Are You Too Old To Irish Dance? Never! by Kathy Nelson TCRG

Are you too old for Irish Dance?

Many adults are interested in beginning Irish dance but they think they are too old or not coordinated enough. I began Irish Dance in my 40’s. I have found this type of dance to be extremely athletic in nature. It truly is a great form of exercise! As time went on I realized that I could be competitive and then went on to become a Champion dancer.

So no matter how old you are, if you are interested in starting Irish dance, my advice is to take heart and start dancing. You would be surprised at what you can do if you give yourself time, have the desire, and make the effort. I tell my older dancers that Irish dance is like putting together a puzzle. It is great memory work and helps to prevent and to reverse mental decline as we get older.

Many of the adult dancers, Isabelle & I have taught, have become performers and competitors. They love the exercise value and how much more flexible they have become. Irish dancing helps build bone density, improves balance, and strengthens the core and legs. In addition to dance instruction, each of our classes includes stretching and exercises to help with strengthening muscles, and we incorporate elements from Yoga for balance and free movement.

Two other benefits of Irish dance are performances and competitions. Folks love to see Irish dance! Once our adults reach a particular level of ability they are invited to join us for local performances. This helps build confidence by giving them the opportunity to dance in front of appreciative audiences. As the adults get more confident and skillful, some of them choose to try competitive Irish dance. We are members of the World Irish Dance Association (WIDA), an organization that is open and friendly to adult dancers wanting to compete.

So if you decide you want to do something fun while losing a few pounds, get in touch with us.

For more information on WIDA and adult dancers, check out this 2014 article:

Christy Dorrity:
30 April 2014

World Irish Dance Association sets the bar for competitive adult Irish dancers
Word is spreading about the positive treatment adult Irish dancers find in the World Irish Dance Association. A recap of the 2014 World and European Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany.

How old is too old to dance? Most people agree that dancing can be enjoyable at any age.

“It’s never too late to learn,” says Johnny Cronin, owner of the Johnny Cronin School of Irish Dancing in Ireland, who recently certified to be an Irish dance adjudicator. “I’ve heard so many times from adults that they wish they had the means when they were young to dance and now as adults many now do.”

There are a few adults in Irish dance that started their training as children, but many adults who Irish dance began taking lessons in adulthood—long past what most would consider a viable age for a champion. The World Irish Dance Association (WIDA) is changing the landscape of competition for adult Irish dancers, giving them a chance to compete for a world title.

Last week, at the World Irish Dance Association’s European and World Championships, held in Dusseldorf, Germany, more than 90 dancers over the age of 23 competed in six age groups. Annamariea Dardi, an adult Irish dancer from Ireland, is pleased to find that WIDA values adult dancers. “I always compare adult dancers to football or rugby players who are valued at the sport well after the teenage years, and it’s nice that a dancing organization such as WIDA feels the same.” The adult dancers, along with the younger age groups, gathered in Dusseldorf, Germany on April 19-21, 2014. Dancers hailed from thirteen countries and seventy-eight schools.

Other Irish dance organizations offer only limited opportunities for advancement for adults, or require them to compete against teens at the major competitions. The comparatively young organization of WIDA allows adult Irish dancers to compete at high levels, and against athletes of similar age. “WIDA has not only opened doors for people to learn Irish dance outside of Ireland, but the organization has really encouraged older dancers and lets them take their dancing as far as they want to,” Cronin says. One of his adult dancers, Séamus O’Rourke is the current World 2014 title holder in the over35 category.

Word is spreading about the positive treatment adult Irish dancers find in WIDA. Catriona Newcombe, an adult Irish dancer and teacher (Echoes of Erin School of Irish Dancing) from Hong Kong was impressed with the events. “WIDA is an extremely friendly organization,” Newcombe says. “Everyone was there to support each other, and we all wished each other good luck and were genuinely please if someone danced well and placed. No where else have I seen everyone as enthusiastic about the senior dancers and cheered them on equally.”

In recent years, attendance at WIDA’s double major has increased, seeing a 25% rise between 2013 and 2014 alone. And it isn’t just the attendance of adult Irish dancers that is rising; the quality of the dancing is climbing as well. “The standard in WIDA is high and over the years it is going to get better,” says Séamus O’Rourke, current World 2014 title holder in the over35 category. “I always felt that I was able to dance, but with other organizations I would have to compete against dancers in their teens or early 20’s. WIDA changed that. I have been introduced to a new world.”

As more adult dancers around the globe are given a chance to show what they are capable of, they will inspire many who have thought that they, also, were too old to dance. I have had the best experience of my life being part of the organisation WIDA,” O’Rourke admits. “After 27 years away from the dancing world, WIDA has allowed me to go back to what is passionate in my life, that of dancing.” And just because the Europeans and Worlds are over for 2014, doesn’t mean that the dancers are resting. They know that the standard will be even higher next year, and are already back to practice, the world over.

A lovely testimonial from our 2017 Showcase on 6/17.

“Hi Kathy – My mom and I attended your 2:30 performance on Saturday and really wanted to thank you and the Academy. My mom has Alzheimers and loves children, music and dance. I try to take her to as many related events as I can but given her continued deterioration it has become more and more difficult to take her out. I was so glad though that we made the effort on Saturday! I had fully anticipated that she would want to leave at intermission but she was enjoying the performance so much that she didn’t even want to get out of her seat at intermission! She has great difficulty communicating now and I was surprised by how many comments she was making to me regarding some of the performers! You and your academy really gave my mom moments of great joy yesterday! While she didn’t remember specifically that we saw the performance by the time I got her back to where she lives, she knew that she had a happy feeling! Thank you! Marcia”


Article on the Origin of Irish Step Dance

About Irish Step Dance

History: Step dances evolved as the creation of Irish dancing masters, subsequent to their appearance in the late 18th century.  Dancing masters would often travel from town to town, teaching basic dancing steps to those interested and able to pay for them.  Since the basic folk dances had been done for centuries in their absence, one must suspect that their appearance was motivated by a desire to learn the “upscale” dance styles then beginning to be introduced from France.  The dance masters often paraphrased these dances to fit the traditional music available and, in doing so, laid the basis for much of today’s traditional Irish dance – ceili, step, and set.  The dance masters taught steps, the 8-bar units out of which most Irish traditional dance is constructed.  The steps involved both the movements needed for various dances and the foot percussion, called battering, used for rhythmic emphasis.  Competitions were often held in which the demonstrations of steps by masters were performed on a table-top or similar small stage.  In fact, dancing in a limited space was viewed as such an important aspect of the style that one of the greatest tributes to be paid to a dancer was to note that they could “dance on the top of a plate”.
Structure:  The codification of style that defines modern step dance took place in the 1920’s and provided a basis for judging of competitions.  Although none can deny the great response and popularity induced by competitions, they also tend to push style into emphasizing extremes in preferred characteristics rather than overall balance of effect.  The preferred style for competition step-dancing changed through the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The availability of lorries, then small stages in halls, and then larger stages, especially in the larger cities made it possible to perform the traveling steps, circular lead-in’s, sevens-and-threes, and turns we see as a characteristic of modern step-dance.
Nowadays, Irish Step Dance has evolved to a powerhouse form, emphasizing athletic as well as artistic attributes. Leaps, clicks, and traveling is artfully interlaced with intricate movements and footwork.  Dancers stay on the balls of their feet with their knees straight (or nearly so) at all times.  Their posture is erect and unmoving without rigidity and the competitive demands are even more extreme. It’s beautiful, challenging and can be enjoyed throughout most of a dancer’s life.