2023 Traditional Irish Music and Dance Summer Schools and Festivals

Yes! It’s that time again when you start thinking about what you might like to do for your holiday vacation, with hopefully lovely memories of years past where you have partaken of a festival or two. And what a pleasure it is to be able to do that in a relaxed way after years of COVID restrictions.

I have expanded the listing to include as many local fleadh competitions as possible, and also a number of other festivals that have a mix of Irish traditional music options with other related styles of music.

You can find your way around all 83 festivals and summer schools listed here by either using the interactive map below OR by date listing below.

(If you don’t see your festival here, please let me know)

EVENTS April 2023
EVENTS May 2023
EVENTS June 2023
EVENTS July 2023
EVENTS August 2023
EVENTS September 2023
EVENTS October 2023
EVENTS November 2023

APRIL 2023

7th-9th April 2023
Co.Roscommon Fleadh 2023
Strokestown, Co.Roscommon
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

11th-16th April 2023
Co.Longford Fleadh 2023
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

16th-23rd April 2023
Co.Kildare Fleadh 2023
Kilcock, Co.Kildare
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

15th-23rd April 2023
County Antrim Fleadh 2023
Cushendall, Co.Antrim
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

28th April-1st May 2023
Cup of Tae 2023
Ardara, County Donegal
The festival honours legendary fiddle player John ‘The Tae’ Gallagher who was born in West End, Ardara in 1923, with live traditional music, masterclasses and performances right across the lively pubs, bars and cultural locations in the town.

28th-30th April 2023
Co.Offaly Fleadh 2023
Rahan, Co.Offaly County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

28th April-1st May 2023
Féile Chois Cuain 2023
Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, Co Mayo
Louisburgh is a small town on the western seaboard in an area of great natural beauty, rich in heritage and tradition. Féile Chois Cuain is an annual celebration of this cultural heritage and it has a well-deserved reputation as one of Ireland’s premier traditional arts festivals. It is a magical weekend of music, song and dance, where an extraordinary atmosphere prevails as old friends get together and new friendships are forged. Come to Louisburgh this May Bank Holiday Weekend and experience it for yourself!

29th April – 30th April 2023
Co.Leitrim Fleadh 2023
Glencar/ Manorhamilton, Co.Leitrim
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

29th April-1st May 2023
Fleadh Cheoil Chorcai 2023
Bandon, County Cork
The Cork Fleadh Cheoil is a weekend festival comprised of céilí dancing, music sessions, street entertainment and competitions in music, singing, dancing and storytelling. Under 12 and 12/15 competitions will take place on Saturday, April 29th while 15/18 and Senior competitions will take place on Sunday, April 30th. The County Dancing Finals will be held on Bank Holiday Monday, May 1st. Two qualifiers from each competition over the Fleadh weekend will go forward to represent Cork in the Munster Fleadh Cheoil in Tralee, Co. Kerry in July.

29th April -1st May 2023
Half-Door Club Castletown TradFest 2023
Castletown Co.Laois
After a long break for Covid, The Half-Door Club international Music and Dance Festival has returned this year for a four day event of set dancing and traditional music in Castletown, Co. Laois.

MAY 2023

4-7th May 2023
Baltimore Fiddle Fair 2023
Baltimore, Co.Cork
Irish traditional music mixed with old-timey US music.We believe that a festival is like a river, in that it must keep moving in order not to stagnate. Our festival has certainly evolved over the years. Originally 9 concerts of traditional Irish music over 9 nights on a tiny stage on McCarthy’s Bar, it now takes place over 4 days all around the beautiful village of Baltimore. And while traditional Irish music is still at the heart of what we’re all about, the festival now features music from all over the world. As well as great concerts, our festival now features a packed programme of additional events such as workshops, sessions, musical boat trips, historical walking tours, film screenings, exhibitions and even some Fiddle Fair yoga.

5th-7th May 2023
Sweets of May 2023
Abbey Hotel, Ballyvourney, Co Cork
Like many other festivals in hibernation,the Sweets of May weekend of set dancing returns this year and has relocated from Kerry to Cork for their return.

