The world of Irish dance - the globalization of traditional Irish dance in the 20th century


Dance also helped cement the Irish American community. Dancers saw themselves as continuing tradition. Hast continued, “The fellowship which results from the dancers’ experiences of transcendence, repetition, and ‘habit memory’ can lead to loyalty which in turn leads to a sense of community.” These friendships contributed to the Irish American community.

In the late twentieth century the world was changing. Whelan wrote that the Troubles in Northern Ireland had a severe impact on dance. Dancer and teacher Anna McCoy from Belfast had founded a famous Irish dance team. During the Troubles, dancers found it difficult to travel to class. This led to a collapse in Irish dance there.

Despite the obstacles, Irish dance increased in popularity around the globe. The Irish Dancing Commission’s website wrote there was a growing call for an international competition. The first World Irish Dancing Championship was held in Dublin in 1969. The event’s location, the same city as the Irish Dance Commission’s headquarters, demonstrated the Commission’s position of authority. The World Irish Dancing Championships are still going strong and have been held in several Irish and American cities.

As dance gained popularity and spread throughout the diaspora, tension developed over authenticity. In the diaspora dance helped maintain a connection with the motherland and structure Irish communities. Facilitating teacher certification and the World Championships helped ease the tension, which is beneficial because step dance does not show any sign of slowing down.

Sources: B. Anderson. Imagined Communities. (New York, 2006), F. Hall. Competitive Irish Dance: Art, Sport, Duty. (Madison, 2008), E. Hobswarm. The Invention of Tradition. (New York, 1983), and F. Whelan. The Complete Guide to Irish Dance. (Belfast, 2000).