CulturalFest Countdown: Meet Seattle Irish Dance Company

We are excited to have so many different styles of dance featured at this year’s CulturalFest  Performance Showcase on February 2. Learn more about one of our dance groups, the Seattle Irish Dance Company, who will be sharing with us Irish rhythms and movements.

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How did your group begin?

Seattle Irish Dance Company was formed in 2012 by a group of former competitive Irish dancers. Our mission is to blend traditional Irish rhythms and movements with a more contemporary style, and to engage a wider audience with Irish music and dance. Most of our members have been dancing for well over a decade, many also competing at the regional, national and international level. Our dancers come from all over the US, and have a range of professions and interests beyond Irish dance. SIDC allows us to combine our skills and knowledge and to work as a collaborative dance company that pushes the limits of our traditional art form.

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What is the significance of your performance in connecting your group to your own culture?

Irish dance has a rich yet murky history, dating all the way back to the druids, and was spread throughout the country by the traveling dance masters during the 18th century. Irish dance has always been a blending of traditions, movements and styles, as populations have migrated and dance masters developed unique styles in their respective provinces. SIDC reflects that by bringing together dancers from all over the US now currently living in Seattle.

What has performing in past CulturalFests meant to you? What can the audience expect to be different this year?

Our group is a wonderful mix of individuals - some who are dual Irish citizens, some with a bit of Irish blood, and some with no Irish heritage at all! What unites all of us is our love for Irish music and dance. This year, we have structured our piece differently than most of our performance by beginning with an a capella to emphasize our movements and rhythms, and then adding in music later. Traditionally, an Irish musician will play several bars of music before dancers begin; but this year, for CulturalFest, we wanted to play with the idea of putting the dance first. We did this to give the audience an opportunity to see how we make certain sounds with our feet, which often blend into the music.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your performance?

One of the most common questions Irish dancers have to answer is why do we keep our arms at our sides? Like the rest of Irish dance's history, the answer is unclear. There are several theories, but many relate it to the English occupation of Ireland and their attempts to suppress Irish culture. One common theory is that the Irish would hide their legs behind doors, pub bars or hedges and keep their upper bodies straight to hide their dancing from the English. Two other theories include that it began as an act of defiance by Irish dancers asked to perform for Queen Elizabeth I and an English audience; or that the Catholic Church did not want girls and boys holding hands or looking like they were having too much fun to better represent Christian ideals.

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Learn more about Seattle Irish Dance Company on Facebook, Instagram, and their website, and come see their performance on February 2!


General admission tickets are on sale now for $15 online or in the FIUTS office (HUB 206). Kids 10 and under are free (a child ticket is required). Discounted student tickets are available for $10 in advance ($15 at the door).