Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation


Dance and Ireland: Rhythm and Hope

Irish Dancing

Ireland has a strong dance tradition:  it is no coincidence that one of the most renowned Irish exports is Riverdance. Originally conceived as the interval act of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin, Riverdance won worldwide acclaim not only for the lead dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, but for traditional Irish dancing. Riverdance has been seen live by over 23 million people in 45 different countries.

Riverdance has put traditional Irish dancing on the international map, but its history goes back hundreds of years, and it is an integral part of Irish culture. Traditional Irish dancing takes two main forms: solo dance (the type usually seen in competitions) and social dance, also known as a céilí (pronounced kay-lee), where groups of 2 to 16 people dance in pairs to traditional Irish music.

Contemporary Dance

Ireland’s dance history is rich and varied, and also encompasses ballet and many contemporary genres. Ballet Ireland currently pioneers the art form in Ireland with frequent regional tours. The contemporary dance scene is mainly based in Dublin with smaller companies operating throughout the country. Dance troupes are embedded in local communities and dance, both traditional and contemporary, remains a popular pastime with young Irish people.  Audiences regularly flock to dance shows staged by local companies nationwide in arts centres and theatres.

Irish Choreographers

Ireland has produced a number of established, internationally lauded and sophisticated choreographers, including Fabulous ‌Beast’s Michael Keegan Dolan, John Scott, Liz Roche and David Bolger all of whom create and widely tour distinctive and arresting dance works for growing audiences. Colin Dunne, an original member of Riverdance, has made the transition to contemporary dance to much acclaim, and performs in multiple events in Ireland and across the EU during the Presidency.


Presidency Dance events

Many of these dance artists will present their work during Ireland’s EU Presidency both at home and abroad in a range of events.

With the IETM (International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts) Dublin 2013 conference in April and the Dublin Dance Festival in May, we can promise a dance- filled calendar. Dance Ireland, the national body for professional dance in Ireland, celebrates its 21st anniversary in 2013 with numerous events including Made in Dublin, a special season of new dance performances at Project Arts Centre and the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. For more details on events visit our Cultural events section.