Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers

preserving the cultural tradition of Irish ceili and set dancing since 1991

About Us: Who We Are

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. We are located in the Washington DC and Maryland area. We mainly learn and perform Irish social, or folk, dances. These differ from Irish step dances in that they do not require high energy jumping nor wearing special shoes. More information about our organization is here.

There are two types of Irish social dances, set and ceili (pronounced kay-lee) ? with both accompanied by music. -The figure/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

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RKIDs' classes are held on Tuesday evenings at a public school in Gaithersburg, MD. Each class is divided into two sequential sections, one beginning after the other ends. When you enroll in a semester, you choose the appropriate section that fits your level of expertise. There are two semesters offered yearly: from September to mid-December and from January to mid-May.


The Two Class Sessions

The first session, called the Beginners Class, begins at 7:00 pm and ends at 7:50. During this time the RKIDs core dances, both set and ceili, are taught. The goal of this class is to learn dances with minimal prompting. Fundamental Irish dancing skills and terms are taught. Students are encouraged to practice and review at home what has been taught in class. There are YouTube videos of many of the dances. Also, some Experienced Class section dancers attend this class session to help the beginners.

The second session, called the Experienced Class, is for the dancers who are proficient in the footwork, terminology and speed expectations of the Beginners Class. It begins at 8:05 pm and ends at 9:00. In this class, the instructor teaches more challenging set and ceili dances. A few of them may be featured at upcoming ceilis. Beginners are welcome to stay and watch till they are ready to participate in a future semester. The guideline is people may join the second class when they can do the following tolerably well and in time to the music:

Click/Tap on either of the following expanding strips to view the current core dance lists for the two classes:


The first class usually starts with an easy warm-up dance, such as waltzing, the Gay Gordons, Shoe the Donkey. Step by step instructions for these and the core dances can be found using the resources on our Instructions page.

Both classes provide us with 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.



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. 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.


Five Seconds of Dancing at Quincy's Bar in Gaithersburg