10th-14th May 2023
Mayo Fleadh Cheoil 2023
Westport, Co.Mayo
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Mhaigh Eo will be hosting the 2023 Mayo Fleadh Cheoil

9th-15th May 2023
Co.Donegal Fleadh
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

13th May 2023
Co.Tipperary Fleadh 2023
Ballycommon, Co.Tipperary
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

12th-14th May 2023
Co.Westmeath Fleadh 2023
Castletown-Geoghegan, Co.Westmeath
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

13th-28th May 2023
Co.Armagh Fleadh 2023
Lurgan. Co.Armagh
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

13th-15th May 2023
Co.Dublin Fleadh 2023
Balbriggan, North Co.Dublin
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

14th May 2023
Co.Louth Fleadh 2023
St. Olivers Community College, Rathmullen, Drogheda
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

19th-21st May 2023
Feile Binn Eadair 2023
Howth, Dublin
A mostly free Irish and traditional Music Festival in the fishing village of Howth. For one weekend in May, Howth will be filled with Irish music of the past and present. Wander from gig to gig like you’re at Electric Picnic but without any entry fee thanks to our sponsors Rockshore Lager and Fingal County Council. There will be almost 30 FREE GIGS and sessions in total.

19th-21st May 2023
Co.Galway Fleadh 2023
Dunmore, Co.Galway
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

20th May 2023
Co.Waterford Fleadh 2023
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

20th-21st May 2023
Feile Nasc 2023
Marley Park, Dublin, Leinster
Féile Nasc began as a one-day traditional music and folk event in Marlay Park in 2019. In 2023, the festival will expand to two days. Two incredible days of Music and more in Marlay Park.

25th-28th May 2023
Co.Tyrone Fleadh 2023
Coalisland, Co. Tyrone
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

27th May 2023
Co.Wicklow Fleadh 2023
Avoca Village, Co.Wicklow
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

27th-28th May 2023
Galway Early Music Festival 2023
Galway, County Galway
Performing and promoting ‘early music’ in Ireland. Galway Early Music is a not-for-profit voluntarily run arts organisation. The aim of GEM is to promote both Irish and European music and dance of the 12th-17th centuries. The objectives are threefold: To bring alive the music and dance of the 12th – 17th centuries in the context of Galway’s medieval heritage through concerts given by international and national performers To increase awareness and interest in this music and dance among youth and the general public through education and participation. To attract an already existing early music audience from outside of Ireland to Galway for The Galway Early Music Festival.

27th May-5th June 2023
Fleadh Nua 2023
Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland
2023 Fleadh Nua in Ennis promises to be an exciting and innovative festival, full to the brim with Concerts, Céilís, Sessions, CD Launches, Recitals, Sean-Nós Dancing and Street Entertainment. Since 1974 Fleadh Nua has developed from a 3-day event to a festival spanning 10 days, with more than 120 separate events, where there is a welcome for everyone. There are many Irish traditional festivals organised throughout the summer months but there are few people who will dispute that Fleadh Nua which started in Dublin in 1970, is the forerunner of them all. The concept of bringing together concerts, céilithe, music, song and dancing workshops, street entertainment, and much more was innovative in its time. However, it’s still a winning formula today as evidenced by the thousands of visitors who flock to the festival every May for a week of unsurpassed traditional entertainment.

31st May- 5th June 2023
Clancy Brothers Music and Arts Festival 2023
Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary
We’re looking forward returning for our 16th year with live music and events over the June Bank Holiday Weekend for all the family to enjoy, including:Live Music in the Strand and Brewery Lane Theatres, the Live Music Pub Trail, the Under 18s Busking Competition, the Eoghan Power Memorial Ballad Singing Competition, Lunchtime Theatre in the Brewery Lane, Walks and Tours, and family fun.

JUNE 2023

1st-4th June 2023
Monaghan County Fleadh 2023
Scotstown village
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

2nd-4th June 2023
Co.Cavan Fleadh 2023
Belturbet, Co.Cavan
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

2nd-4th June 2023
Co.Sligo Fleadh 2023
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

2nd- 5th June 2023
Limerick Fleadh 2023
Kilfinane, Co.Limerick
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

2nd-5th June 2023
Co.Laois Fleadh 2023
Abbeyleix, Co.Laois

5th-11th June 2023
Co.Derry Fleadh 2023
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

9th-11th June 2023
Co.Fermanagh Fleadh 2023
Roslea, Fermanagh
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

9th-11th June 2023
Doolin Folk Festival 2023
Doolin, County Clare
A who’s who of Irish traditional music performers. Don’t miss it!

