It all begins
with a little jig...
The beginner starts his or her very first lesson learning the all important body and foot positions, correct dance posture and the seven steps of the traditional Irish jig which is danced in 6/8 time. It can take from six months to a year to learn these steps. Beginners receive a certificate upon successful completion of the Irish Jig and then they are introduced to the four steps of the Traditional Reel. Next, we may introduce the Hop Jig or Single Jig. Each Irish dance school develops their own steps to traditional tunes and makes their steps “their own.” These dances are done with the arms down and tight to the side, wearing poodle socks and the Irish soft shoe, also known as a ghillie. Boys wear a reel shoe, which is similar to a jazz shoe. Dancers can remain in a beginner class for at least a year, and often longer, as each dancer learns at his or her own pace. Dancers receive certificates when they master each new dance in class.
Now, we get to dance with our friends!
Next, the dancer is taught the 2nd Jig or Jig in couples. It is the first of the step dances taught. Figure dancing is the term used when dancing with another person. Here, the dancers will use their arms with their partners. They will learn the Two Hand Reel and the Three Hand Reel in the next year or two. The Slip Jig is the last of the soft shoe dances taught and is the closest thing the Irish have to ballet. It is the one dance that boys do not do.
Ready to make some noise?
Everyone loves the sound of the hard shoe, or "heavies," as they are sometimes called. The first hard shoe dance taught is the Traditional, or Fast Hornpipe, which emphasizes the first and third beat. Dancers will not typically start in hard shoes until they are at the Advanced Beginner level and have mastered their first several soft shoe dances. At this point, the Advanced Beginner dancer must take two classes a week as the Hard Shoe class is required to be taken separately from the regular Advanced Beginner class. Hard shoe can be very exciting and challenging, as there is so much material to be learned. This is why we require a separate class at this level. After the Fast Hornpipe comes the Slow Hornpipe and then The Traditional, or Fast Treble Jig. Finally, we begin to teach the Traditional Set Dances. A Traditional Set is performed to a specific tune with specific steps that have remained unchanged, some for as long as 300 years. A Non-Traditional Set is where the teacher takes a specific piece of set music and creates a unique dance by creating personalized steps that become “their school’s steps.” As a dancer advances in skill, they will continue to add new steps to their soft and hard shoe dances which are more difficult, intricate and challenging to master.
What is a Feis?
Each year we offer a Show Class option for those dancers who would like to learn our special performance dances. These dances are not taught in the regular classes and are an additional option for the dancer who enjoys doing extra performances all year long at the variety of venues that we are asked to dance at. St. Patrick’s Day is our busiest season, but we dance for many benefits, weddings, nursing homes and other business/school groups all year long. The only requirements for taking this class is that you have earned your Jig Certificate, are attending a regular class during the show class session, and have a formal Tully school costume or Solo dress to perform in.
Dancers who choose to compete and be judged on their dancing skills go to competitions which are called Feaseanna. These are held on almost every weekend all around the country. Students are judged in the five main dances: Jig, Reel, Slip Jig, Hornpipe and Treble Jig as well as the Traditional and Non-Traditional Set dances. Dancers advance in their dance levels when they achieve the required medal placements needed. Dance levels start with your First Feis, Beginner I, Beginner 2 (Advanced Beginner) and then move to levels called Novice, Open/Prizewinner, Preliminary Champion, and Champion. Each level becomes more difficult to place out of, and it can take many years of hard work to reach the Champion level. Competitions are optional for our dancers, but most dancers enjoy the camaraderie, challenge and rewards that these competitions foster. A formal Irish Dance costume is required for all Feis competitions.