ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Music and Movement: Ireland!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Music and Movement: Ireland!

Today we are THRILLED to be introducing you to our newest writer! Jedda, from This Little Project, will be joining us the fourth Monday of each month to share her specialty with us in our newest feature: MUSIC & MOVEMENT We are so lucky to be able to learn from her in this subject area and look forward to all the fun ideas she has to share as she travels through different cultures in song and dance. Please help us welcome Jedda to the team! 

Hi, I'm Jedda from This Little Project and I'm excited to be here!  One of the things that I love about being a musician and a dancer is that it brings me full circle in what I am learning about. It's one thing to read about a place in a book. But if you really want to get to know a people you've got to listen to their music and language and watch (and try!) the movements of their people's dance. That's where you will find a true reflection of a people's traditions and culture.

I hope that you will enjoy traveling around the world-in the comfort of your own home-to learn about cultures as well as the joy of music and movement and dance with your children and students!

Since I can't share my personal library with you, I'll be sharing some links online. Some come from youtube, which can be a great resource. Please be cautious and supervise your students/children when they view them.

I taught Irish step dance at my dance studio for 10 years. Now I'm a stay-at-home-mom and dance and teach music with my kids! I love the music and feel of the Irish step dancing. The world became more aware of Irish Step Dance with the shows of "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance." While the footwork and music in the shows is representative of the traditions of Irish dancing, the costuming is not traditional in those shows, as you will see below.

In Ireland, the dancers wear either "ghillies" or "hard shoes." They stand straight and tall. And they keep their arms down to their sides. There are many stories about the history of the arms being down. Most have to do with the people being oppressed by conquerors or trying to dance without getting caught!

Irish step dancers keep their feet turned out and pointed. This is much like ballet.

They also keep their feet "crossed." This means that the feet stay close together and the knees are right together-one in front of the other as much as possible.

Irish dancers don't smile as much when they dance because it is considered to distract from the dancing-especially at competitions.

These are the guillies, or "soft shoes."

These are the hard shoes. They are the shoes that make the sound.

Below is a movie clip is a girl dancing a slip jig in her soft shoes. Listen to the music. The counts go by quickly. The timing is 9/8. A dancer is good at hearing the beats in the music so he or she can stay on the beat. Hearing the beat of the music takes a lot of practice. The more you listen to music and try, the better you get!

Learning to hear the beat of the music is an important skill to learn. Children learn it easily. But it's a skill that if it isn't learned early, it's so much harder to learn as an adult!

This is a clip that will allow you to practice clapping to the beat of the music. The tune is called, "Irish Washer Woman." It is very well-known. You get to see some Irish fiddling and try to keep up with clapping to the beat as they go faster and faster!

After you finish listening to it see if you can remember the tune and try singing it!

This movie clip is about a 10-year-old girl who is in full competition dress. She will dance a "reel" and a "slip jig" for you to see.

What did you notice about the music? Is it music that you usually listen to at your house? Have you seen or heard that kind of instrument before? What instrument do you think it is?

This is a paper doll of an Irish Step Dancer to color: LINK

Here is a chance to hear what the Irish/Gaelic language sounds like with music: Listen to this to hear the beautiful sound of these songs: language and music together.

You might also enjoy This is of a woman singing with two other traditional musical instruments of Ireland: the accordian and the penny whistle.

And the music and dancing are not just for girls! This video shows the guys taking the stage and how the music and culture you are from changes the dancing. It begins with American tap danced to jazz music and then takes on some Irish dancers from Ireland. (It has a few subtitles at the first)

Now YOU try it!

Some things you really have to try to appreciate or understand them.

These activities will help you do that!

Try making rhythms on a drum with your hands or on the floor with your feet like this boy playing an Irish drum!

How about learning an Irish dance step or two?

You can even turn your own shoes into "hard shoes" to try out some of the sounds with your feet! I've done this with my kids and it's a lot of fun. Scroll down to the bottom of the page-link to see more fun things you can learn and do with your feet too!

Put a shamrock on the floor and play a game of right and left. Someone says "right" or "left" and everyone tries to quickly put the correct foot or hand on the shamrock. You could try this with pointing your toe too! It's even more fun if you have some Irish music going while you play! Try learning a new word in Gaelic.

Now when someone uses the phrase, "danced a jig" you know all about it!


  1. What a WONDERFUL post!! I love it! Thanks for all the video clips! This is just great! Of course, I love dance!


  2. Love this post! Our community has an Irish Festival in the summer and the dancing competitions are my favorite. The little one is fascinated with them! Thanks for sharing the link to the paper dolls too!