3.36: What is a Ceilidh


3.36: What is a Ceilidh

A Ceilidh (pronounced "Kay-lay", emphasis on 1st syllable) is many things. It derives from the Gaelic word meaning a visit and originally meant just that (and still does in Gaelic). It can also mean a house party, a concert or more usually an evening of informal Scottish traditional dancing to informal music. Ceilidhs in the lowlands tend to be dances, in the highlands they tend to be concerts. Dances in the highlands are called "ceilidh dances". Ceilidh dancing is fundamentally different from Scottish Country Dancing in that it is much less formal and the primary purpose is the enjoyment of doing the dance. Scottish Country Dancing is much more oriented towards being a demonstration or exhibition. Ceilidhs are extremely popular indeed with young people and often attract from a few dozen people to several hundred. There are world championships for ceilidh bands now (the first winners were Fire in the Glen, now called Tannas). There are also workshops for ceilidh bands at The Adult Learning Project, Dalry Road, Edinburgh.

Best places for Ceilidhs are:

Edinburgh: Walpole Hall, Assembly Rooms, Marco's leisure centre, Cafe Royal, Southside Community Centre, St Bride's centre.

The West End Hotel has leaflets on the noticeboard showing when ceilidhs are on, or look in the Folk music section of

The List (the Glasgow and Edinburgh what's on guide; out fortnightly available at most newsagents). The West End Hotel also has great beer.

Glasgow: The Riverside Club. OK place for a ceilidh but prone to being busy and too much like a nightclub. There are even bouncers (unheard of at all the good ceilidhs)

A good book for anyone wanting to learn how to do ceilidh dances and play ceilidh tunes is Let's have a ceilidh by Robbie Shepherd (well known Radio Scotland presenter of Take the Floor) Price 4.95, 100 pages. Published by Canongate Press, 14 Frederick St, Edinburgh, EH2 2HB ISBN 0 86241 412 1
Includes 20 of the most popular dances, plus a selection of music to go with the dances. There are explanations for the various steps with diagrams, as well as some notes on the history of dancing.

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