What is a Ceilidh?
Well a Barn Dance is an approximate description
and as exemplified at Stroud - very English. The principle difference is maybe
in energy. The band are amplified, the attacking style more like rock music,
but the tunes are a mix of 17th century right through to their own compositions.
You might be dancing to the Mozart Horn Concerto segwaying into Nellie the Elephant
- all to a rhythm that suits the human physiology, and that is timeless.
It is not important to know what to do because there is a 'caller' who
explains each dance beforehand and calls the moves during dancing proper. It
makes dancing with a group of other people run smoothly.
It can be confusing when everything is new to you but there are plenty
of people who have seen it before and the best advice is not to stand there
worrying, if you move people will move around with you, guiding by example.
If you freeze they can't help you and you will fret - go with the flow it is
The most important thing is that is it a social occasion, people smile
because it is fun.
There are related styles of dance like Squares and Contra - Stroud Ceilidhs
are not this style. Squares & Contra is typically more complex and the emphasis
there is correctness. This is it's characteristic, it has it's afficianados,
but beginners may not warm to it.
A frequent question is "where can you learn" - the easiest answer
is "at a Ceilidh!". With a caller explaining the moves, and a friendly
atmosphere there is less need for workshops. Some events do have a 1/2 hour
"teach-in" before the start - but they are not frequent. If the regulars
are patient (and they invariably are) beginners should have no fear. Listening
to the caller is essential - regulars don't know it all and the caller knows
something different, it is the caller's job to get everyone working at the same
Dress is "optional", comfortable garb is the norm, flat shoes
and trainers are often seen. A ceilidh can be energetic unless they call a waltze.
An English Ceilidh is a living tradition and the principle tradition
is harmless fun. Good exercise and more enjoyable than a 5 mile jog. Be prepared