Irish Dance is hundreds of years old, evolving from a casual party-style dance to a competitive art form. Irish Dance is a fun dance for all ages.

What is Irish Dance?

There are 2 types of disciplines, soft shoe and hard shoe. Soft shoe is ballet-like with a focus on stretch, elevation and precision. Hard shoe is similar to tap, but strongly centered on crossed feet, with rhythm being paramount.

Irish Dance is a small but growing community around the world. Somewhere in the world a competition is taking place almost every day and once a year the World Championships see the world’s best compete for the top honors.

Since “Riverdance’ there has been a resurgence in its popularity, but Irish Dance has a long history in New Zealand and it’s not just the children of Irish heritage who are learning.

Irish Dance can give your child the opportunity to develop life-long friends, share team goals, build confidence and learn a skill for life.

Where do you learn Irish Dance?

Currently there are registered schools only in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch; you will find a full list of school details in the national website below.

What age can your child start Irish Dance?

Children as young as 4 may be accepted, however it generally depends on the child. We suggest you talk to the teacher or go along and watch a class to see if your child is ready to start.

There are no pre-requisites, however children who have learnt another form of dance will find it easier to pick up.

Much like ballet there is a strong focus on turn-out and posture, but success does not depend so much on body type as ability and determination. Some schools run adult classes, so it’s never too late to join in with your child!

How do you progress over time?

When you start in Irish Dance you may choose not to enter competition, however, competition is what drives progression and improvement, so it is highly encouraged by teachers. Competitions take place regularly throughout the year and include all levels from Novice to Advanced in every age group. Generally a teacher will keep you informed of when your child will be ready to compete, which could take up to 2 years.

What gear do you need for Irish Dance?

Some schools have a class uniform, but most will expect a child to wear shorts and t-shirt and always bring water to class.

Each school will have a different expectation around footwear so you should discuss this with the teacher.

Every school will have a supply of second hand shoes and your teacher will direct you in regards to what to buy and when. Second hand shoes can cost as little as $30, with brand new ones costing up to $200.

In competitions dancers have 2 costumes – one for their solo event and one for their team event to represent their dance school. Solo costumes range from basic to elaborate and prices range from $100 to $1000. Team costumes are generally owned by the school and will be rented to you. Solo costumes are very specific to Irish Dance and can be purchased easily via second hand trade websites.

How much does Irish Dance cost?

Each dance school will have different charges for classes ranging from $100 per term to $400 per term; you will need to find out from the teacher what this includes, (i.e. registration with the local dance body, 1 class per week, or 3 classes per week).

Competition entry fees are very standard around the country at $30 per competition. International and qualifying events do cost more to cover overseas judges and musicians.

Every school carries out fund-raising activities to help cover the cost of international competition and costumes which may involve car washes or shows.

How much time does Irish Dance take to learn?

Most dance schools offer more classes to those pupils who compete the most (i.e. up to 4 classes per week, including solo, team sessions and perhaps a private lesson).

It is recommended that as pupils progress they take on more individual practice at home for up to an hour a day and for enhanced fitness add a healthy dose of jogging or swimming.

Great Irish Dance Websites


The official website for Irish Dancing in New Zealand. Includes a diary, teacher listing, second hand items page and listing of rules and guidelines. Also includes contact details for all local dance schools.


The official magazine for and about Irish Dancers around the world – the link to all suppliers, events and the latest gossip!


The most used second hand costume website in the world of Irish Dancing. Costumes are bought and sold through this website every day.

Article Irish Dance Published September 2006

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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