10th-18th June 2023
Co.Kerry Fleadh 2023
Ballybunion, Dromin, Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

10th-18th June 2023
Co. Clare Fleadh 2023
Cois na hAbhna, Ennis, Co. Clare
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing in Ennis, County Clare.

15th-18th June 2023
Jim Dowling Uillean Pipe & Traditional Music Festival 2023
Glengarriff, Co.Cork
The sound of the uilleann pipes will be back and taking centre-stage in the picturesque village of Glengarriff in West Cork with a festival of great music to beat them all. We have a great line-up, a top Session Trail and a few surprises. We hope you enjoy!

16th June-20th June 2023
Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival 2023
Ballydehob, County Cork
The Fastnet Maritime and Folk Festival is an international festival based in the picturesque village of Ballydehob, West Cork, featuring Maritime and other Folk music.Song Writing Competition[ Maritime] which is sponsored by IMRO.Sea songs, shanties,Song Writing Competition, workshops, Craft Stalls, a new Maritime play plus music in the pubs and a Fundraising Concert in Levis Corner House.

18th- 25th June 2023
Co.Down Fleadh 2023
Warrenpoint, Co.Down
County-level competition for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

19th-30th June 2023
BLÁSBLAS international summer school of Irish traditional music and dance 2023
Limerick, Co.Limerick
Intensive “deep dive” workshops and master classes for experienced singers, dancers and musicians with a focus on collaborative integration of understanding between the disciplines.
A residential program at the University of Limerick including international accreditation.

23rd June- 2nd July 2023
Connacht Fleadh Cheoil 2023
Ballina. Co.Mayo
Provincial-level competitions for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

24th June 2023
Buskfest 2023
Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland
BuskFest is an international busking festival that takes place in Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland

25th-30th June 2023
International Harp Festival for Irish Harp 2023
Termonfechin, County Louth
Seize this opportunity to become immersed in all aspects of traditional music for Irish harp. Develop skills and repertoire from ancient harpers’ tunes to songs and slow airs to jigs and reels.

26th-30th June 2023
Craicean Summer School 2023
Inis Oirr (Inisheer) Galway
A unique bodhran (drum) summer school on the island of Inis Oirr in the Galway Bay.

JULY 2023

1st-8th July 2023
Willie Clancy Summer School 2023
Miltown Malbay, County Clare
Affectionately known as Willie Week, this festival is held in traditional music heartland that calls music and dance lovers back year after year. There’s a great atmosphere in the town and surrounds, with plenty of sessions, céilis and busking to complement the official program of classes and recitals. An additional program of dancing is also held at the Armada Hotel- see additional website link- Armada Festival of Music & Dancing.

2nd-9th July 2023
Leinster Fleadh 2023
TU Dublin, Grangegorman, Co.Dublin
Leinster Province Fleadh, which is primarily provincial competitions for traditional musicians and dancers and other artists, organised by the local Comhaltas Cheoltóirí Éireann (CCE).

4th-6th July 2023
Slí Dhála Summer School
Blanchardstown Dublin 15, Co.Dublin
The Summer School has been organised to give musicians in Dublin 15 and beyond the opportunity to come together to meet one another, learn music together and enjoy the atmosphere of a session or two. All ages will find something of interest at our workshops and trad music, singing, and dancing sessions. There is something for all of the family.
The music workshops cater for younger musicians with our Under 12 tunes workshop.
The Teen Trad Group Workshop returns for it’s 4th edition and this is always very popular. There will be dancing and singing workshops which shouldn’t be missed.

8th-23rd July 2023
Earagail Arts Festival 2023
County Donegal
Earagail Arts Festival is a bilingual arts festival that takes place in County Donegal. It comprises 16 days of music, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, circus, and carnival along the Wild Atlantic Way.

