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Irish Dance Dictionary

A helpful guide to those new to Irish dancing

Ceili – pronounced KAY-lee. An irish dance party with group and pairs dancing.

Feis – pronounced fesh. An Irish dance competition.

Feiseanna – pronounced FESH-ah-na. Plural of feis.

Ghillies – These are the name for the standard soft shoe worn by women dancers. They are distinctive in appearance, lacing-up from near the toe to up and around the ankle and lower leg. Ghillies are used for all the light dances such as the reel, light jig, slip jig, and single jig. In addition light shoes are normally worn for figure dancing.

Hard Shoes – Black leather shoes with fiberglass heels and taps on the toes. Also called jig shoes, heavy shoes. These shoes consist of fiberglass, composite or steel tips and heels. The tips and heels are used to make a rhythmic drumming sound when performing hornpipes, hard jigs, sets and treble reels. Dances with hard shoes are more difficult to perform and thus are reserved for later when the dancer gains the more basic steps.

Hornpipe – a traditional hard shoe dance done in 2/4 or 4/4. It’s slower than a reel.

Light Jig – a soft shoe dance done in 6/8 time.

Oireachtas – pronounced Or-ROK-tuhs. These are regional or national Irish step dancing championships.

Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne – pronounced Or-ROK-tuhs RIN-kuh na KREEN-yuh. The yearly world championships of Irish dancing.

Poodle Socks - Special, white socks that must be worn by female dancers in competition.

Reel – a fast dance done in 2/4 or 4/4 time. Traditional reel is done in soft shoes or ghillies. Treble reel is performed in hard shoes.

Slip Jig – a ladies’ only dance done in 9/8 time.

T.C.R.G. or Teasgicoir Choimisiuin Le Rinci Gaelacha – means a certified Irish dance teacher by the Irish Dance Commission in Dublin.

North American Feis Commission Rankings

  • A beginner has not taken dance lessons prior to September of the previous year.
  • The following year, a beginner becomes a Beginner 2.
  • When a dancer places 1st, 2nd or 3rd in a dance, s/he moves up to novice in that particular dance.
  • A novice dancer who places 1st, moves up to prizewinner in that particular dance.
  • A prizewinner who has placed 1st in reel, slip jig, treble jig, andhornpipe moves up to preliminary championships.
  • Any dancer who wins two 1st places in preliminary championships in one calendar year, must move on to open championship the following year or as soon as the 2nd win is achieved in any age category in the following years.

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These are the name for the standard soft shoe worn by women dancers. They are distinctive in appearance, lacing-up from near the toe to up and around the ankle and lower leg. Ghillies are used for all the light dances such as the reel, light jig, slip jig, and single jig. In addition light shoes are normally worn for figure dancing.

2015 Blackbird Academy of Irish Dance