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Irish Céilí Dancing


Irish céilí (figure) dances are distinct from Irish Solo or Step Dances. They are fairly numerous and are of square, round and longways formations. They were danced to celebrate events or particular times of the year, eg:

  • Sweets of May to celebrate May Day

  • Haymakers Jig to celebrate the cutting of the hay

  • Harvest Time Jig to celebrate bringing in the harvest

  • High Cauled Cap to celebrate a baby’s birth

  • The Three Tunes depicts the three stages of adulthood.

Some céilí dances have an opening, a body and a number of figures whilst others are danced in longways formation and will be shorter and each pair of dancers will dance the set routine. They have various formations including:

  • Two couples - Four Hand Reel, Humours of Bandon

  • Three couples - Duke Reel, Glencar Reel

  • Four couples - Morris Reel, Eight Hand Jig

  • Six couples - Lannigan’s Ball, Waves of Tory

  • Eight couples - Sixteen Hand Reel.

Céilí dances are usually performed to lively single jigs and reels. Dances such as St Patrick’s Day, The Humours of Bandon and The Three Tunes are danced to distinctive tunes of the same name. Some of the dances are danced progressively within the dance itself such as the Bridge of Athlone or by the dancers moving on to dance with another group as in the Walls of Limerick, Seige of Ennis and Seige of Carrick.

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