Ceilidh Culture - A Beginner's Guide

Not wanting to look a mug when the celebrations kick off, Anna Docherty sends herself off for a quick lesson

‘The steps always come flooding back’, my angel-voiced instructor ensures me. Well, if this is the case, then I am seriously questioning the meaning of the word ‘always’. For where within the nuances of this word, does it allow for my complete cranial breakdown in the middle of the first dance – when I twirl around the wrong way and pitch in too early with some overly-enthusiastic moves?

Comfortingly - or perhaps pityingly - my instructor, Sheila, tells me that some people may take a few classes to understand the ceilidh style, adding that ‘enthusiasm gets you everywhere’. Now, this I take as personal praise for my earlier freestyle dance moves; I am nothing if not enthusiastic. And so I happily dance on, feeling at ease with the friendly group and at one with my interpretive channeling of ceilidh dance.

My beginner’s class has an average age group of 20-30 years-old and I am surprised to find that the male/female balance is tipped in favour of strapping young men. We are gently guided through all the traditional dances, as well as some more unusual ones. 

Everyone is rosy cheeked and merry, and Sheila’s philosophy of ‘if I make the dances fun then everyone will be happy’ really seems to work – because despite my efforts being a little, well, rocky, I am nonetheless left with a sense of achievement and enjoyment. In fact, I leave with a positively inflated sense of self. I’ve got the moves.

Sheila’s Top Tips:

• Watch the good dancers and sneakily tuck in behind them.
• Get up and dance to everything – participation is key.
• Don’t worry too much about the exact footwork, you can’t force it.
• Most importantly, just enjoy it.

Dance Base offers beginner’s and intermediate lessons, 14–16 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, 0131 226 9652, www.dancebase.co.uk

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