Irish dance workshop headed to Southern Cultural Heritage Center

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation is bringing a piece of Irish tradition to Vicksburg with dance workshops set for July 11.

“We’re always trying to bring the different cultures here to the cultural center and trying to open (people’s) minds,” SCHF Executive Director Annette Kirklin said.

When Kirklin had the idea to host traditional Irish dance classes and looked for someone to teach them, she found the only certified instructor in the state, Catherine Sherer Bishop. Bishop has been dancing since she was a child and began doing Irish dance about 10 years ago.

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If you go

The Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation will host Irish dance classes for beginners July 11 — one for 6- to 12-year-olds from 4 to 5 p.m. for $15; one for 13- to 18-year-olds from 5 to 6 p.m. for $20; and another for adults from 6 to 8 for $35 for SCHF members and $40 for nonmembers. Participants need no experience, and do not have to bring a dance partner. Bring water and wear comfortable clothes. Reservations are required. Call 601-631-2997 or e-mail

The one-day workshops will be geared toward beginners, and classes will be divided by age groups, one for 6- to 12-year-olds, one for 13- to 18-year olds and one for adults. Classes cost $15 to $40, depending on age group and SCHF membership. Participants should bring water and wear comfortable clothes, and must reserve their spot in the class either by calling or e-mailing SCHF.

Irish dance can be done in groups, such as in céilí and set dancing, or alone, such as in step dancing. Céilí (pronounced CAY-lee) is like an Irish dance party and is comparable to a square dance, Bishop said.

“(It requires) minimal footwork, but we’re not as worried about form and technique, so you can yuck it up and have a good time and get some exercise,” she said.

Set dancing is another group dance — based on the square-shaped French Quadrilles dance — that requires a set of eight people.

Step dancing is done alone, and is most popularly known from the world-renowned Riverdance.

“I would say it’s more difficult, harder on the legs and the body in general than the social group dancing,” Bishop said.

Participants in the SCHF workshops will first learn the céilí dance, which uses the simplest footwork from step dancing. Based on how well participants catch on, Bishop may move on to more complicated steps.

But first-timers shouldn’t stress about footwork, Bishop said — more important is to be in the right place.

“It really doesn’t matter if you can’t get the footwork, as long as you can go in and out when you’re supposed to,” she said. “To avoid Celtic bumper cars, you really have the responsibility to be in the right spot at the right time.”

SCHF Irish dance classes are limited to one day for now, but Kirklin and Bishop said if the workshops are successful and the public is interested, they might extend the classes.

“It’s such an energetic form of dance. I really think people will enjoy it,” Kirklin said. “I’d love to have that auditorium full of people learning how to do this Irish dance.”


Did you know?

• Traditional Irish dance began in pre-Christian times and has continued to grow and be influenced by other forms of dance, such as the French Quadrille.

• Irish dance comes in three forms — céilí dancing, set dancing and step dancing.

• Céilí and set dancing are social dance forms. A céilí itself is a gathering with Irish music and social dancing.

• Traveling Irish dance masters developed old-style step dancing in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

• Step dancing is a performance rather than a social dance, and was made more widely known through Riverdance.

• Step dances can be hard shoe or soft shoe dances.

• In the 1800s and early 1900s, hard shoes were made of wood with metal nails. They are now made with fiberglass tips and heels to make the tapping noise.

• Soft shoes, called ghillies, are similar to a ballet shoe without a hard toe.

• The Irish Dancing Commission in Dublin certifies dance instructors using an intensive two-day test that includes  practical and written components and an optional oral Irish language test.


Contact Andrea Vasquez at