Saturday 25 November 2006

carol's first céilidh

And that is pronounced "cailee" for your non Scots.

And I went to my first one last night at the Assembly Rooms on tony George Street with my pal Louise and a gang of her compadres.

One of the things I love most about living in Scotland is that it really does have a celebrated cultural identity... and one that they gladly share with visitors and new residents as well.

The closest thing I can compare the ceilidh to is like a line dancing/square dance/polka on steroids. And man, is it FUN!

You get spinned and twirled and crash into people and learn the steps as you go. It is a total hoot. AND many true Scots wear their kilts the way god intended, sans undies, so if a guy does a bit of an enthusiastic spin, you get a little show.

According to Wikipeida, a céilidh is actually the traditional Gaelic social dance in Ireland and Scotland. Before discos and nightclubs, there were céilidhs in most town and village halls on Friday or Saturday nights and are still common today. ( Hello, I went to one on a Friday night and it was packed!) Originally céilidhs facilitated courting and prospects of marriage for young people and, although discos and nightclubs have displaced céilidhs to a considerable extent, they are still an important and popular social outlet in rural parts of Ireland and Scotland, especially in the Gaelic-speaking west coast regions. Céilidhs are sometimes held on a smaller scale in private or public houses, for example in remote rural hinterlands and during busy festivals.

The formality of these can vary. Last night I saw girls in jeans and guys in full -stop head-to-toe highland wear. That's the fun is that you can came anyway you like! (I wore a skirt, although not as twilry as I'd like). It was great because you could easily not know a thing (hello, me) and still participate.

Céilidh music is provided by any assortment of fiddle, flute, tin whistle, accordion, bodhrán (which is like a drum.) The music is cheerful and lively, and the basic steps can be learned easily.

The general format of céilidh dancing is the "Set". A Set consists of four couples, with each pair facing another in a square or rectangular formation. Each couple exchanges position with the facing couple, and also facing couples exchange partners, while all the time keeping in step with the beat of the music.

However, about half of the dances in the modern Scots céilidh are couple dances performed in a ring. These can be performed by fixed couples or in the more sociable "progressive" manner, with the lady moving to the next gentleman in the ring at or near the end of each repetition of the steps.

Anyway, if any of you come to visit, it is a must. You sweat, you laugh, you spin and you feel like a kid. And there's beer. What could be better than that?

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