FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Irish Set Dancing Classes
This page provides answers to some frequently asked questions.
What is set dancing?
Set dancing is a means to meet up socially and have a bit of fun, while at the same time getting a good workout! (there's a
longer explanation near the end of this page, but this one really sums it up).
If you are new to it, by far the easiest and quickest way to understand what it's all about is to come along. Set dancers are very welcoming
of new people and you will get a good understanding of what it's all about at the first class.
Where do the classes take place?
Evening classes take place 3 nights a week in Dublin and there is one daytime class.
Click on the relevant day below for details, including directions and maps.
Beginners and experienced dancers welcome at all classes, just pick a class that suits you and come along and give it a try.
In any case, you can switch classes at any time, or you can flick between classes/venues on a week-to-week basis.
Who teaches the class?
My name is Pat O'Reilly and I teach the classes. All I ask is that you come along and give it a try. When I started, I reluctantly went along
to the first class, on the basis that it was "for one night only", as I didn't expect to like it - that was over 30 years ago and I've been dancing ever since!
As the song goes: you never know what you're missing till you try! So, come along and give it a try, if you decide it's not for you, there's absolutely no
obligation to stay or return.
I won't be available every week, can I come along on just the days I'm available?
Yes, certainly, come along whenever you can - while we'd love to see you every week, we'll be delighted to see you whenever you are available.
I'm not available for the next class, can I join later?
Yes, certainly, join us at any time.
What time should I be there at?
It's a good idea to get there a few minutes before class, but you are welcome to join us at any time before class finishes. Similarly,
if you need to leave early, that's not a problem. Also, if you can manage to get along in time for the Sean Nós section of the class, you have the option of having a go at that too.
What's this about a Session?
For anyone attending the classs who plays an instrument, or is learning to play, or would like to learn to play, we have a 10-minute Learner's Session at break time.
What is the cost?
Admission is 10 Euro in total, pay in class, which covers both the Set Dancing the Sean Nós.
Do you have a mailing list to keep people informed about any updates?
Yes, you can join our mailing list here:
Is the class suitable for beginners?
Yes, certainly, we welcome beginners at all classes, no experience of set dancing, or any other form of dance, is expected or required.
Why not come along and give it a try - I think you will enjoy it, but, if you decide it's not for you, there's no obligation whatsoever to stay, or to come back.
But, I've never done any dancing before, I have two left feet, will I be able to join in?
Absolutely. Some people put off starting set dancing, because they think they have 'two left feet'.
This is a great pity, because everyone can enjoy set dancing, no matter how many left feet they think they might have!
If you can walk, you can do set dancing and if you come along, I'll prove it to you, in just one class.
It's a great fun way to put in a few hours and good exercise into the bargain.
But, I can't find anyone to join me and I'd be uncomfortable walking in on my own, do others go along on their own?
Yes, the majority of people attending come along on their own. If you ask any of them, they are likely to tell you that they too were uncomfortable walking in
to the first class, but that they were made welcome immediately and that they are now very glad they overcame their reservations and made the move to come along.
In the unlikely event that you come along and decide it's not for you, there is always the option of turning around and walking back out again and this too
would be perfectly fine with us - we're a relaxed easy-going bunch of people. If you decide to join us, that's great, but if you prefer to be somewhere else,
that's fine too.
So, there is absolutely nothing to lose and a whole new world of dance, fun, exercise and new life-long friends to gain.
Go on, take that first step and come along to give it a try, you won't regret it!
OK, I'd like to give it a try, can I start now, or should I wait?
Start now, definitely! Pick a day and venue that suits you and come along to the next class.
New people join us all the time and the class is structured to cater for both new and experienced dancers at each class.
If you are interested enough to have read this far, then you obviously have an interest in what we do.
Don't stop now, "strike while the iron is hot", come along to the next class and give it a try, there's nothing to lose and a whole new world
to be discovered and enjoyed!
Do I need special shoes?
The short answer is no, you don't need any special shoes. Shoes with leather soles are easiest to dance in, but people dance in every type of
footwear and you definitely do not need special shoes to get started. However, wet shoes can be a bit "sticky" on the floor, so some people set aside a
pair of shoes to change into before dancing, so that the soles of the shoes are kept dry - any ordinary pair of comfortable shoes will do for
this purpose. You don't need to buy special shoes, but, if you do decide to invest, please note that, for this class, shoes should not be "noisy", i.e. they
should not have any metalwork, or other special material, added to increase the sound. Other
set dance teachers may have different styles of dance and some may recommend metalwork on the toes/heels to increase the sound, but this type of shoe is
not suitable for the "close to the floor" style of set dancing which is taught in this class.
