The term "Céilí" traditionally stands for a merry get-together. For a Céilí young and old gathered for dancing, making music and telling stories, often out of doors. Down to the present day, Céilíthe take place in Ireland, and not only for the tourists.
Céilí Dances are social or figure dances, based upon certain fundamental steps and step sequences. They are easy to learn and give real fun. You dance them in circles, squares or in long double rows, in pairs, in four or six at a time. For instance, two men and four women dance the "Harvest Time Jig". This hearkens back to the period when men during harvest time were on-route for working, and thus were scarce.
Perhaps you have already seen Jean Butler and her colleagues levitating over the stage in a seemingly effortless way and lightly like elves. This is Softshoe Dancing, which as the name implies, has not been danced with tap shoes.
Even though Softshoe Dances are regarded as the actual assets of Irish culture, only a few of the today's "average" Irish are able to master this skill nowadays.
Softshoe Dancing lives on synchrony and precision, and it really only looks that effortless!
In Hardshoe Dancing feet make the music, and shoes are the instruments. Unlike Flamenco or American Tap Dancing, for Irish Hardshoe Dancers the upright and preferably unbudging posture of the upper part of the body is distinctive.
Especially striking is the impact, when a big number of dancers let their feet fly fast and synchronously over the stage, generating a breath-taking rhythmic and even melodic rataplan.