younger kids seemed to be basically hoping around, not fully grasping what they were suppose to be doing, or unable to ever get good form or rhythm. There is no advantage to beginning before six as the amount of talent that will be displayed in the future is directly reflected in the kid’s ability and willingness to practice, not at what age they started. So, about 6-8 years of age is a fine time to start. I have seen male dancers who placed in World Championships even though they didn’t begin dancing until 13. Don’t rush it, as this will also help to prevent early injuries.
Irish dancing is an expensive sport. It is probably one of the more expensive things you can get your child in to. The classes will start at one or two times a week, as in typical classes, but the fee to begin classes is not low. Your child will eventually, or even at first, need both soft shoes (Ghillies) and hard shoes. One of the first traumatic things you will learn is how to tie these types of shoes. You can find videos or instructions online. That is how we first learned. Dance moms will also help when they see you struggling! Buy a good pair of the Ghillies and hard shoes. This is important. Many dancers end up with foot problems from the excessive pounding.
Irish dancing has many of the same problems and characteristics of any type of youth’s dance class. You have the sometimes strange group of overly egotistical moms and kids. Or you run into the parents who don’t get involved at all, just dropping the kids off. At times the entire thing feels rushed or like a cluster “f***”, and you will wonder why you got involved.
When your child learns some of the basic dance steps you, or you and your child, will get invited and involved in doing local shows at Irish weddings, Celtic festivals, parades, etc.. For this you will have to buy some type of costume which usually represents the school. Real young children usually have a simplified version of the full official school costume (most schools have these to identify the school). Watching the young kids dance is not that thrilling and can be painfully embarrassing, but at least most fans find them cute. The steps the children learn are exceedingly difficult and so must be practiced regularly if they are going to remember them.