In any case, there is no need to rush out and buy shoes now.
After you've been dancing for a while, you can chat to other dancers about what shoes they wear
and where they get them and you will then be able to make an informed choice.
What should I wear?
Whatever you are comfortable in. Bear in mind that set dancing can be energetic at times and you are likely to warm up during the class.
- Can I try it out first before making a commitment?
Yes, absolutely. There is in fact no commitment needed at all, if you decide it's not for you,
there is absolutely no obligation whatsoever to stay or return.
Will there be people of my age there?
Yes, people of all ages attend.
Are there health benefits to dancing?
First of all, dancing is really great fun and that's why we do it! But, as an added bonus, there is lots of evidence that dancing is good for your physcial and
mental health. For example, I recently saw a TV documentary about a study that was done in Germany, where one group of people did weekly exercise in the gym
for six months, while another group went dancing every week for six months. Both groups were medically checked before and after participating in the study
and it was found that the dancing group had greater health benefits than the gym group. Also, the majority of the dancing group kept on dancing after the study
finished, while most of the gym group gave up.
So, come along and give it a try, it's great fun and good for your health too!
Why is it not allowed to take photos or video?
Being photographed or filmed without permission makes many people uncomfortable, this is especially so in a class situation.
If you would like to take a momento photo for personal use, please mention it to me during class and I will announce it at break time, or at the end of class. Anyone who wishes to be included can then assemble for a group photo. Other than that, it is not allowed to take photos or make recordings during class.
Are the sets called?
The movements of each Figure are explained, as required, before the music starts.
People who attend regularly get to know several dances that we repeat often and can dance them with little or no assistance - this gives us
all a great sense of achievement and a reason to celebrate at the wrap-up hooley.
I've been dancing for years and I know all the steps and sets, is the class suitable for me?
The best way would be to come along for one night and try out the class, after that you'll know whether our class suits you or not.
Do I need to register or book in advance?
You don't need to register, or book in advance, but it's a good idea to join our mailing list, so that you get informed by email
of any schedule changes. In any case, just turn up at any of the classes and you will very quickly feel at home.
Can I get more information before making a decision?
Well, there isn't really any more information. The aim of this website is to give you all the information you would need in order to make a decision about
coming along to give it a try - any other questions you might have can be answered face-to-face in class.
We've added everything we can think of and the website is up to date as of today, 26th May 2017.
But, if you have read everything on this website, including:
and you still do not have enough information to make a decision on whether or not to come along, then it seems that we have forgotten something.
In this case, please click here to contact us and we will get back to you by email as soon as possible.
Please do not telephone the venue, as venue staff have no details about the set dancing classes. If you do not have access to email,
please come along to one of the classes I will do my best to answer your questions then.
What is set dancing? - the longer version
Quick summary: set dancing is primarily a means to meet socially and have a bit of fun, while at the same time getting a good workout!
Set dancing is part of our Irish folk dance tradition, which has been danced in Ireland for generations, going back to the days of the house dances,
where the neighbours gathered in small groups to dance half-sets in the kitchen, or in bigger groups for barn dances, "joins" and American wakes.
With the advent of the bungalow and the television, house dances and joins became a thing of the past and set dancing faded into the background for a
generation or so. Luckily, the revival of set dancing came along, just in time to save the dances and set dancing is now more popular than ever throughout Ireland.
Many young people, who never heard of house dances, joins, or American wakes, have now taken up set dancing and the tradition and dances are now safe and
sound in the hands of a new generation.
A set typically consists of 4 couples, facing each other in a square. In past times, it was common for just two couples to dance in a half-set, which required
less space, for example in a small country kitchen.
Typically, a set consists of between three and six figures, with a short break between each figure. The majority of today's popular sets originated in counties
along the West Coast of Ireland, including Clare, Cork, Kerry and Galway. This is probably because the sets were still being danced in these counties long after they had died out elsewhere and so,
when the revival came along,
the sets which were still being danced were then "exported" to the other parts of the country, where the knowledge of the local sets had been lost.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the people along the West Coast and those other parts of Ireland where set dancing was kept alive.
Without them, these dances could well have been lost, but, because they kept them going for us, our dance tradition is now alive and well and probably stronger than ever.
In addition, since the revival started, sets from other parts of the country have been re-discovered and new sets have been created. The tradition lives on and is
going from strength to strength!