Going to a Ceilidh
Scotland, United Kingdom
Going to a Ceilidh Reviews
Going to a Ceilidh Nov 04, 2011
Regular readers will have noticed that I make pretty much constant mention of the concept of a “ceilidh.” What is this mysterious row of unpronounceable letters?
A ceilidh, pronounced kayley, is more or less Gaelic for party. For non-Gaelic Scots it has come to mean “traditional dancing and large quantities of drink, usually followed by someone falling over.” And sometimes a disco. Scotland has retained, or rediscovered in the south, a lively traditional dancing culture which tends to take place at weddings, university balls, special occasions, festivals, fetes, and enterprising pubs who’ve realised it is a hell of a lot of fun.
Ceilidh dancing involves lots of advancing forwards and backwards, spinning your partner, and spinning everyone else. It is not line dancing, and we get very touchy if you suggest it is. It is far more energetic, messier, and more fun, and does not tend to involve hats. It doesn’t even have to involve wearing kilts, although if you have paid for a kilt then you tend to want to get as much wear out of it as possible. Newcomers to ceilidhs will be relieved to hear that there is almost always a caller to talk you through each dance. This is because even Scots rarely ceilidh sober, and frankly, the only dance anyone can remember off by heart is the Gay Gordons.
Yes, that is its real name.
Most dances are progressive and it is well known that some people don’t like dancing, so it doesn’t much matter if you don’t have a partner with you. I’ve danced more with female friends than boys over the years and no one cares.
Music is provided by a ceilidh band, usually involving a fiddle, sometimes bagpipes, drums, and either an accordion or a keyboard. A surprising number of ceilidh bands are young, and so you don’t need to be scared that it will be wheezy old folk music. A genuine Scottish ceilidh is done at speeds that would frighten an aerobics teacher and it’s an energetic sort of a night.
It is generally considered bad form to actually throw your partner into the amplifiers. Beyond that, girls, expect your feet to leave the floor.
And what to wear? You’ll be relieved to hear that full highland dress is not compulsory. You’ll be fine in smart-casual, unless you’ve been invited to a black tie do. Although tonight is not the night to road test your new stilettos.
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