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How to Do Irish Step Dancing

Attention Riverdance fans! Learn how to Irish step dance with these free Howcast videos featuring the acclaimed Irish dance company, Darrah Carr Dance.

History of the Irish Step

Irish dancing has a rich history in Ireland, dating back to the 17th century. The Irish Step appeared a century later when people begin to dance solo in time to jig music. From here, Irish stepping became quite popular and branched into different styles depending on whether steps were made on the balls or heels of the foot.

The Irish step that was performed in Munster used the balls of feet for stepping, which is how modern Irish step is practiced. This style became Ireland’s national dance in the late 19th century as it began to spread to North America. During this time, the Munster style was the norm until the mid 20th century, at which point it began to incorporate movements from ballet to create the Irish step performed today.

Learn Irish Step Dance Basics

Irish dancing can be quite daunting to learn, especially when you see a dancer performing at full speed. It requires accurate footwork and leg movements while keeping the upper body and arms still. Try to learn the basic steps first as a beginner and practice them at a slow pace, gradually speeding up once you get the rhythm down. This guide should get you started with ease!

Body Position

The dance is typically performed solo or in a group, meaning that you won’t have a partner. You should keep your body fairly straight, with your arms down by your side. It’s important to keep your upper body as rigid as possible and focus on using your lower body for all of your movement. You should begin by standing on the balls of your feet, with one leg in front of the other and both toes pointing inward.

How to Do the Hop Shuffle Hop Back

One of the most iconic moves in the Irish step is the hop shuffle hop back. This is a quick move that includes five steps and will set a great foundation for any other moves you want to learn. Here’s how to do the Hop Shuffle Hop Back:

● Beginning with your right foot in front, perform a hop on your left foot.

● Now brush the ball of your right foot out in front of you.

● Quickly brush the ball of your right foot back towards you.

● Take another quick hop with your left foot.

● Now place your right foot behind your left foot.

● Each of these 5 steps should make a tapping noise. From here, the dance repeats using the opposite foot.

● Perform a hop on your right foot.

● Brush the ball of your left foot out in front of you.

● Now brush the ball of your foot as you bring it back towards you.

● Take another hop on your right foot.

● Finish by placing your left foot behind you now.

● Remember to take it slow at first and pick up speed once you feel comfortable!

Start Irish Step Dancing Today

Explore the rest of the videos in this series below for more advanced Irish dancing lessons and techniques. You’ll be ready to wow your friends in no time!


Darrah Carr

Darrah Carr Dance is a Bessie Award-nominated Irish dance company that specializes in ModERIN, a unique blend of traditional Irish step and contemporary modern dance. Recent New York City performances include NBC's The Today Show; The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall; Celebrate Brooklyn; and the company's annual season at the Irish Arts Center. Darrah Carr Dance has toured to prestigious national and international venues including MASS MoCA, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, The Yard, the JFK Museum, and the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre in Dublin.

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