About the Dances
There are four soft shoe solo dances:
The first dance a beginner will learn is normally the reel. This involves learning Down two threes and Counting Sevens. Next is normally the Light Jig or Single Jig. Lastly learned is Slip Jig, because of the different timing. Also slip jig is normally a girls dance, but in beginning levels, guys will sometimes dance it. Also once you get to Prelims, you do not dance the Light Jig and Single Jig.
Also danced in soft shoe, are figure dances and ceilhi(sp?). Figures is the term used for group dancing, normally called either a 2-hand, 3-hand, 4-hand, 6-hand, 8-hand, or even a 16-hand. The number of "hands" depends on the number of dancers-one hand equals one dancer, two hand, equal two dancers, etc. Ceilhi are Irish party dances, such as the Walls of Limerick, and the Seige of Venice.
There are 6 Hard Shoe Dances:
Fast Hard (treble) Jig
Slow Hard Jig
Set Dance (i.e. St. Patrick's Day, The Blackbird, King of the Faeries, et al)
Tip (Treble) Reel
Traditionally the first hard shoe dance anyone learns is St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick's Day is known as a traditional set. This means that every Irish dance school in the world knows the same St. Patrick's Day. There might be slight regional differences, but other than that they are all the same. After leaning St. Patrick's Day, normally you would then learn Fast Hard Jig. Then finally Fast Hornpipe. Once a dancer has mastered the beginning dances, they move on the slow hard shoe dances. The term fast and slow refers to the speed of the music. It does not mean that a slow dance is easier than a fast one. But visa versa. Slow just means the teacher can cram harder, more complicated stuff into that dance. A dancer starts to compete in slow dances, once he or she has reached novice. There they have a choice, but once that dancer reaches Prizewinner, that dancer can only compete in slow hardshoe. One of the last dances a person will learn is Tip, sometimes known as treble reel. This is a championship dance only, but it is offen used in preformances and dance outs. I personally think this is the coolest dance, but it is really hard to learn well, because the timing is outstandingly hard.
Levels of Irish Dance
Beginner 1-A dancer who has not placed a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in any of their dances
Beginner 2-Inorder to move up, the dancer has to get either a 1st or 2nd in that dance.
Novice-A dancer has to place a 1st in order to move up.
Prizewinner-Must place two first inorder to move up (I think)
Championship-The highest level of Irish Dance. It takes years of hard work to get this high. It is not uncommon for a championship dancer to put in over 1000 hours of Irish dance a year.