Irish dance is both a competitive and non-competitive sport. Beginner 1 & 2 are non-competitive levels, designed to teach the foundations for Irish dance. Solo competitive dancers compete based on level (i.e. Grade) and age. Grade level competitions are for Beginner — Prize Winner level students, and Championship competitions are for Preliminary & Champion level students.
For more information on competitive dance, please review our Irish Dance FAQs.
Beginner 1 is a non-competitive level for students who have not taken Irish dance before and are in their first year of instruction, i.e. 1st year student.
Beginner 2 is a non-competitive level for students who have taken Irish dance before as a Beginner 1, and are now in their second year of instruction, i.e. 2nd year student. A Beginner 2 dancer may move into a competitive Beginner the following year.
Beginner & Advanced Beginner is a dancer who has taken lessons from a registered teacher for more than 1 year. A Beginner is in their first year of competing. An Advanced Beginner who wins a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in each dance will advance to the Novice category in that particular dance the next year.
A Novice dancer is one who has previously won a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in Advanced Beginner. A novice who wins a 1st place will advance to the Prizewinner category in that particular dance.
A prizewinner dancer is a dancer who has previously won a 1st in Novice in a particular dance. A dancer must place 1st in one light shoe dance; Reel or Slip jig (girls only) one hard shoe dance; Treble Jig or Hornpipe and consistently place 1st, 2nd or 3rd in other dances in Prizewinner to qualify for Preliminary Championship. The Prize Winner level can also be referred to as “Open Grade”.
A dancer advances to Preliminary Championship after he/she has won 1st place in both a prizewinner light and hard shoe competition, and consistently placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in all other dances. Preliminary dancers who win 3 first places in a calendar year, must move to Open Championship the following calendar year. When a third 1st place win is achieved over several calendar years, the dancer must move to Open Championship the following weekend.
A dancer moves to Open Championship after winning three 1st places in Preliminary Championship. This is the highest level in competitive Irish dancing.