Traditional Irish dance has changed beyond recognition in recent years. And in 2020, there's a new revolution taking place, as Irish dancing has become an unlikely champion on TikTok.
"When people think of Irish dancing, they tend to picture the basic curly wigs and dresses from the olden days," Irish dancer (and TikToker) Mary Papageorge says. "But with TikTok, us Irish dancers are breaking that misconception by creating a contemporary twist on the art form."
If you're still picturing Irish step dancers as a fake-tanned monolith (or even confusing them for tappers), you're missing out on one of the trendiest dance forms to take TikTok by storm. Here are four Irish dancers you should be following.
Twenty-one-year-old Morgan Bullock from Richmond, Virginia, was one of the first dancers to show the world just how catchy Irish dancing beats could be when paired with mainstream music. She made headlines after her dance routine to the "Savage" remix by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé went viral.
Bullock also received widespread attention when some accused her, a Black dancer, of appropriating Irish culture in her videos. But Bullock fought back, talking about the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation—her love of Irish dancing is, of course, the latter. But the conversation emphasized the global reach that the dance form now has.
You've probably scrolled onto a video of Mary's legs without knowing whose they were. The 19-year-old Wisconsin dancer's feet are responsible for the rhythm behind the viral "Fergalicious" video that has been turned into TikTok duets by stars like Will Smith and Jason Derulo. She fits more taps into a song chorus than you ever thought was possible.
"I am so excited for the future of Irish dance, and my main goal is to continue giving it more mainstream exposure," says Papageorge.
Owen Luebbers is the kind of dancer who might just have superpowers. His jumps appear to take him mere inches from the ceiling, and his feet move with almost inhuman speed. But that's why people love to watch his videos. "Irish dancing is so quick that people will want to watch videos multiple times before moving on," he says.
The 21-year-old dancer currently lives in Dublin, Ireland, but stays more than relevant on the American dance scene, competing in world championships and posting on social media—not to mention the fact that one of his videos just made an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
If Irish dancing did boy bands, Cairde would be the next BTS. The group of seven dancers from the west of Ireland has seen incomparable TikTok success by putting Irish spins on viral dance trends. Cairde member Stephen McGuinness says, "If you don't know what it is, seeing it for the first time is a bit like 'Wow, what is this?' It's not tap dancing, and it's not hip hop—it's something in the middle."
With Cairde's most popular video sitting at 85 million views, its members have brought Irish dance to a global digital audience—and fans everywhere love the group's boy-band charm.