It's been a big year for Irish dance on the Internet. From hand-dancers to Sneaky Steppers, Irish dance videos blew up YouTube in 2011.
I've compiled a list of the top Irish dance videos of the year according to YouTube statistics. Watch them all below, and have a very happy new year!
The Sneaky Steppers introduced a sense of humor to the Irish dance scene that livened up the art form in a whole new way back in 2010. By 2011, the boys (Sneaky Steppers co-founders Jason Oremus and Chris Naish) wrangled their Riverdance pals and youngsters from Australian Irish dance academies to shoot this ambush video to promote tourism in Ireland.
Since its mid-March debut, the video has been viewed more than 2 million times!
Sneaky Steppers is a Hammerstep initiative. For more info on Hammerstep, visit the crew's website and Facebook page.
Until this year, the world outside of the Irish dance bubble knew little to nothing about the drive, dedication and passion that goes into perfecting and advancing our beloved art form. After some gentle coaxing, filmmaker Sue Bourne convinced An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha to let her crew film a documentary centered around step dancers preparing for the 2010 World Irish Dancing Championships in Glasgow. This was our very first taste of the final documentary, appropriately and concisely titled "Jig."
Michael Flatley revamped his dramatic dance show Lord of the Dance, which originally debuted in 1996, to include updated costumes, new "it" dancers ("bad girl" Ciara Sexton has more than a few international championship titles under her belt, and her on-camera presence is simply electric) and a new technological twist -- 3D!
(click link to watch video)
You can't talk about hand-dancing without giving credit to ex-Riverdancers Peter Harding and Suzanne Cleary, and filmmaker Jonny Reed. This trio, known widely as Up & Over It, was launched into commercial fame in 2010. By 2011, Harding and Cleary were working their way up to the top of the talent list on "Britain's Got Talent."
(click link to watch video)
Speaking of "Britain's Got Talent," Up & Over It wasn't the only Irish dance crew making a splash in the UK. The Celtic Colleens, a troupe of dancers clad in glow-in-the-dark shoes and gloves, created a vibrant stage spectacle. Appearing as if they defy the laws of physics, these dancers presented Irish step in a new light -- err, well, darkness?
More than 150 choir singers, bell ringers and dancers broke into song and dance in an effort to spread holiday cheer. And as we learned from the St. Patrick's Day flashmob above, it's hard not to smile at the sight of cheerful Irish dancers.
Three young male dancers bring Irish dance to mainstream Dutch media with this rousing dance performance on "Holland's Got Talent."
So this is what you get when Irish dancing meets ice dancing! The skating was beautiful and all, but I couldn't help but want to yank the skaters out of my way so I could watch the Irish dancers. Still, this mixture of expression is representative of the year in Irish dance. 2011 was definitely a year of experimentation and collaboration, it seems.
And another viewpoint...
There's no other way to put it: these dancers are simply the best -- the best on the planet. Held in Dublin in 2011, the CLRG World Irish Dancing Championships brought the highest calibre of step dancers from around the globe to one venue to compete for places on the podium. The videos above show the gold medalists from each age category strutting their stuff in the parade of champions. Bravo, dancers.
Back in September, Up & Over It released a video that represented the darker side of professional show dancing. Feeling beat up and bruised after commercial success, Harding, Cleary and Reed produced this video, "Hands," a symbolic end to their hand-dancing days.
Honorable Mention: Prodijig on "Got To Dance"
Having only been on the Internet for just two weeks, this clip of unconventional Irish dancing is already sparking both debate and excitement. Prodijig, from the creative mind of Irish dancer extraordinaire Alan Kenefick, will debut on UK's "Got To Dance" on New Year's Day. We can't wait to see how this Kanye West choreography goes over with the judges!
Have any other favorite Irish dance videos posted in the last year? Tell me about them in the comments section below.