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 on the first night.
Where & when are the classes and how do I get there?
Tuesdays: 8 pm -10 pm, Churchtown, Dublin South, details and directions here
Wednesdays: 8 pm -10 pm, Drumcondra/Marino, Dublin City North, details and directions here
Thursdays: 8 pm -10 pm, Ballinafad, Sligo/Roscommon, details and directions here
Is the class suitable for beginners?
Yes, certainly, the class is particularly suitable for beginners.
We teach the basics, from scratch, no experience of set dancing, or any other form of dance, is expected or required.
Why not come along and give it a try - if you decide it's not for you, there's no obligation 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 night.
It's a great fun way to put in an evening 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
the first night, 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 night 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 each night.
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?
Shoes with leather soles are easiest to dance in, but people dance in every type of footwear.
You don't need special shoes,
but if you do decide to invest, make sure not to get "noisy" ones, such as the ones sold for tap dancing, hard-shoe, and other types of solo dance.
Whereas solo dancing shoes may have "metalwork" on the heels, toes, and/or soles, set dancing shoes do not require any metal at all on the heels, toes, or sole.
In any case, there is no need to rush out and buy shoes now. After you have 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 as the night goes on.
- 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 the sets called?
The movements of each Figure are explained, as required, before the music starts. Each term, we choose one or two sets which we dance every
night, so, people who attend regularly get to know these dances very well 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?
If you already know all of the popular sets and you can dance them, in time, without calling, then the pace of the class may seem slow to you.
You are of course very welcome to join us and we'd love to see you.
Do I need to register or book in advance and what is the cost?
You do not need to register, or book in advance, just turn up and pay on the night.
Admission is shown on the relevant page for each venue, i.e.
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, without the need to
visit the gym!
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
Clare, Cork and Kerry. 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 of Clare, Cork, Kerry and those other parts of the country where set dancing was kept alive.
Without them, we could well now be like many other parts of Europe, where the folk dance tradition is lost for ever.
Instead, our dance tradition is alive and well. In the meantime, sets from other parts of the country have been revived or created and the tradition continues
to go from strength to strength.