9th-15th July 2023
South Sligo Summer School 2023
Tubbercurry, County Sligo
The South Sligo Summer School was founded in 1987 in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo to conserve and promote the rich tradition of music, song and dance of the area. With a full programme of classes, workshops, céilithe, concerts, recitals and talks, there is special emphasis on the old Sligo traditional style of playing.

10th-16th July 2023
Munster Fleadh/ Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan 2023
Tralee, County Kerry
Welcome to Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan 2023 which will be hosted by Kerry County Board of Comhaltas in Tralee, Co. Kerry.Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan is the largest provincial Fleadh in Ireland as thousands of musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and visitors from the six counties of Munster and beyond gather for an annual celebration of our Irish cultural traditions. The town of Tralee is steeped in tradition and previously has hosted Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan in 1978.We invite you to join us in Tralee from July 10th -16th 2023 for an action-packed programme of events including a wide selection of outdoor entertainment, concerts, lectures, céilithe, sessions, and most importantly the Munster Fleadh competitions where competitors from the six counties of Munster will compete for a place in the All-Ireland Fleadh in Mullingar.

10th-14th July 2023
Ceol na Coille Summer School of Irish Traditional Music 2023
Letterkenny, Co.Donegal
Learn Irish Traditional Music, Song in a county known for its culture, its beauty and friendliness. We welcome enthusiasts – adults and children from beginners to advanced levels on a full range of instruments, and boast a list of first-class tutors. A busy programme of classes, workshops, recitals, nightly sessions and concerts. Immerse yourself in Irish Traditional Music song and Gaeilge in a fun, relaxed and welcoming environment amid some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland – a great week of music and fun for all. Instruments include – Uilleann Pipes, Fiddle, Whistle, Flute, Concertina, Guitar and Piano Accompaniment, Button & Piano Accordion, Banjo, Bodhrán, Traditional Singing – for all ages.

10th-14th July 2023
Westport Schoil Cheoil 2023
Westport, Co.Mayo
Full summer school with tuition, concerts and recitals.

15th-23rd July 2023
Joe Mooney Summer School 2023
Drumshanbo Co. Leitrim
Drumshanbo is delightful – a similar format to South Sligo Summer School, the difference here is the focus is very much around the unusual main street, which has a pedestrian mezzanine above the lane of traffic, where you can sit out in the sun, dance, listen to music & enjoy the people going by and enjoy a number of excellent evening céilís.

16th-23rd July 2023
Ulster Fleadh 2023
Dromore, County Tyrone
Provincial-level competitions for traditional Irish arts of playing music, singing and dancing.

17th-21st July 2023
Meitheal Residential Summer School 2023
Villiers School, Limerick City, Ireland
Residential summer school for young traditional musicians.

22nd-29th July 2023
Scoil Acla Summer School 2023

Achill Island, Co.Mayo
Traditional music courses, art workshops, sean nós singing, writers workshop, dance workshop, sean nós dancing, basket weaving workshops in a most unique location.

23rd-29th July 2023
Belfast Tradfest 2023
Belfast. Co.Antrim
Belfast TradFest Summer Fest returns jam-packed full of traditional music, song and dance, with some of the best traditional musicians, singers & dancers from across these islands. Featuring a week long programme of workshops and a full programme of concerts, talks, lectures, sessions, céilís & festival clubs, this week is the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland and brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions, in a shared celebration of culture & heritage.

26th- 30th July 2023
Fiddlers Green Festival 2023
Rostrevor, Co Down
A wonderful festival of music, arts and culture held in July each year in Rostrevor Co. Down.


31st-July- 7th August 2023
O’Carolan Harp Festival 2023
Keadue, Co Roscommon
The Festival was started in Keadue in 1978, to commemorate the famous Harper Turlough O’Carolan who lived in the area and is buried beside Keadue. Keadue is a small village of 200 people located on the shores of Lough Meelagh at the foot of the Arigna Mountains. The Festival includes Concerts, Céilí, Tuition on the Harp, Set Dancing, Harp Recitals and a Harp Competition.

