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Irish Set Dancing

Irish Set Dancing Flat DOWN style

Social dancing - four couples in a set of eight dancers; feet flat, gliding style, relaxed body and arms. The style is with the feet very low and flat to the floor, sometimes silently pushing and swishing around the floor, and other times making a rhythmic tattoo on the floor that is hypnotic. Set dancing uses the whole body in a relaxed stance. 

Set dancing is a vibrant and fresh style of dance, based on dancing Quadrilles, which originally came from France. The Irish have added their own unique steps and music to this dancing to make it energetic, rhythmic and great fun. Irish set dancing has similar roots to American square dancing, although sets have a more disciplined structure determined by the structure of the music.

Sets have evolved differently in different parts of Ireland, with the music and unique steps of the local area integrated into their own local set. This creates interest for those learning and dancing sets, with jigs, slides, polkas and reels being the most common tempo and guide to steps. Each set is made up of a number of figures, usually between 3 – 6 figures for each set and will take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes to complete a full set. Some sets will be predominantly one type of music or step – jigs for example – while other sets will have a change of tempo for each figure.

Set dancing had a contemporary revival in the 1980’s after a long dormant period where céilí dancing and dance bands of the 1960’s were more popular. Over 120 sets have been revived and danced in recent times, and who knows how many more?


 You can read more about the intriguing and contrary story of Irish dance history at the Irish Bliss blog.


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