Sunday, November 2, 2008

Advanced Shuffle Footwork - Exercises #1

We've had a great response from our Advanced Shuffle Footwork post, and lots of questions on HOW YOU DO IT ! :)

  • If you're new to the Shuffle, start here, on the MSO forum for lots of information on moves, styles, what shoes, how to use baby talcum powder on the floor, stretching exercises, balance exercises, why did we do the Shuffle in the first place, who started it etc.

    You can ask questions and get answers as well, it's beginners friendly (no flaming or dribbling) and designed to encourage you to Shuffle and help you improve. 

As we've mentioned, shuffle footwork is based on Celtic Dance and the vids posted below will give you enough information to keep you busy for 6 months.

Turns, spins, jumps, hops, sideways steps, kicks, all these basic movements are used in shuffling and this is where they came from, Celtic Dance.

You don't need to do them exactly like the vids unless you want to learn strict Irish Dance. But the exercises are great for getting your similar shuffle moves working properly. They'll also give you a breakdown of the steps from different angles with English language commentary.

The moves and steps are for both male and female.

Irish Dance Movements

beginner slip jig

men's reel

steps broken down


Here's some great instructions from Learn To Dance

The first thing to remember is that at all times during the dance your arms must be straight and held down by your sides (Like a soldier at Attention)

Basic Position  (This position is usually called the 'T" in shuffling)

Start with your feet together with the heel of your right foot by the toes of your left foot. Feet at 90° to each other. This will mean your right knee has the left tucked behind. This position is the normal position after each step, changing to ending with the left foot in front instead, and vice versa.

The Basic Steps
There are three basic steps to Light shoe dances, around which all dancers are built.

Teachers weave these into their choreography in different ways and vary them slightly, but if you can't master them in their basic form you will never really make the grade as a step dancer.

The basic steps are the Jump Threes, the Hop Threes and the Sevens or Side Step.

Jump Threes (basic step)
Start in Basic Position

1) Now lift the front leg (in this case the right) keeping it dead straight with the toes curled forwards, so don't try to lift too high. (The worst thing you can do is point your toes up so that people see the soles of your shoes)

Jump off the foot still on the floor onto the raised foot, landing just in front of where it started.

As you jump bring the back foot up to kick your behind.
This is all done at the same time so takes practice!

2) As you land, step forward onto the original back foot, placing it just in front of the other foot.

3) Tuck the original front foot "behind" to end up in "basic position" but with the other foot now in front

Jump threes are always started from whichever foot is in front.

Do threes very slowly to start with and build up speed. One Three per bar of music. Once you have the hang of them try the lead round

Hops threes (basic step)
Start in Basic Position

1) Hop on the back foot as high as possible, landing back on the same foot.

At the same time the front foot is brought up across the knee of the other leg, as high as possible (try to  touch your hip with your toes)

2) step very slightly forward on front foot

3) tuck back foot behind

Hop threes are always started by hopping off whichever foot is behind. One three per bar of music.

Sevens or side step (basic step)

1) is a hop or jump
2) The leading foot is moved to the side
(for example, the leading foot is the right one so move right, left foot move left)
3) back foot moves the same direction but crosses behind
4) front foot again
5) back foot behind again
6) front foot again
7) back foot behind again

All Irish Step dances follow the same basic pattern.
There are usually several components :

The Lead Round
The First Step

The Second Step (or Lead Back)

As the dances become more advanced these become a little harder to distinguish. However in the early stages they are very easily defined. Below is a basic beginners reel.

A Beginners Reel
this is a Beginners Reel, so choose Reel music. Try not to make it too fast, as this is hard work!

A Reel is a soft shoe dance so either get some proper Irish shoes, or use ballet shoes or the like (preferably black)

For a costume you need something with a shorter skirt (above the knee) with plenty of material so that you can lift your legs freely. A Sports skirt would be fine, although something a little more colourful would be better.

A simple white blouse with loose sleeves would also suffice. If you really want to look traditional then take a simple scarf and pin it onto the left shoulder. Then drape it across the back and pin it at the waist on the right side.

Count the bars in your mind, stood in basic position.(the bars are usually easy to count in Irish music)

At the first note of the sixth bar point your front foot and toes forward moving the leg ahead of the back foot so that only the toes touch the ground.

Keep your feet in the same turned out position as in basic position.

You do not start dancing until the first note of the ninth bar

The lead round is simply Eight continuous Jump threes in a circle, alternating leading legs.

You must end up back where you started, facing the front again.

As each persons jumps are different don't try to follow someone elses circle.


Hop three twice
Hop Seven side step to right
Jump three twice
Jump seven side step back to left

repeat A but to opposite side

Repeat A again but this time move forward more with each hop three (on step 2 of the three)

repeat C but opposite (your sevens should be along the very front of the stage)


Repeat Lead round (eight jump threes), but instead of creating a circle just curve back to end your last three facing the front again in your original starting place in basic position


To finish any Irish Step dance do the following :
Point your front foot as if starting, and bow from the waist, head and face up, arms still by your side.

Then turn towards the musician (or person running the music machine) and bow in the same way to them.

This is a recognised show of respect that all Irish dancers uphold, and it looks very smart.

Stand up straight, turn left and walk off stage with arms still by sides, and still straight legs and pointed toes.

1 comment:

  1. Oh gosh I miss this. I used to do this when I was in elementary school. Now I'm 16 and I shuffle on a regular basis, always puzzled why it came so easy to me. Now I know. Definitely doing some Irish Dance tomorrow. :)