A ‘Ceilidh’ (pronounced ‘Kay-lee’) is the Gaelic word for gathering. It’s a type of country dancing which is pretty informal, done in couples or groups to Scottish or Irish music, usually played by a live band featuring fiddles, accordion and drums. There are set moves, but they are really very simple and no experience is necessary as all the dances/moves are called out to the floor making it easy to follow, as well as being fun, energetic and exhilarating.
A typical Ceilidh dance would consist of 2 or 3 hours of dancing, with a mix of fast and slow dances, some in groups where couples interweave and make intricate patterns, some where you dance around the room with one partner and some where you change partners many times. There will more often than not be a bar and plenty of breaks so you can get your breath back and have a cooling refreshment between dances.
Ceilidhs are a very common form of entertainment in Scotland and are a major part of the social calendar, for example at New Year. They are very often an integral part of wedding receptions, birthday parties and other celebrations, and are part of the normal culture in Scotland. Ceilidhs make great fundraising events and it would not be unusual to have a Ceilidh for entertainment at corporate functions, particularly at international events.
Ceilidh Dancing is great fun – uplifting – energetic, very sociable and even more fun in a large friendly group. It’s is a great way to meet new people and experience an integral part of Scottish culture. Going to a regular group gives you a chance to learn those traditional dances so you can join in with confidence at any ceilidh you go to anywhere. Once you have a few basic steps and moves you can also groove away to your heart’s content wherever you hear that ceilidh beat….and it doesn’t have to be done to the same old music either!
Traditional Scottish dances have started to be set to pop music in the last few years , and Disco Ceilidh or Trad Disco as its sometimes known are now all the rage at music festivals throughout the country. New trad disco DJ’s use funky beats and unusual dance/music combinations such as Rose Royce’s 1976 classic Car Wash for the Virginia Reel. Disco Ceilidh takes the best bits of traditional ceilidh and fuses them with the dance floor fillers and the anthems of a disco.
Going to a Ceilidh or country dancing class gives you an energy boost and is always a friendly fun experience, as well as being really good for your brain, as you learn more intricate dances that really test your memory and spatial awareness! It is known to be a powerful way to keep your brain active as well as your body, as you have to memorise moves, and keep up with instructions and timings. Having said that, nobody cares if you don’t get it right, and it’s a really good laugh sometimes if you don’t!
According to a recent piece of research by the Universities of Strathclyde and Cumbria, Scottish country dancing (or Ceilidh dancing) can even delay the ageing process and has been proven to prevent diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It’s a brilliant form of regular exercise as it builds bone density, strength and agility, reduces stress and improves your mood, as well as burning 390 – 425 calories in a session. (For comparison, that’s as many as playing badminton or a round of golf while carrying your clubs).
I’ve enjoyed ceilidh dancing, calling dances professionally and teaching dancing for many years and still love to learn new dances myself. If you are enthused by this article and want to give it a go, please come along to the Cake and Ceilidh Club which meets in Tynron Parish Hall on Tuesday evenings, where you can learn some new dances and steps, and best of all, tea and cake is served at half time!