Irish Dancers

Irish Celebrations

2021 Irish Celebration and Day of Dance Events

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 is the 31st year of partnership between Landmark Center and the Irish Music and Dance Association (IMDA). This year, the celebrations will again be mostly virtual due to COVID.

Virtual St. Patrick’s Day Irish CelebrationMarch 17, 2021

Judy Brooks, Director of Community Programs for Landmark Center

Get ready for a full day of all-things Irish! Enjoy three sets of entertainment – 8:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 5:30 pm. So grab your coffee, tune in to the IMDA’s Website, IMDA’s YouTube Channel or the IMDA Facebook Page and join in for a full day of wonderful entertainment featuring local talented musicians, dancers and actors.

Full schedule of performances

For the wee ones!

In addition to the three sets of Irish entertainment, IMDA has some very special entertainment planned for our littlest audience members. A special “Children’s Set,” will be available all day long – on-demand on the IMDA’s Website, IMDA’s YouTube Channel or the IMDA Facebook Page. These interactive offerings, are designed to have the wee ones up on their feet and singing and dancing!

Celtic Cuties. Join instructor Alisa to learn Celtic Cuties rhymes, finger plays, and songs. This is a great way to introduce the little ones to Irish music and movement. This is a sample of the classes offered for little ones 0 to 4 through the Center for Irish Music.  
Music and Dance with Danielle Enblom (dancer, fiddler and ethnochoreologist).  Danielle has taught, performed, and studied with artists and via institutions around the world.  Kids will love getting up on their feet to learn some new songs and dances. 
Celtic Music Party with Laura MacKenzie and Ross Sutter.  An interactive session inviting kids 5 – 12 to experience musical performances, get involved through creative activities and movement, and learn about the people, cultures, and sounds behind the music. Kids are encouraged to make their own pizza box bodhran (drum) beforehand and play along.  This presentation is one of the KidsJam workshops offered by the Schubert Club.
We know that if the kids like something, they enjoy seeing it again.  So these performances will be available on-demand, all day.  So tune in whenever you have some time.

Welcome to a Day of Irish Dance! (March 14, 2021)

Welcome to a Virtual Day of Irish Dance!

Day of Dance Special LIVE CONCERT: March 14 at 2pm Courtesy of Landmark Center and the Irish Music & Dance Association! Taking place on Landmark Center’s East Entrance Porch (Market Street).

CONCERT STATUS: IT’S ON! SUNNY SKIES AND 51! bring a lawn chair, a mask or other face-covering, and enjoy the music!

A special Irish edition of Music from the Porch, with Todd Menton. This live concert will take place outdoors on Landmark Center’s Market Street porch. It is the only in-person Irish celebration event of the day. COVID-19 protocols will be in place (face masks, social distancing), and the concert will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in-person. Bring your own lawnchair!

CLICK HERE to see the concert LIVE!

March 14, all day – Sundays at Landmark: Virtual Day of Irish Dance – Find all things Irish dance, right here on Landmark Center’s Irish Celebrations webpage starting at 11 a.m. It will remain available until April 14.

Irish Dance History from the Claddagh School of Irish Dance

Perhaps the history should begin with the Celtic peoples, also known as the Gaels. These peoples spread over Western Europe including France, Northern Spain, and the British Isles, spreading to Ireland in the 3rd century BC. Saint Patrick introduced Christianity into the country in the 5th century AD. Although little is known about the dancing in this period, the artwork survived and has influenced Irish dance costumes. Many of the designs on current day costumes are based upon illustrated manuscripts of the Bible, the most famous of which is the Book of Kells.

Irish dance and culture continued to evolve and in the mid 1700’s, Dance Masters began the tradition of traveling village to village teaching the various dance steps. The four basic types of modern-day Irish music and associated dances are the jig, reel, hornpipe and the set dances. The jig, which was referenced in ancient Ireland, has several variations including the single jig and slip jig. The slip jig is the most graceful of the Irish dances and features light hopping, sliding and skipping. Only women dance the slip jig. Jig music is 6/8 time; slip jigs are in 9/8 time.

To learn more about the roots of Irish Step Dance, CLICK HERE  to read an excellent account of the customs of Irish Step Dancing!

A Day of Irish Dance at Landmark Center

You may enjoy these excerpts of Irish Step dancing at Landmark Center (from previous years’ events), with dancers using hard shoes and soft shoes called “ghillies” (pro: GILL-ees).

YOU TRY IT!  Learn two steps basic to many Irish dances and forms of Irish dance. These are step-by-step (no pun intended) videos to get you started.

Source: Irish Dance Magazine

Irish Dance “Hornpipe” and #WatchMeJig

Dance like a pro! Read this article: Irish Dance Basic Technique: 10 Things To Remember Every Time You Dance   By: Antonio Pecelli, “Home of Irish Dance”

Dance Costumes: Curly Wigs – Sequins – Colors

Judges at competitions critique the dancers primarily on their performance, but they also take into account presentation. In every level of competition the dancers must wear either hard shoes or soft shoes. Boys and girls wear very distinctive costumes. Girls must wear white poodle socks or black tights. Competition dresses have changed in many ways since Irish Dance first appeared. Several generations ago the appropriate dress was simply your “Sunday Best”. In the 1980s ornately embroidered velvet became popular. Other materials include gaberdine and wool. Today many different fabrics are used, including lace, sequins, silk, embroidered organza and more. Some dresses, mainly solo dresses, have flat backed crystals added for stage appeal. Swarovski is being used more frequently. Velvet is also becoming popular again, but in multiple colors with very different, modern embroidery. The commission dresses have stiff skirts which can be stiffened with Vilene and are intricately embroidered.

