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Irish-American dance classes

Irish-American’s throughout the Brandywine Valley and Wilmington look for various ways to learn about their Irish roots and culture. Those that have small children and booked them into Irish step dance classes and Irish language classes. For the adults and seniors, there are Ceili and Set dances taught at the New Castle Country Irish Society (NCCIS).

Irish Ceili Dancing
Kimberley O'Dea

Ceili (pronounced Kaylee) is a popular form of folk dancing brought from Ireland to America. Ceili dances are based on heys ("hedges" - pairs of lines facing), round dances, long dances and quadrilles. The NCCIS teach Ceili dances for 2, 3, 4 or more dancers, or an unlimited number in a round or line dance.

These traditional Irish social dances are done to reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas and waltzes. 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, and 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.

Set dancing, sometimes called "country sets", are another popular form of folk dancing. Set dances are based on quadrilles. Set dances are done with four couples arranged in a square. The term 'set' refers to this formation and to the dance itself that usually consists of three to six figures. Each figure is a series of dance patterns or movements (e.g. 'house', lead around, square, etc.) and footwork.

The NCCIS dance classes are informal, lively and fun, and you do not need a partner.

The dance classes are held on Wednesday evenings. Mary Collins teaches beginners ceili at 7:00 P.M. followed by her regular ceili class from 7:30 to 8:30 P.M. Bud Burke ends up with set dance class from 8:00 to 9:00 P.M. Price is $6.00 for each class.

Contact: * Mary ( for information on Beginner's and
Experienced Ceili Dance Classes.
* Bud at 302-478-4568, for Lessons as above for information on Set Dance

Irish Stepdance is a style of dance with its roots in traditional Irish dance. It can be performed solo or by troupes. Two types of shoes are worn; hard shoes, which make sounds similar to tap shoes, and soft shoes, which are similar to ballet slippers. Dancers stiffen their upper bodies while performing quick, intricate footwork. Costumes are considered important for stage presence in competitive Irish stepdance. There are several levels of competition available for both individuals and groups.

There are various Irish Step Dance schools in Wilmington and the surrounding area. The most popular is the McAleer School of Irish Dancing. For Class Information: Veronica McAleer (302) 655-4675

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