Irish dancing – why it’s enjoying a new lease of life


Irish dancing is a major part of Ireland’s culture and and it shows no sign of fading as we head deep into the 21st century…thanks in no small part to modern technology.

This rise of smart phones and social media has given Irish dancing a new lease of life as young performers now have the tools to create videos showing their modern take on the classic artform as well as the platforms to see their work go viral and reach a huge audience.

Over the last few years it has been great to see several talented young dancers putting out videos of their performances and showing that Irish dancing is alive and well.

Here are some of the top dancing videos of the last few years.

Phantom – a fantastic evergreen video from Irish dance stars Fusion Fighters

The Fusion Fighters have become one of Ireland’s most popular Irish dance troupes, with a growing band of followers across the world.

One of their most leading videos – titled ‘Phantom’ – was filmed at Coombe Abbey on a beautiful sunny day.

It features music by Sean Horsman, which provides a perfect backdrop for the performance.

The video begins with five dancers – Chris Naish, George Deadman, Conor Kennedy, Declan McHale & John McCullough – sat on stools in the gardens of the Abbey.

Although they are sitting they are still showing off their moves. However, it isn’t long before they get on their feet and really start to show what they can do.

Fusion Fighters star Chris Naish said: “It’s a tradition of ours to release one this time of year, especially as St Patrick’s week is our anniversary (Launched in 2013).”

The grand setting of Coombe Abbey, combined with the music, sunshine and, of course, the dancing, come together to make for a fantastic video.

He admitted that their previous efforts have set the bar extremely high and they had a lot to live up to.

Take a look at the video below.

ProdiJIG: The Revolution – Irish dancing as you’ve never seen it

Is it just us, or are Irish dancers getting cooler than they used to be?

Gone are the days of the formal, upright performers dancing to a traditional Irish fiddle. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but these days you get a bit more.

ProdiJIG: The Revolution

World Champion Irish dancer Alan Kenefick and his group ProdiJIG are the leaders of this new genre of modern Irish dancing.

Cork-born Kenefick adds an edge to his routines which are a merge of Irish and street dance and are usually performed to current upbeat R’n’B or dance music. The results are outstanding.

ProdiJIG rose to prominence in 2012 when they won Sky TV’s talent contest Got To Dance. Since then they have gone from strength to strength with their aptly named show ProdiJIG: The Revolution.

Here is a taster of their style.

Four-year-old boy is already a star of Irish dance

You could be about to see an Irish dancing legend of the future after he has already attracted the attention of some of today’s top stars – despite being just four years old.

Oscar Donnelly is a member of the Stephanie Duff Academy of Irish Dance in Scotland. He has already been crowned the All Scotlands Under 6 Irish dance champion.

Oscar Donnelly, age four

In this video, Oscar is performing a step dance which he choreographed himself! He started Irish dancing when he was just three, and has won around 18 trophies so far.

Chris Naish is the leader of one of the top Irish dance groups around, Fusion Fighters. He told Ireland Calling a bit more about the technicalities of Oscar’s dancing.

He said: “The Set Dance Oscar is performing is called the Kilkenny Races at speed 110 BPM which is something most teenagers would usually take on. In fact most dancers don’t even start in hard shoes at all until much later. It really is incredible what he is doing at his age!”

Fusion Fighters have shared the video and Chris said it is “blowing up on our page”.

Oscar Donnelly at the Scotish Championships

Oscar’s mum Annie said: “He totally loves watching Irish Dance videos online, especially Fusion Fighters, so he will be jumping for joy knowing they are sharing his dancing. He made the Kilkenny races up himself. He loves dancing to all music, not just Irish music.

“He’s always had great understanding of music and rhythm which I think makes him as good as what he is! It’s just impressive that he does all this and he’s still at nursery.”

Impressive it certainly is. If Oscar’s chooses to pursue a career in Irish dance, then surely he can be a star of the future.

Take a look at the video below.

Flash mob of Irish dancers stun Portugal

The people of Lisbon were given an unexpected treat in 2016, when the town centre was transformed into a stage by a flash mob of Irish dancers.