Costumes can be simple for the beginning female dancer; they often wear a simple dance skirt and plain blouse or their dancing school’s uniform. The certain colors and emblem that are used on the dresses represents the dance school to differentiate it from other dance schools. These are similar to a solo dress, but are simple with only a few colors, while are still more pounds, depending on the fabric, and may require some getting used to. School uniforms are not decorated with crystals.

At advanced levels where dancers can qualify for major competitions, solo costumes help each dancer show their sense of style, and enable them to stand out among a crowd. The dancers can have a new solo dress specially tailored for them with their choice of colours, fabrics, and designs. Some dancers will even design the dress themselves. The dancer can also buy second hand from another dancer. Since the dresses are handmade with pricey materials, unique designs, and are measured to each dancer’s body type, the dresses can cost between $600 and $4,000.

Along with having the handcrafted dresses, championship commission dancers have wigs and crowns or decorative headbands. Female dancers have the choice to wear either a wig or curl their hair, but usually in championship levels, girls choose to wear a wig, as wigs are more convenient and popular. Dancers get synthetic ringlet wigs that match their hair color or go with an extremely different shade (a blonde dancer wearing a black wig or vice versa). The wigs can range from $20.00 to $150. Usually the crowns match the colors and materials of the dresses, but some dancers choose to wear tiaras, or tiaras with a fabric crown. The championship competitions are usually danced on stages with a lot of lighting. To prevent looking washed out, dancers often wear stage makeup and tan their legs. A rule was put in place in January 2005 for Under 10 dancers forbidding them to wear fake tan, and in October 2005 it was decided that Under 12 dancers who were in the Beginner and Primary levels would not be allowed to wear fake tan or make up.

The boys commonly perform in black trousers with a colorful vest and tie and, more frequently, a vest with embroidery and crystals. Source:

If you are interested in learning more about Irish Dance, or inquiring about lessons, here is a list of Irish Dance Schools in Minnesota:

Hudson Academy of Irish Dance – offering the full range of beginner through championship level Irish dance instruction for boys, girls & adults in their studio in Wayzata.

Rince na Greine Irish Dance (Dance of the Sun) sharing the joy of Irish dance with lessons for ages 3 through adult in their Hopkins studio.

Green Fire Irish Dancers – teaching and performances for ages 5 through adult. Contemporary step dancing, hard shoe, and soft shoe. Historic and traditional dances performed in period costume. Studio in Woodbury.

The Shamrock School of Irish Step Dance – An acclaimed competitive and performance dance school offering group and individualized instruction ages 4 and up in their Eagan studio.

Eilis Academy at Escalate Dance – Aiming to inspire dancers to dedicate themselves to the tradition and athleticism of Irish dance; offering a traditional foundation for ages 4 years old on up in their studio in Osseo, MN.

O’Shea Irish Dance – Professional Irish step dance training in team, solo, and show performance with Regional & National Champions! Preschoolers through adult classes held in MN’s Irish Cultural home, Celtic Junctions Arts Center in St. Paul.

North Star Irish Dance – fostering tradition and connecting to community, offering Irish step and ceili dance dancing in Eden Prairie and Northfield.

Onórach Mulhern Geraghty School of Irish Dance (OMG)– training recreational and competitive dancers from beginners through championship level.  OMG offers classes in Dublin and Roscommon in Ireland as well as in Chicago and Eden Prairie.

Rince na Chroi (Dance of the Heart) offering performance-based Irish dance school for children and adults with a team-focus in their St. Paul studio.

Rince Nua – Offering opportunities for lifelong personal growth and excellence through Irish Dance; welcoming dancers ages 4 through Adult.  Classes in Maple Grove.

Mactír Academy of Irish Dance – Mactír Academy of Irish Dance offers both competitive and performance based classes with a focus on precision, teamwork, and grace. Studio in Minneapolis.

Corda Mór – Corda Mór (Gaelic for great heart) teaches Irish dance to approximately 100 students. Students range in age from 4 – 20, and join Corda Mor Irish Dance from across the Minneapolis metropolitan area. Dancers train at the dance studio located in Edina, Minnesota.


 …is made up of a number of styles and traditions which developed from French and English dances and formations. The Ceili (pro: KAY-lee) dance, practiced both competitively and socially, is performed by groups of two to sixteen people, and often uses traditional dance figures and formations. Its footwork is simple, and emphasis is placed on the figures and formations of the dances. Set dance is primarily a social tradition for groups of four dancers and includes elements of the intricate footwork found in step dance.


