Elements of an Irish Dancer: The SHOES & The DRESS

My little Irish dancer came home  from school sick with a fever yesterday, so I never got a chance to post Day 9 of 17 Days of Irish…however, it all works out – since a sick kid at home knocks my schedule into the trash I can sit here, drink a mug of coffee as big as my head, and do a combo Day 9 & 10 post! Miss A is recuperating in her pj’s and a tiara, playing Lego Star Wars on her DS, and Lil’ G is harassing me with a jack-in-the-box (well, actually it’s a bunny-in-the-box, but still…).

Now that you have a complete picture of the view from my world, let’s move on to the topic du jour: Irish dance shoes and costumes.

We’ll go from the ground up.

Photo Source: http://www.irish-danceshoes.com/

All dancers begin learning soft shoe dances first. Called “Ghillies” what makes Irish dance shoes different from a basic ballet shoe are the fact they are laced from toe to ankle, and do not use eyelets, but loops in the leather. Boys Irish dance soft shoes look a lot like your basic jazz shoe (in fact, Miss A often dances in a pair of jazz shoes to practice in so she doesn’t wear out her ghillies).

Oh…and here’s a dancer secret: to keep those poodle socks in place while dancing, the girls use something called sock glue:

Some dancers buy the fancy stuff, but Miss A has found that this works just as well:

Another tip…after over a year of struggling to help Miss A tie up her shoes before class, before a performance, etc;  I took the advice of some other dance moms and bought elastic to re-lace her shoes…it has saved us a lot of time and energy!

For hard shoe dances, the shoe looks like a tap shoe – but bulkier (and, in my opinion, louder).

Photo source: http://www.irish-danceshoes.com/

Hard shoe dances are so much fun to watch, and guarantee to get an audience going, especially as the dancer starts to move faster and faster (Miss A was in a show this past weekend, and I am always amazed at how fast some of those girls get their feet going!)Miss A hasn’t begun to learn hard shoe yet…maybe in another year. Oddly enough, the first hard shoe dance her troupe learns is called St. Patrick’s Day!

How many dances a dancer knows  equates to what level she is dancing at  – at the highest level, a dancer can qualify for a solo costume – those beautiful, gorgeous confections of velvet and lace and satin and silk and all sorts of  glittery things. These costumes are hand made, unique, and  – of course expensive. Many dancers will sell their costumes to another dancer once they grow out of it. To take a look at some of these incredible dresses (and to get an idea of why I need to start an extra savings account) visit Dance Again, a site where dancers can list dresses for sale.

Before they can get to that level though,  first a dancer starts out with a basic costume. For Miss A’s dance school,  it is a skirt and vest:

This is Miss A about a year ago, you can really see how much she's grown! The vest and skirt are the first costume a dancer wears before moving up to the "class" costume.

After progressing a bit, and performing in several shows – a dancer can qualify for a “class costume” which is a standard dress for that particular school of Irish dance.

Miss A is currently in one of the rental class costumes. If  she continues to dance, I will probably buy her the fancier, more elegant version of the class costume (and, obviously, more expensive).

Speaking of expensive, while I dread how much one of those solo costumes are going to cost. If Miss A sticks with it and continues to progress, I look forward to helping her choose a dress she likes, and can’t wait to see her dance in it!

Those things are like eye candy, and one of my favorite parts of a show, it’s always fun to see the combination of colors and patterns a designer puts together!

Photo Credit: http://www.theherald.co.uk



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