Besides playing Gaelic football, Irish dancing had been one way that people born in Ireland could pass on a taste of their heritage to their children born here. There are two main kinds of Irish dancing. Step dancing is performed mainly in exhibition or competition and requires a great deal of skill and practice, and is the style of dancing now more popular than ever because of Riverdance. CEILI dancing requires only an elementary knowledge of some basic steps; in many respects it can be compared to American Square Dancing.
Until the 1960s, Irish dancing was practiced in Seattle mainly by those who brought the art with them from Ireland. Since then, however, step dancing and CEILI dancing classes have provided a focus for the energies of many Irish-Americans.
At first, step dancers had to travel out of state to participate in Irish dance competitions. The first Seattle International FEIS (Irish Dance Festival) was held in March, 1977, and since then there has been at least one FEIS every year in Seattle. Annually, about 200 competitors, mainly from California, Colorado, Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington compete at the Irish Heritage Club FEIS held over two days in Seattle.
Today, there are at least eight Irish dancing schools in the Seattle area, and the numbers involved in both kinds of Irish dancing grow each year.