To be updated as soon as the rest of the questions are here!
1) Why do you wear wigs? Isn’t your natural hair good enough?
Thanks, ‘Elorie’, that’s a great question to start with! I personally don’t really like the wigs, because they’re strange and they bounce up and down. However, it comes from some stupid tradition that Irish girls used to have curly hair, and twenty years ago everyone had to curl their hair. Unfortunately, sleeping with curlers in is a nightmare (no pun intended) and putting them in in the first place took a long time, so the wigs came in! Not all dancers wear a wig — there’s a movement to “go wigless”
2) And what’s with the stiff arms? Don’t you ever used them?
There are lots of theories why we don’t use our arms. One, (which you told me yourself, Elorie) was that the Irish traditionally danced in kitchens, where it was crowded. However, a more popular theory is that the Catholics did not want girls and boys to hold hands, so it was seen as more respectable to keep them by your sides. But in the shows, such as Riverdance or Lord of the Dance, arms are used, and the same with ceili dancing, because that’s in a group.
3) Will you ever stop overshadowing Scottish Highland Dancing?
Until you guys hurry up and get your own shows so that you end up famous, the answer to that is ‘probably’. Not many people know the difference, and in England, Highland Dancing is extremely uncommon (although obviously it’s popular in Scotland). Irish Dancing, on the other hand, is very widespread.
4) Is sock glue really necessary? There has to be a better way!
Don’t diss the sock glue. That stuff is genius. Basically, if your socks slip down during a performance or a competition it’s very annoying, so we use sock glue … which is useful, actually, and you can use it on t-shirts and bra straps too!
5) Have you ever twisted your ankle doing some of those moves (whose names I don’t know)?
Yes! Just last Tuesday I twisted my ankle in the middle of the heavy jig (while not doing anything ‘dangerous’) but I made myself carry on, and then dealt with it afterwards. I’ve also torn a ligament — not at dancing, in sports classes — and not been able to dance for a few weeks … so yes, it does happen. That’s why some steps, like rocks and toestands, are not allowed to people under a certain age!
6) What is the difference between all the different types of dances (jigs, reels etc?)
The main difference is the speed and the time signature. I don’t know how much any of my readers know about music, but the time signature is how many beats there are in a bar! Hop jigs (or single jigs) and light jigs are both in light shoes and they’re both done in 6/8 time. (shoe description coming later). That’s 6 quavers in a bar. Slip jigs (also in light shoes) are in 9/8. Reels and treble reels are in 4/4 (light and heavy respectively), Heavy Jigs (or treble jigs) are in 6/8 and the hornpipe is also in 4/4 (heavy shoes) although a different rhythm to the heavy jig!
7) How long does it take to become a competent Irish Dancer?
That varies a lot. I cannot answer that question entirely truthfully! It depends on your age, whether you’ve done any dancing before, your natural ability … put it this way, I’ve been dancing for a year and some of my dances are Intermediate (description of grades coming soon), but I know people who have been dancing three years and are only Beginner or Primary.
8 ) Where and when are dancing competitions held?
Well, anywhere. Secondary schools, community centres … that sort of place, they’re pretty common in the UK. In America they’re more often held in hotels, in ballrooms and stuff. As for when, that varies also! The Worlds and the Great Britains have a set time each year — if a feis (competition, pronounced fesh) is an annual event it’ll usually be at the same time each year.
9) Can anyone do it? Or is there a special technique that needs to be learned?
With lessons, anyone can do it. For the record, watching Riverdance a few times on the VHS player does not count as lessons. Watching Riverdance a few HUNDRED times on the player does not count either.
1o) I don’t get the shoes. Explain?
Okay. You have two types of shoes: heavy shoes and light shoes. They have a variety of name. Heavy shoes, jig shoes, hard shoes; light shoes, ghillies, soft shoes, pumps. Boys don’t have the same type of light shoe — they have boys’ reel shoes. Hard shoes are the same.
Soft shoes are similar to ballet shoes except the laces criss cross all the way along the front, they’re black and they’re made of leather. There are lots of different makes and styles, some with split sole, some with suede sole, some with full sole!
Hard shoes are a full-footed shoe, so your whole foot is covered. They have a fibreglass tip and heel which is on the outside of the shoe, and there is a squared ‘toe box’ for toestands (a little like pointe in ballet).
11) Does it matter which shoes you wear for which dance?
Yes! The slip jig is intended to be soft and graceful and the hornpipe is aggressive … you couldn’t very well reverse them!
Hard shoe dances: heavy jig (treble jig), hornpipe, treble reel
Soft shoe dances: light jig, slip jig, hop jig (single jig), reel.
12) Now you’ve confused me again. Why do some of them have two names?
That’s because of the organisation the school is registered with. There are several organisations: CLRG (An Comisiun la Rinci Gaelacha, or the Commission for Gaelic Dancing), An Comdhail, IDTA etc …. They have different names for the dances!
More questions coming soon! Comment to get your questions answered!