It looked like just another normal day on Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a picturesque square in the middle of Lisbon and a popular tourist spot.

Flashmob of Irish dancers in Portugal

All of a sudden, two Irish dancers began hopping and tapping in the centre of the square to the delight of the shocked passersby.

The two girls captured the attention of everyone and many people pulled out their mobile phones to record the impromptu performance.

However, most onlookers didn’t realise what was about to happen. As the two girls jumped, tapped, twisted and turned in perfect unison, they were joined by another two dancers, then another two, and another two.

In the blink of an eye there was an entire flash mob of Irish dancers, young and old, performing in the middle of Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

The perfectly choreographed routine saw the dancers move together in unison and take it in turns at centre stage.

The crowd of onlookers were as stunned as they were delighted and when the performance ended the dancers were greeted by cheers and applause.

The flash mob was made up of dancers from the Rince na Lisboa Irish dancing academy. They were promoting the Lisbon St Patrick’s Festival which runs for more than a week in the city.

Thankfully, there was a team of professional cameramen in and around the square to record the entire performance from every angle. The footage has now been edited into a fantastic video.

Take a look below.

Cork man beats the bullies to become Riverdance star

A young Cork man who was bullied as a child because of his passion for Irish dancing has had the last laugh – by becoming a Marquee star.

John Lonergan was taunted by many of the other kids at school – some would even go as far as to throw stones at him.

He didn’t let it stop him from doing what he loved and he continued with his Irish dancing. Now he is older, all those hours of practise have paid off as he is a ten time world champion.

Riverdance star John Lonergan

He is also able to make a living from his talent. In 2015, he performed as the lead dancer at the Marquee in Cork. It was the first time that the Riverdance has ever come to his home city.

It is amazing to think that the show had never visited one of the major cities of Ireland.

After all, it has been seen by 25m people across the world and been performed over 11,000 times in places as far reaching as Europe, North America and China.

Lonergan said: “It is a dream come true to be performing in Cork. Because Riverdance performs in Dublin every summer, it was one of those things I assumed would never happen.”

Take a look at the video below.

Irish dancers wow talent show judges

Fans of Irish dancing will love a routine performed on a talent show to the classic song Red Haired Mary.

They appeared on the Irish language TG4 show An Jig Gig and the judges and audience were blown away as the dancers strutted their stuff to the Dervish hit.

Sean Nós dancers on Irish language TG4 show An Jig Gig

The group consisted of Ryan Owens, Jack Hughes, Liam Taylor, Aaron Dorey, Ceili Faughnan, Grainne Burke, Ellen Langton and Anna Crossley from Sean Nós ar an tSionann.

The routine saw the youngsters acting out the story of the song even down to one of the characters being kicked by a donkey.

Take a look at their performance in the video below.

Bride stuns new husband with incredible Irish dance performance

A bride got her wedding party of to a flier with an incredible Irish dance performance with her friends and family.

It so happens that Yvonne McNelis is a former Riverdance star, and spent several years touring the world with the famous Irish dance act.

Riverdance star Yvonne McNelis Irish dancing on her wedding day

She thought it would be a waste to let those talents go unused on her special day, so arranged with her sisters and friends, who also are current and former Irish dance professionals, to kick-start the wedding party with a bang.

The performance was recorded by a guest at the wedding and posted on Twitter. It gained such momentum on social media it has also featured on Good Morning America on USTV.

McNelis was celebrating her marriage to former Premier League football star Brian Murphy.

She told the show: “My sisters and I kept the Riverdance performance a surprise for him and his family. They were blown away by it and were very proud.”

The video has been viewed and shared thousands of times online and even been retweeted by the official Riverdance account, with well wishes for the happy couple.

As well as being a professional Irish dance performer, McNelis is also the co-founder of the McNelis Cunningham Boyle School of Irish Dancing in Donegal.

The school was set up by McNelis and her two sisters (yes, they are also professional Irish dancers).

They aim to “teach youngsters and provide a fun, energetic and enjoyable class in a safe and comfortable environment for each child”.

You can find out more about the school by visiting their Facebook page.

By Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling. His favourite Irish Music bands are Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys.