Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers

preserving the cultural tradition of Irish ceili and set dancing since 1991

About Us: Who We Are

The Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers (RKIDs) is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that focuses on promoting and preserving the cultural tradition of Irish dancing, music, literature, and art. We mainly learn and perform Irish social, or folk, dances. These differ from Irish step dances in that they do not require high energy jumping nor wearing special shoes. More information about our organization is here.

There are two types of Irish social dances, set and ceili (pronounced kay-lee) ? with both accompanied by music. Patterned formations created by either couples or individuals follow movements which characterize a particular type of dance. Originating in Ireland as a means of socializing at parties or ceilis, they often resemble square or contra dancing.

from the Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers encyclopedia: The difference between ceili dances and set dances is the style in which they are danced, not the music. The music (reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, slides) is specific to the dance but not to the determination of whether it is a ceili dance or a set dance.

All ceili dances are danced in the style of competitive step dancing ... hop 1-2-3s and hop 1-2-3-4-5-6-7s, up on the toes with (ideally) feet coming off the floor on the hops. In some cases, the “rise and grind” step from step dancing is used, and in one case, the “sink and grind” step from step dancing is used. A ceili dance is continuous with no breaks within the dance. The ceili dances have been specified by a dance commission in Ireland. There are 30 official ceili dances, but there are also other ceili-style dances (e.g., Every Man’s Chance, Hooks and Eyes) that are not included in the official book. The type of music used, and sometimes the exact tune, is specific to the dance.

Set dances are composed of “sets” of figures (varying from 2 to 9) that are based on the French quadrilles and that have developed into a wide variety of local variations across Ireland. Generally, there is a break between the figures in a set. They are danced in squares (sets) of four couples or half-squares (half-sets) of two couples. The footwork used is specific to the set, but in general it is much less hoppy than ceili dancing, and the feet are generally kept close to the floor, even when battering or doubling. There are hundreds of sets, and more are being choreographed all the time.

courtesy of Marilyn Moore

close window

RKIDs' classes are held on Tuesday nights at a public school in Gaithersburg, MD, a Washington, DC suburb. Each class is divided into two sequential sections, one beginning after the other ends. When you enroll in a semester, you choose the appropriate section that fits your level of expertise.


The Two Class Sections

The first section, called the Core Skills (Beginners) Class, begins at 7:00 pm and ends at 7:50. During this time the RKIDs Core Dances, both set and ceili, are taught. The goal of this class is to learn the dances with minimal prompting. Fundamental Irish dancing skills and terms are taught, including: threes, sevens, side stepping, house, helicopter, slides and many more. Students are expected to practice and review at home what has been taught in class. Many Advanced Class section dancers attend the Core Class to help the beginners. However, they are expected to only fill incomplete sets and not displace Core Class attendees from those sets.

Curriculum: the current Core Class section dances are:

Core Ceili Dances
Everyman's Chance Haymakers' Jig  Siege of Carrick
Siege of Ennis Sweets of May Walls of Limerick
Waves of Tory    
Core Set Dances
 Ballyvourney Jig Caledonian  Merchant Set
 North Kerry (Polka)  South Galway Waltz Cotillion

links to a YouTube video of the dance. We also have text instructions.

The second section, called the Advanced Class, is for experienced dancers. It begins at 8:05 pm and ends at 9:00. Advanced Class students are proficient in the footwork, terminology and speed expectations of the Core Class. During this time, the instructor teaches more complex set and ceili dances than many of those taught in the Core Class. A few of these dances may be featured at upcoming ceilis which sometimes may not have callers to coach us through the dances. Should the instructor decide that a student should not be in the advanced class she has the right to ask them to step back  for their own safety and that of other students and also out of fairness to the experienced dancers.  Beginners are invited to stay and watch till they are ready to participate in a future semester. The guideline is “People should not be in the second class unless they can do the following actions tolerably well and in time to the music:”


The current Advanced Class section dances are:

Advanced Ceili Dances
 Four Hand Reel  Gates of Derry  High Cauled Cap
Six Hand (Fairy) Reel
Advanced Set Dances
 Clare Mazurka  Clare Lancers Clare Plain
 Cashel (Castle) Set  Moate Set  Carrowbeg Set


Both classes provide us with the opportunity to advance our skills in Irish dance. The Ring of Kerry Irish Dancers is a social group---good friends who like Irish dancing in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.

One need not bring a partner to RKIDs' classes.


Attendees dress casually and comfortably. No special type of shoe is required, but leather- or felt-soled shoes are usually better choices than other materials since many of the dance steps are glides.

Other Club Activities

In addition to the dance class, parties are held during the year. The group performs at senior centers, parades and area festivals throughout the Washington area. Any members who are interested are encouraged to participate, but participation is not required.

If you have an organization - school, club, etc. - that is interested in having us perform, please contact us using the link at the bottom of this page.


Performance Dancing at Quincy's



The RKIDs members widely range in age.  We love the diversity which comes from that.  Several have literary talent. One member wrote a poem expressing her feelings for the group. Another wrote a touching essay memorializing her grandfather.