How to River Dance

© Fermilab, U.S. Dept. of Energy; Trinity Irish Dancers

Things You'll Need

  • Tap shoes
  • Contemporary Irish music with upbeat tempos

At one time, Ireland was rarely the first name that came to mind when the subject of popular international dances arose, but that changed when Michael Flatley brought his Irish folk dancing troupe to the U.S., forever changing the way the public viewed the Irish jig. Flatley's dynamic Riverdance® production captured hearts and feet around the world in a very short period of time. So profound was the influence of his production, Riverdance -- like Kleenex® and Xerox® -- morphed from brand name to a generic term in just a few years. That stated, despite the fact that there is actually no such thing as a riverdance, you'll have a hard time convincing anyone who has fallen in love with it. If you plan to join the enthusiastic multitudes---Irish and those who long to be Irish---you can learn to do this dance.

Get comfortable with the rhythm and pace of the music. You'll be responding to a musical beat of 6/8. It's fast enough to make hopping a challenge. Keep your movements low-key at first and speed up as you gain confidence.

Begin to learn the Riverdance combination of moves. Extend your left foot in front of you and point your toe. Put all of your weight on that toe before placing your right foot on the floor behind you. Your weight should now be on your right foot.

Pull up your left foot in the direction of your right knee and hop once. Shift the position of your left leg so your knee is pointing in front of your body; do this by executing a second hop in the series.

Place your left foot on the ground behind you and take four steps back in this order: left, right, left, right. Your weight should wind up being on your right foot.

Point your left foot out in front of you and point your toe. This brings you back into position to repeat all of these steps again.

Repeat these moves without music to get familiar with the combination of hops and toe points. Avoid using the ball of your foot, as this dance is performed almost entirely on the toes of the dancer.

Finish up on your right foot with each combination of sets. Once you're comfortable with the order of the moves, "hop, heeltap front, hop, toe tap, hop followed by three steps," add music. Use the Irish jig count, which is literally "and one and two and three and four."


  • Seek the source to learn the dance. Take yourself to a Riverdance production, originally on Broadway but now touring the nation featuring multiple dance groups. Alternately, practice your moves by renting a Riverdance DVD.

    Consider entering Riverdance/Irish dance competitions once you're able to bust an Irish move or two. Find them on the Internet by searching for "feiseanna." Be prepared to expend around the same amount of energy as you would competing in a gymnastics meet.


About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

Photo Credits

  • © Fermilab, U.S. Dept. of Energy; Trinity Irish Dancers