Both traditional sets and set dances are hard shoe dances that take the form of either a hornpipe or treble jig, and have set music/tune (St Patrick's Day, Drunken Gauger, The Piper, etc). There are two parts to traditional sets and set dances, marking them different from normal solo dances: the step and the set. The "step" is the first bar or step (right foot/left foot) of the dance. The step is done on both the right foot and left foot. The "set" can be longer or shorter than the step and is done on the right foot only, even if there are multiple bars (2 8-bars or 2 steps worth). So a dance, such as King of the Fairies will be performed as: (step) right foot, left foot; (set) right foot, right foot.
Traditional set dances are done in the faster tempos ("fast jig", "fast hornpipe") and are performed by those in the Beginner-Prizewinner level categories. There are five traditional sets: St. Patrick's Day (Treble jig. This dance is also an 8-hand), Blackbird (hornpipe), Job of Journeywork (hornpipe), Garden of Daisies (hornpipe), and King of the Fairies (hornpipe). These dances are "set" in the choreography, meaning no teacher can change the choreography, though each school will perform the dance slightly different than the other (ie, St. Patrick's Day can be done with 3 skip out's in the step or with 2 cuts and a final skip). Beginner 1 and Beginner 2 dancers are only allowed to compete in St. Patrick's Day. Once a dancer has moved up to Novice he can choose to perform any of the other traditional sets mentioned above.
Set dances are hard shoe dances that Champion dancers compete with as a solo, third and final round, or as a recall round at the major events. The set dance is a slow tempo traditional dance. The dances are choreographed by the teacher rather than having prearranged choreography like the traditional sets. There are currently around 38 set dances, all varying in length and speed. The teacher will choose the dance and speed and choreograph to that, such as Planxty Davis (slow hornpipe) at speed 108.
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