2nd-7th August 2023
Kilrush Traditional Festival 2023
Kilrush, Co.Clare
Kilrush Traditional Music and Set Dancing Festival, 2023, is a seven-day festival that takes place in Kilrush, Co. Clare. It has four free open-air céilís in the square, displays, concerts and workshops.

3rd-6th August 2023
Scariff Harbour Festival 2023
Market Square, Scariff, Co Clare
A fabulous, packed three day festival of all things local, Irish and interesting! Don’t miss a fascinating interview with Martin Hayes.

5th-7th August 2023
Ballyshannon Folk Festival 2023
Ballyshannon, Co Donegal
Welcome to Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional Music Festival, the oldest festival of its genre in the world coming to you from Ireland’s oldest town. We are situated on the Wild Atlantic Way in the beautiful county of Donegal – the coolest place on the planet!Every year over the August Bank Holiday we celebrate the very best of traditional and folk music, where our artists and audiences blend along the banks of the Erne creating memories that last a lifetime.

5th-7th August 2023
Cahersiveen Festival of Music & the Arts 2023
Cahersiveen, County Kerry
The Cahersiveen Festival will be in its 26th year in 2023 and each year we strive to bring you bigger acts and greater street entertainment. The Festival is a Family friendly festival with entertainment for adults and children alike.

6th-14th August 2023
Fleadh Cheoil na h’Eireann 2023
Mullingar, Westmeath.
The best kind of celebration and competition, with provincial finalist musicians, dancers and artists competing to win their All-Ireland categories. Comhaltas Ceolteoiri Eireann (CCE) showcase fabulous music, dance and a wide range of concerts and other events celebrating Irish culture. Don’t miss it!

9th-14th August 2023
Feakle Festival 2023
Feakle, County Clare
For a few days each August, Feakle village becomes a very special place where the best in traditional music can be heard, songs sung, dances danced and friends meet up again for another Feakle Festival.

10th-20th August 2023
Kilkenny Arts Festivals 2023
Kilkenny, County Kilkenny
Since its foundation in 1974, Kilkenny Arts Festival has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city. For ten days each August, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.

11th -13th August 2023
Howth Roots and Blues 2023
Howth, Dublin
The Howth Roots and Blues Festival is a free music festival in Howth showcasing the best in Irish roots and blues artists and is organised by Paul Byrne of In Tua Nua for Howth Tourism. While many of the artists are blues based the festival caters for fans of Country, Rhythm and Blues, Bluegrass, Americanna and reggae. Basically anything rootsy!

12th-13th August 2023
Loinneog Lúnasa 2023
Teac Jack, Derrybeg, Co Donegal
On the second weekend of August every year a musical festival hosting concerts, cabaret craiceáilte and workshops in Sean nós dancing, sean nós singing and musical instruments held in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair.

19th- 21st August 2023
Dan Furey Set Dancing Weekend 2023
Labasheeda, Co Clare
Dan Furey was a music and dance teacher who had the good fortune to live in a beautiful corner of Co Clare on the Shannon River.

23rd-27th August 2023
Masters of Tradition 2023
Bantry, County Cork
Celebrating traditional music in its’ purest form through a series of concerts and performances, directed by Martin Hayes.

25th-27th August 2023
Desmond O’Halloran Music Weekend 2023
Inishbofin, Co.Mayo
Celebrating the Inishbofin maestro with concerts, workshops, arts events and free traditional and folk music trails across island venues and landscapes. Promising an unmissable late summer reverie on the beguiling Connemara island, with contemporary music legends, Galway favourites and exciting new stars.www.inishbofin.com


1st-3rd September 2023 TBC*
Harvest Time Blues 2023
Monaghan, County Monaghan

1st- 3rd September 2023
Glenties Weekend of Dancing 2023
Highlands Hotel Glenties, Co Donegal
15th Annual Weekend Of Irish Set Dancing with set dancing workshops on Saturday and plenty of céilís.

28th September-1st October 2023
Cork Folk Festival 2023
Cork, County Cork
The Cork Folk Festival is back this September October in Cork City, Ireland’s southern musical capital. The festival will showcase Ireland’s best folk and traditional acts in 12 venues around the city.

