Irish dance

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Irish dance is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish social dances can be divided further into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by 4 couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations (ceili) of couples of 2 to 16 people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance. Irish social dance is a living tradition, and variations in particular dances are found across the Irish dance community; in some places, dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed.

Irish performance dancing is traditionally referred to as stepdance. Irish stepdance, popularized in 1994 by the world-famous show "Riverdance", is notable for its rapid leg movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary. Most competitive stepdances are solo dances, though many stepdancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The solo stepdance is generally characterized by a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. The solo dances can either be in "soft shoe" or hard shoe".

The dancing traditions of Ireland probably grew in close association with Irish traditional music. Although its origins are unclear, Irish dance was later influenced by dance forms from the Continent, especially the Quadrille. Travelling dancing masters taught all over Ireland, as late as the early 1900s.

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Irish Céilí dances

Irish social, or céilí (pronounced /ˈkeɪli/ in English) dances vary widely throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. A céilí dance may be performed with as few as two people and as many as sixteen. Céilí dances may also be danced with an unlimited number of couples in a long line or proceeding around in a circle (such as in "The Walls of Limerick", "The Waves of Tory", or "Bonfire Dance"). Céilí dances are often fast and complex. In a social setting, a céilí dance may be "called" -- that is, the upcoming steps are announced during the dance for the benefit of newcomers. The ceili dances are typically danced to Irish instruments such as the Irish hand drum or harp.

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