What makes Irish step dancing instantly recognizable is the way the dancers keep their upper bodies stiff while their feet do all the work, moving with speed, precision, and tremendous intensity. The story has it that once upon a time people in Ireland would take doors off their hinges and use them as improvised dance floors. Of course, there wasn’t much room for maneuver! Therefore, it had to be all about the feet. Whatever the real story behind step dancing, Irish dance developed hand in hand with traditional Irish music. In more recent times, the group Riverdance has brought both of these wonderful aspects of Irish culture to a worldwide audience.
It all started with an interval performance at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, which happened to be held in Dublin that year. Riverdance put on a seven minute performance that literally brought the live audience to its feet (and surely some of the 300 million watching on television, too). Riverdance went on to perform at hundreds of venues all over the world.
Video of a 2009 Riverdance is posted below. You’ll see why the group is a such a phenomenon and won’t be surprised the video has racked up an impressive 23 million views.
It begins with a lovely duet by Nicola Byrne and Alan Kenefick. When the drummers come onstage, their percussion really intensifies things. A solo by Kenefick, involving some fast, swirling footwork leaves the audience agog. Next, the original duo reunite while a whole group of dancers appear behind them. This massively increases the beat while everyone moves forward, closer to the audience. There’s no need for any musical accompaniment: their feet are the instruments!
What did you think of this intense display of Irish step dancing? We’d love to hear from you in the Facebook comments. Also, be sure to like and share: if your friends aren’t already fans of step dancing, this video could get their feet moving!