29th September- 1st October 2023
Follow Me up to Carlow 2023
Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow
A lovely weekend of set dancing workshops and céilís.


13th-15th October 2023
Diamond Set Dancing Weekend 2023
Diamond Coast Hotel, Enniscrone, Co Sligo
A weekend of music and set dancing.

20th October 2023
Ed Reavy Traditional Music Festival
Blackwater, Cavan
Cavan Town CCÉ present a festival celebrating the music of Ed Reavy, renowned Irish-American musician/composer of traditional dance tunes.

27th-29th October 2023
Carryduff Set Dancing Halloween Weekend 2023
St Joseph’s Hall, Carryduff, Co Down
Set dancing weekend with lots of craic celebrating Hallowe’en weekend.

27th-29th October 2023 TBC*
Cooley-Collins Traditional Festival 2023
Gort, Co.Galway

27th October – 5th November 2023
Sligo Live 2023
Sligo, County Sligo
Sligo Live is a community centred festival created by musicians and music lovers to showcase the very best of talent – internationally established and emerging.


3rd-5th November 2023
Longford Set Dancing Weekend 2023
Longford Arms, Longford
A full weekend of set dancing céilís, sets and two hand dancing workshops.


Wishing you hours of joy and happiness on your music and dance journey this year.
You never know – I might see you there!
Nora Stewart
Irish Bliss
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Teaching Kids to Dance: Hop Skip Jump Clap!

St.Patrick’s Day beckons and with the last two years of disappointments and disruptions, the need to feel hopeful is persistent and growing. And for humans, what stronger symbol of hope are our children?

So, you’ve decided this is the year you’d like to do some dancing with the kids to celebrate- your kids or your students- but you’re not quite sure what to do or how to go about it. (You might also want to look at some tips for dancing during a pandemic)

I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of opportunities to teach children to dance and made plenty of mistakes.  What I learned though is that you don’t have to be perfect; in fact, it’s far better if you approach it as an experience and a journey of joy, much the way a child would do when learning something interesting, engaging and fun!


Start slow and simple– Start with something you are certain every single dancer will be able to do, and preferably something that is fun and enjoyable This ensures that dancers will gain confidence and that they feel they are part of the group, not the odd one out unable to dance.

Start with each individual dancing on their own in a large group, then gradually introduce the idea of dancing with a partner. I did this by teaching a simple, 3-4 part warm-up dance with plenty of repetition. The steps learned in warm-up could then progress to be used as a base for a brush/broom dance, allowing each child to focus on their brush and their dancing, not on each other. Then move on to a group circle dance where each child is paired with another (Rattlin’ Bog see below).

Boys germs – Be aware that some children will be alive to the “yuck” factor – that hand-holding and touching each other will be abhorrent to some children, depending on their age and experience.  So, don’t force anything. All activities and dance moves should be optional and you may need to find creative solutions to elements of dance that children are finding difficult or not responding to. Keep in mind the need for a Plan B.

Introducing dance movements – Work from what people find easiest to do and then work towards the more complex things. Build the movements and steps, bit by bit.Triangle from top to bottom of simple dance moves to more complexStart with a walk – walking is very close to an advance step for sets. A retiring step for sets is just like walking backwards – a little more tricky.
Most people can STAMP one foot while standing on the other- makes a great sound and is simple. CLAPS are also pretty simple and KICKS as finishing moves.
Little SKIPS, HOPS & JUMPS  are also easy for kids – they look and sound great when controlled and in unison. Got the idea?

For set or céilí dancing, focus on the figures first, then the dance steps. Teach the figure or the pattern of the dance first, without too much focus on what is happening with the feet- it will come. Learning dance steps, and especially battering steps, can be difficult and generally takes a lot of practice. For set dancing, I find reel steps tends to take longer to learn than jig or polka steps. That should not be a deterrent to trying to teach dance steps but be realistic about your expectations as a teacher, particularly if you have limited time.

Don’t talk too much – show them what to do, walk through it once, then dance it with some repetition, maybe 3-4 times. Get people moving as soon as possible after the class starts.

Keep the teaching sessions short- 30-40 minutes at a time is plenty of time for teaching and learning. Take note when children are becoming bored or distracted- either move into a different dance, take a break or end the class.

