If you think Irish dancing is old-fashioned and archaic, you haven’t met Cairde. They are an Irish dance group that has gone viral on TikTok and brought a modern twist to this traditional art form. Seven male Irish dancers from Irish counties Clare, Cork and Galway formed Cairde in 2017. The word means Friends in Gaelic and was the name of the café where the boys met. The boys’ names are Brian Culligan, Francis Fallon, Dara Kelly, Stephen McGuiness, Seamus Morrison, Ronan O’Connell and Ethan Quinton.
Unfortunately, their fame didn’t spread very far until 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Founding member Ronan explained: “We were really in group chat for almost two years until July,” he continues, “it was really just for the craic. We never took it too seriously and we didn’t spend time creating content.
In the summer of 2020, however, all seven dancers graduated from high school. Yes, they really are that young. They discovered TikTok, which tends to be an especially popular social media channel among teens. The band’s fame and popularity skyrocketed once they started posting videos of their performances online.
They grew from 300 Instagram followers, who were mostly the boys’ friends and family, to more than 2 million followers on TikTok, 356,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 13,000 subscribers on YouTube. Check out their exhilarating performance on the magnificent Cliffs of Moher.
What sets Cairde apart from other Irish dancing groups is that they do not dance to traditional Irish music. Instead, they adapt classic Irish dance steps to modern songs. It was hugely popular around the world and brought Irish dancing to a whole new generation. Their most popular video was set to a tune called Banjo Beats, which had already gone viral on TikTok.
As seems to happen with many classic performances, they designed the stages and recorded the performance in less than two hours! Not bad, considering it’s been viewed 80 million times and received 13.5 million likes.
So what’s next for these very talented young men? They’ve all won Irish dancing awards and are huge TikTok stars, but the pandemic has kept them from traveling far. They have appeared on the famous Irish Late Late Show as well as various radio shows. They did, however, receive many other offers.
Ronan explained: “We were offered America’s Got Talent, but we had to decline because it’s not really feasible in the current state of things, said Connell. “We’re still hoping to go to the States to do some chat shows, and in the future, hopefully we’ll have our own shows there.”
This makes sense because over 30% of Cairde’s viewers on TikTok are Americans. As America has a large Irish population, many older viewers are enjoying the opportunity to connect with a significant part of their heritage. Meanwhile, younger viewers seem to enjoy mixing traditional dance with modern beats. The group plans to expand its reach by offering workshops that will allow its legion of fans to learn some basic Irish dancing steps. Now that restrictions are easing, it’s safe to say that this group still has a long way to go.