The "battering" is rooted in the tradition of Irish dance long before "River Dance". In the old days, out of courtesy and tradition, it was only the man of the house (host) who did any battering. Or perhaps in a cottage only the male partner of the couple who were currently dancing 'at home' on the hearth flag (i.e. nearest the open fire). Then everyone could hear and appreciate the expertise of the man of the moment battering. And it would not matter how few hobnails or sole protectors were in his shoes - with only one person battering all could hear what he (not she) was doing. Some Irish dance authorities do not approve of the girls battering, but are more acceptive of the boys. Times change and so do traditions. Many girl dancers like to make much more footwork noise than was the case in the past. One dancer asks, "If a lady is good at what she does, why make an issue of telling her that she isn't supposed to do it in the name of 'tradition?'"
One Irish dancer is disturbed by the increasing popularity of loud banging the hard shoe on the dancing boards. I have observed this growth and evolution of this continual hopping style of dance, even with continual battering by some dancers, over the more than decade and half that I've been doing Irish set dancing. This style seems to be basically spontaneous among today’s dancers as I also don't know anyone who actually teaches it. If anyone on the list has actually been taught this style please tell us of the process. I'd love to hear how it was taught. I don't think it really ever was or is taught to today's dancers. Instead this seems to me to be simply a style that agrees with the faster, more hyperactive urban (or urbanized) lifestyle. People do it because they enjoy it, having picked it up merely from watching others, and these same people are the current revival of set dancing. Whether or not someone personally likes the style or not (and I don't for myself) I think we must acknowledge its existence as a style of dancing, not just bad dancing in itself. Of course I will hasten to add that anyone who kicks another or runs into another is dancing badly no matter what style they're using. That's a different matter from style. I first was aware of an early form of this style in 1985. I saw a group doing the Caledonian at the One Mile Inn outside Ennis. They were a competition set and they all danced exactly the same with the early lighter version of the hopping (no battering with it).
One American dancer reports that for set dancing, "I purchased a pair of shoes from the Talbot Street Dance Center in Dublin. They are a lace-up oxford style with a one-inch heel plus a quarter-inch hard cap (fiberglass?). Imagine your hard shoes with no ankle strap (and therefore not as low-cut), no toe tap, and a quieter heel. They cost 30 Irish pounds (punt? what is it?), or $40 plus about $10 for shipping. Way cheaper than you'd pay here. I'm finding that the heels may be too high for battering steps, so I may go back to my Stevens Stompers. This is a clogging shoe available at many square dance shops in the US, or from the makers at www.stevens-clogging.com.com. They have a low wooden heel that has a nice sound. With either shoe, I find that my heels make more noise than my toes. I think this makes my steps sound too syncopated. When I had my Stompers re-soled, I asked for a heavy man's sole so they would be more balanced, but my double-toe shuffles still sound more like a wimpy "swish-swish" than a resounding "tap-tap". I hope the other listers will chime in with their shoe views. .... I've certainly seen lots of dancers in sneakers, men's dress shoes, and summer sandals. At a place like Irishfest, it's kind of a bother to change shoes every time you wander into the dance tent, but it's nice to have a good leather-soled shoe for classes."
One growing debate in Irish dance is the "battering" or the noise made by hard shoes on wooden stages. This is another of the impacts of the popularity of Michael O’Flaherty [? Flatley! - see photo] and "River Dance" in which the sound of the feet is very important. Battering is, however, is rooted in the tradition of Irish dance long before "River Dance". Modern dancers debate the issue of battering and the type of soles on their shoes to achieve the level of sound that they want. Many dancers are currently experimenting. "I like to do some battering while dancing but most of the time cannot hear what the tip of my shoes is doing. I have tried metal bits but it is rather too noisy and sounds like tap dancing. So I finally found a shoemaker near my place that would be ready to do it the old-fashioned way." Light-weight fiberglass soles have proven popular with some dancers. A dancer explains, "We used to have the shoemaker put a graded leather toe piece on the tips of the shoe and bang tons of nails into the tips and also on the heels. Now we use fiberglass and composites instead. Much lighter." Another dancer reader asks, however, "Lightweight maybe, but incredibly noisy! Can you not just wear leather dancing shoes, like character shoes or summat? It seems to me that a rake of nails or fiberglass tips would make for quite a clackity-clackity-clackity sound, no? I find loud shoes extremely distracting, myself."