Music is most important – needs to be toe-tapping and inspiring enough to be still interested after listening 100 times! Even better for children if it has a catchy song that can be included in the dance. Spend time seeking out the right music and make deliberate choices.

Suggest you start with music that is slower, and increase the tempo as the learning progresses.You can slow a tune down so that the music is the same and as dancers get the hang of the movement, you can increase the pace, or not, depending on how well they are going and enjoying it.

I also have S-T-R-E-T-C-H music – tunes that have been stretched (by a sound engineer) so the music is slow at the start and gradually, imperceptibly speeds up to normal speed at the end.

Build confidence– plan your class to suit the abilities of the dancers (not your needs) and give them lots of encouragement.  Focus on what they are doing right, and not what they are doing wrong. Lots of praise works.


Green Beer and Wigs Are Not Irish

After my blog post a few years ago now, I promised myself that I was going to be as positive as possible leading up to this St.Patrick’s Day but I find myself increasingly dismayed at the lack of thoughtful, intelligent or genuine opportunities to celebrate the best of Irish on this day of days.

Some weeks ago, I received a phone call from a local establishment enquiring if we were interested in “bringing some of our girls to dance on St.Patrick’s Day”. I patiently explained that we are a group of mature adults, not kids and we don’t get dressed up or wear wigs and also that our styles of dance- Irish set dancing & Irish sean nós dancing – were a bit different to the Riverdance style. To his credit, he listened to what I had to say and was open to the idea of our group dance.

However, once I started thinking about performing while surrounded by an audience of very drunk, not very interested people, it turned me right off. And frankly, those young dancers who do perform for those audiences are doing themselves a grave dis-service. So much effort and talent, and so little respect in return.

I think the sniggering, constant jokes about drinking and being drunk, the colour palette that is stuck on forest green and the frankly ludicrous circus-like approach to St. Patrick’s celebrations has had it’s day.  I saw a frightening program on TV Old Before My Time the other night about under 30’s binge-drinkers in the UK and the terrible damage they are doing to their health. There’s nothing funny about it at all.

Why do Irish people put up with the standard stereotypes that are about a nano-metre deep? C’mon folks, you, me and we the Irish are much better than that and I think the stereotypical drunken lurching with a pint of green beer, Gu*@&#@ess shirt and hat should be consigned to the dustbin of the 1980’s.

Time to sharpen up the act, refresh the image with a celebration of the deep and rich culture that Ireland has brought to the world. Time to include alternatives that include wit, fun, conversation, stories, great energy and creativity as well as a deep soulfulness that is rightly part of a holy day.

How else to celebrate St.Patrick’s Day?

Be activeDance, of course! And if dance isn’t your thing, do our fun fast fitness program and get fit at the same time.  Or do some gentle Tai Chi to Irish music
Be happy Listen to some great Irish music whatever your mood is – soulful, joyful, uplifting.
Be confident – Sing an Irish song or organise a group sing-song.
Be reflective – gaze at a beautiful view or photo, visit a church or holy place for you.
Be generous – Make  a donation or fundraise for an Irish charity doing good work internationally, such as Trócaire or Chernobyl Children International or Save The Children give generously to a friend or neighbour in need.
Be witty – Write a limerick or host a limerick competition- such good fun.
Be hospitable – Host morning tea or a lunch with beautiful Irish food-a gorgeous brack, a dozen scones or bacon, cabbage and potatoes! Check out a few recipes online
Be learned – Celebrate Irish history, Irish writers & poets – seek information online, go out and buy or  borrow books from your local library. Or learn a few words of Irish!
Be funny – Learn 5 new jokes to tell your friends or send them your favourite funniest & uplifting YouTube videos for a laugh.
Be charming – Seek out people you’ve never met before, listen and genuinely engage with them. The Irish are the best people-magnets I know 🙂Nora and Martin strawboys

And at the end of it all, if you like, a small glass of something you’re having yourself – a hot whiskey, a port or even a pint-would be grand.

Keeping happy and healthy is all part of the day.
Sláinte agus sonas!

Nora Stewart
Irish Bliss

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