When in Scotland you have to try dancing the Ceilidh. It’s a traditional Scottish folk dance where you swing your partners around and dance up and down the hall. There’s hardly a moment you’re still.
Many of the guys dress in Scottish kilts with a baggy t-shirt or go all out with a fancy thick long sleeve. People will find all sorts of people at these dance halls. There’s always a band at the front. They are lively and play some of the more popular tunes of the early 2000’s and earlier with a twist.
Ceilidh Definition from dictionary.com: “a party, gathering, or the like, at which dancing, singing, and storytelling are the usual forms of entertainment.”
The Ceilidh has been around since at least 1917 when Donald Mackenzie wrote about the dance as a social gathering for people. There was music, dancing, story telling, and poetry. It was a great way for people in small villages to get together and socialize on a cold night or warm summer’s evening. Most of the time, this was where people met new people, friendships grew, and sometimes even relationships lead to marriages.
The dancing itself is performed either with partners or as a group. They are fast paced and take you all around the dance floor. Most of the music is traditional Scottish tunes, but today they take modern music and put a Scottish twist on it.
Each dance is full of excitement and energy vibrates through the room. New comers often need frequent breaks from the dances to cool down and get a good drink. This is the perfect time to spark up a conversation with new people who will most likely surprise you with the stories they have to tell.
There are two great places in Edinburgh to check out some Ceilidh dancing: Summer Hall and Assembly Roxy. These places understand there are a lot of new comers and take the time to teach each new dance before swinging fully into the next tune.
I haven’t been to Assembly Roxy, but Summer Hall was great. The dance hall is like entering into a grand-Medieval dance hall. The band is situated on one side and the bar on the other. All the tables are pushed back behind the columns to allow for seating and open up the dance floor. Something to note is that since the building is so old there is no air conditioning, so make sure you wear something breathable and light.
Stepping into the dance hall was like going back in time. Music blared. Footsteps shook the floor. People laughed. The air was full of energy!
There were people of all ages from 18 to 70. Unlike America, people will ask you to dance left and right. They are very courteous and bold to say the least. Maybe that’s why so many women love Scottish men. One thing to keep in mind is when you are asked to dance say yes most of the time. It’s seen as rude if you say no.
When you get on the dance floor be ready to be tossed into the crowd. You might have a hand or an elbow to the face. Who knows? People are moving around so quickly and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. They don’t care if you get in the way. They’ll keep going no matter what.
If you’re a woman, you will feel like a light gazelle compared to the men. I always thought of myself as a bit bigger but that didn’t matter to them. They were able to lift me off the floor when we spun around. I honestly can’t tell you how long my feet were actually on the ground.
By the end of the night, you will be sweating like crazy. Make sure you wear something light and have a good fan! It’s one of the best workouts. The finale dance is one you can’t miss. It keeps you on your toes and there is continual spinning until you’re dizzy and can’t distinguish your left from right.
Dancing the Ceilidh is an experience every traveler should try at least once. It brings you into the Scottish culture. It’s old fashioned, gay (in the sense it’s happy), and will keep you on your toes. The best part is that you can either go with a group of friends or on your own. No matter what, you will be on that dance floor by the end of the night!