About Us: Who We Are
Located in Maryland near Washington DC, the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers (RKIDs) is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that focuses on promoting and preserving the cultural tradition of Irish dancing, music, literature, and art. To that end, we provide both social activities and teach Irish social, or folk, dance classes. These dances differ from Irish step dances in that they do not require high energy jumping nor wearing of special shoes. More information about our organization is here.
The classes give us the opportunity to advance our skills in Irish dance. We are a social group — good friends who like Irish dancing in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.
You don't need to bring a partner to the dance classes.
There are two types of Irish social dances, set and ceili (pronounced kay-lee) with both accompanied by music. The ceili dances are almost entirely done using skip threes (or other step dance-style steps, e.g., the rising step in the Haymakers' Jig) and sevens with hands held high, while set dances use a variety of different types of steps. Patterned formations created by couples or individuals follow movements which characterize a particular type of dance. Originating in Ireland as a means of socializing at parties and ceilis, they often resemble square or contra dancing.
from the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers encyclopedia
The difference between ceili dances and set dances is the style in which they are danced, not the music. The music (reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slides) is specific to the dance but not to the determination of whether it is a ceili dance or a set dance.
All ceili dances are danced in the style of competitive step dancing ... hop 1-2-3s and hop 1-2-3-4-5-6-7s, up on the toes with (ideally) feet coming off the floor on the hops. In some cases, the “rise and grind” step from step dancing is used, and in one case, the “sink and grind” step from step dancing is used. A ceili dance is continuous with no breaks within the dance. The ceili dances have been specified by a dance commission in Ireland. There are 30 official ceili dances, but there are also other ceili-style dances (e.g., Every Man’s Chance, Hooks and Eyes) that are not included in the official book. The type of music used, and sometimes the exact tune, is specific to the dance.
Set dances are composed of “sets” of figures (varying from 2 to 9) that are based on the French quadrilles and that have developed into a wide variety of local variations across Ireland. Generally, there is a break between the figures in a set. They are danced in squares (sets) of four couples or half-squares (half-sets) of two couples. The footwork used is specific to the set, but in general it is much less hoppy than ceili dancing, and the feet are generally kept close to the floor, even when battering or doubling. There are hundreds of sets, and more are being choreographed all the time.
— courtesy of Marilyn Moore
RKIDs' classes are held on Tuesday evenings at a public school in Gaithersburg, MD. There is one class per evening. There are two semesters offered yearly: from September to mid-December and from January to mid-May.
Our dance class mission is "Provide a fun, safe environment of instruction and support to Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers building on existing knowledge and using familiar steps, skills, and dances."
The Typical Class Session
Each session begins at 7:00 pm and ends at 8:45. Classes begin with brief RKIDs' activities announcements, then review of steps pertinent to the dances being taught that night. Afterwards we usually do a ceili dance, followed by a break, a slow dance (waltz, march or similar two-hand dance), optional break, then a few figures from a set dance. Students are encouraged to practice and review at home what has been taught in class. There are YouTube videos available for many of the dances.
The overall goals are:
- HAVE FUN!
- Refresh our steps and skills
- Re-familiarize ourselves with dances
- Increase our fitness
- Build up speed
Our specific goals are for students to do the following tolerably well and in time to the music:
- Ceili-hold swing
- Rise and Grind step
- Basic polka steps (traveling, advance and retire, slide, housing)
- Basic reel steps (traveling, advance and retire, housing)
- Hornpipe steps
- Waltz-hold swing
- Dance at home
- Basic polka body
- Basic waltz
Click/Tap on this expanding strip to view our syllabus of core dances. Many of the current semester of dances are selected from this list.
Syllabus (Core Dances)
Waltz and Two-Hand dances also include:
- Gay Gordons (march)
- Shoe the Donkey
- Stack of Barley
Step by step instructions for most of the dances can be found by clicking the shoe icon or using the resources on our Instructions page. Bolded dance names have links to example videos, although the way we practice some of these dances may vary.
Attendees dress casually and comfortably. No special type of shoe is required, but leather- or felt-soled shoes are usually better choices than other materials since many of the dance steps are glides.
Other Club Activities
In addition to the dance classes, parties and cultural enrichment events are held during the year. When feasible, the group participates in Irish-oriented parades in the Washington DC area. Any members who are interested are encouraged to participate, but that isn't required. Members and relatives of members are allowed in our parade unit if they wear green and comply with our dress code (i.e., preferably dressed in RKIDs shirts or jackets but we can make exceptions as long as they involve green garb), and can march unassisted.