Irish Dance Terms

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Please keep these in alphabetical order and use second-level section headings for each term. This will make it easier to link to the term from other sites.


One or more dancers dance forward (frequently using the promenade step) in a straight line or circle, without turning.


(pronounced “KAY-lee”) An Irish social gathering in which traditional music is played frequently by a live band while attendees dance Irish dances, tell stories and sing songs.

Céilí Dances[edit]

Traditional Irish social dances consisting of a few basic steps and arranged in formations of two to sixteen dancers. Céilí dances are performed worldwide with only slight variations.

Ceili Swing[edit]

The man and woman place their right hands on the others waist and join left hand (as if to shake hands) underneath and swing clockwise around each other. An alternate hold has partners joining right hands at chest level and gripping their partner's elbow with the left hand.


Partners face each other while holding right hand in right hand. As they dance past each other they take the left hand of the next person in the circle, continuing in this fashion until they return to their starting position (home). In a half chain dancers chain until they reach their partner, dance clockwise to face the other way and then chain home.


When performed with eight or four people this movement is known as Big Christmas and Little Christmas respectively. Dancers form a circle facing into the center of the set with arms joined behind each others backs and swing clockwise or counter-clockwise. The dancers should take hands with left arms over the next person's right arm (left over and right under).


(pronounced “FESH”) An Irish dance competition.


(pronounced “FESH-ah-na”) Plural of Feis.


A traditional hard-shoe step dance in 2/4 or 4/4 time, and performed slower than a reel.


A bouncy Irish dance performed in 6/8 time. A light jig is a traditional step dance done in soft-shoes. A Treble Jig is a traditional Step dance done in hard-shoes. There are some Ceili dances such as the Haymaker’s Jig, the Harvest-Time Jig and Lannigan’s Ball that are done in Jig time and contain Jig step elements.


A fast step Dance in 2/4 or 4/4 time. The traditional reel is performed in soft-shoes. The treble reel is performed in hard-shoes.


The reverse of the advance step. These two steps are frequently performed together such that the dancer advances and then retires.

Slip Jig[edit]

Danced to the a 9/8 time signature, the Slip Jig is the most ballet-like of all traditional Irish Step dances. It is also the most physically challenging of all the soft-shoe dances and requires the most endurance. The Slip Jig is considered a ladies dance in competition, and is characterize by graceful gazelle-like leaps that seem to hang in the air.


Basic Heavy Shoe move in Irish Step Dancing. See also Treble