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4 Reasons why you should take up Irish Dance as an adult

Although certainly not a mainstream dance form, Irish Dance has a footprint in the list of potential activities for children. And it’s a great option, especially when you consider it teaches so many things: balance and coordination, musicality, work ethic, team work, mental stimulation and just all around great exercise while having fun. But one of the greatest fallacies about Irish Dance that I am absolutely determined to set straight is that it is JUST for kids and if you are an adult who did not Irish Dance growing up, it’s too late.

As a late-to-the-party dancer myself, I started when I was 14, I definitely took classes with the “littles”, those starting dance at a more traditional age of 6-8 years old. I loved it so much that it didn’t phase me one bit and because I was older, I picked up on steps faster, took the time to practice on my own, and quickly moved up into a more age-appropriate class. I danced until college and then hung up my dancing shoes for what I thought was for good. But after college, when I found myself once more with free time and a less transient life, I really missed the connection to dance so I found a school willing to take an older dancer. And I stuck around, through new jobs, Grad school, pregnancy and the start of my family – dance was a constant that truly brought me even more joy as an adult than it did when I was in childhood. But I was an oddity – an adult dancer who still had goals to improve. Sure, there were other older dancers, but they were dancers who had achieved their successes as kids and were either coming back to just add on to their adolescent success, or to dance for fun at a less intense level than as a child. I felt like I had not yet peaked and I wanted to get Better. I had the blessings of a teacher who did not write off older dancers and who gave me as much time and energy as she did her younger students – for which I am eternally grateful. But that journey was a unique one and it really gave me perspective on the social construct that more technical activities, like Irish Dance, were for children. Now, as a teacher with my own school I take pride in the fact that we have a thriving Adult Irish Dancer program, with a great blend of new-to dance and returning-to dance adults. So here are my takes on why I think Adults should Irish Dance, even if they never danced as a child:

1. Irish Dance has a low physical threshold of entry but is a fantastic workout – you don’t have to already be in good shape, or super flexible, or possess well-honed dance technique built over time to get started and work up a sweat. You just have to be able to count to 8 and know your left from your right and hop on one foot (even that can be built up to). I’ve tried picking up other dance forms as an adult, but really felt that one of those three criteria was pretty essential to becoming good at it and the struggle to “get it right” got in the way of “work up a sweat”. Whereas with Irish Dance, a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and a good teacher are really all you need to get started and you’ll “feel the burn” from class one.

2. Irish Dance is super rhythmic and Adults appreciate those rhythms often more than the kids do. The beat of Irish music is the kind that worms into your head and if you’ve ever been the person who just can’t help but tap along to an upbeat jig, you’ll become obsessed with elevating that foot tap to a true dance in time. Kids, especially young ones, learn the steps as a formula initially and then develop into a deeper understanding of the music-dance connection, but adults appreciate the musicality from the get-go.

3. It’s a mental game – and we all need a good challenge. Irish dance choreography is a mental pattern that you apply to your body and remembering the steps and mastering new ones is a brain-teaser that keeps the mind challenged. So often as adults we settle into things we are good at but the power of growth in learning can’t be understated and learning a new skill like Irish Dance is not just good for the body, it’s great for keeping the mind young as well.

4. Social connection – Irish Dance is a very social form of exercise. Not only are classes a group activity, but a huge component of Irish Dance is learning Ceili, or traditional group dances, which means you not only take classes with people, but you rely on them to be able to learn and master the dances. Finding new social circles as an adult can be a challenge, and I would argue you will not find a more welcoming group of people than those in an adult Irish Dance class. Every person has started at the beginning and remembers the feeling well and wants to help you on your journey of falling in love with their new-found hobby!

So what are you waiting for? Give Irish Dance a shot and see whether you agree with me!

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