The style of dance employed for ceili dance differs greatly from that used for set dance, and has more the appearance associated with the style of step dance. In particular, it emphasizes height and extension, with dancers generally dancing on their toes (but not “en pointe” as in ballet). A movement called “side-step” or “sevens and threes” with which dancers travel sideways to the direction they are facing is common, as are jig-step movements called the “rising step” or “grinding step”. Ceili dances may be divided into figures, but a single type of tune is generally used for all the figures and the dancing does not pause between the figures.

Unlike square dances and circle dances, ceili dances are generally not called by a “caller”: the flow of dance is defined by its name. 

Ceili dances when performed socially are often performed in a progressive style. At the end of one whole iteration of the dance (lead around and body), instead of stopping, the groups move on to the next set of partners in the line. Ceili dances that can be performed progressively are: Walls of Limerick, Siege of Ennis, Haymaker’s Jig, Fairy Reel. When there is a large social gathering, there will often be a caller for the dance, though it is a very different style from square dancing caller. A ceili caller is usually the teacher or most experienced dancer of the group who has the dance memorized. They then call the movements out in a non-stylized way, intended to remind those who are non-dancers when and where to move. Social ceili dances are often the easiest dances and very easy to shuffle through as a non-dancer. A caller makes sure that everyone at a social dance can participate. Embellishments are accepted and fun in social ceili dances, women adding spins or changing the style of a swing based on the skill of a partner. Source:

Irish céilí dancing is the native group dancing of Ireland and is danced to traditional Irish music. Some of our céilí dances can be traced back to the 1500’s. Most céilí dances are danced to reels or jigs. Some are danced to single jigs and some sections of The Three Tunes are danced to hornpipes.

Céilí dances can have various formations including two couples (Four Hand Reel), three couples (Duke Reel), four couples (Morris Reel, Eight Hand Jig etc.), six couples, or eight couples (Sixteen Hand Reel) in a group. Lines of two opposite two, three opposite three, or four opposite four. Each line would progress to meet a new line of dancers and repeat the same movements with them. 

Some dances are performed by a line of men facing a line of women, while others are performed by any number of couples in a circle.  Source: /

LEARN TO DANCE A BASIC CEILI! CLICK HERE to watch and learn! Grab family or friends and take a spin!


Irish set dance, sometimes called “country sets”, is a popular form of folk dancing in Ireland. Set dances are based on quadrilles, which were court dances. These were transformed by the Irish into a unique folk dance of the Irish rural communities. Four couples are arranged in the form of a square, with each couple creating “the sides” of the square. The eight dancers in the group and the dance itself are called a “set”. The dance is a sequence of several dance figures, which usually have a common theme or structure. The figures usually begin and end with repeated parts that everyone dances, and then during the figure each couple or pair of couples will dance separately. In the set, the couple with their backs to the band are traditionally named “First Tops” with “Second Tops” facing them. The couple on First Tops left hand side is called “First Sides” with “Second Sides” facing. Usually, the First Tops are the first to dance; Second Sides are almost always the last couple to dance, and is therefore a good place for beginners to start, as they get more time to watch the demonstrations of the figure that the other couples give.

Set dances from a particular region usually have similar elements. For instance, sets from the Connemara region (such as the Connemara Reel Set, the South Galway Reel Set and the Claddagh Set) have the First Sides on the right of the First Tops, and sets from the Clare region often involve footwork similar to Irish Stepdance or traditional freeform Sean-nós (pro: SHAN-ohss) dance (which emphasizes a “battering” step).

Distinctive set dances and dance regions emerged in the beginning of the 19th century and evolved as popular house dances separate from the more formal Irish step-dancing tradition. In some homesteads a kitchen pot was placed under the flag stones as an extra acoustical element for the house dance.

Set dance differs from square dance and circle dance in that it does not require a caller (a person who ‘calls’ the dance formation sequence out loud to the dancers): the sequence of figures is predefined by the name of the set. In places with a large community of set dancers, like Ireland or New York City, it is usual for dances to be uncalled because most dancers already know the instructions for the common sets. However, at venues with larger numbers of occasional dancers, a caller is often present to give instructions as the dance progresses, for those people who are not yet familiar with the set.

Irish Set (or ‘Country’) Dancing: Demonstrations & Lessons

The Claddahg Set: The Reels From: Matt Cunningham – Irish Set Dancing Made Easy

The Clare Orange & Green: All six figures From: Matt Cunningham – Irish Set Dancing Made Easy


Once you are comfortable with the steps in a ceili or set dance, you can review again the Irish Dance “Hornpipe”  video and the #WatchMeJig video to learn steps that are often used in these dances.


The Twin Cities’ own Irish Music & Dance Association is the place to find Ceili and Set dancing instruction, as well as social dancing (when there is no pandemic…) to practice your steps. Learning Irish social dancing is like playing tennis: you have to dance with a partner who is more skilled than you to learn it quickly and properly! Bring your partner – and split up!

To find a complete and up-to-date list of all Twin Cities Irish Social Dancing, please visit: Loma Mor Irish Dance Club to find out where to learn Set, Ceili, and other styles of social dance classes and dances.  Or contact Karen Cieminski:

Visit their WEBPAGE to learn more!