The Ceilidh Dance: what it is and how you pronounce it

In fall 2009, I studied abroad in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. One of the reasons I chose Scotland was because I like Celtic music and what better place to go experience Celtic culture than Scotland? (I think our school had a program to Ireland too but it wasn’t as good as the Scottish one) I got my first hand exposure to some organic Celtic music when I went to a Ceilidh.

A ceilidh (kay-lee) to me, is a type of Scottish folk dance that involves traditional music together with dancing that has a lot of jumping and twirling.

Dictionary.com defines ceilidh as “an informal social gathering with folk music, singing, dancing, and storytelling.” I attended two ceilidhs during my stay where both included many sets of dances that spanned over a three hour period and involved about 50-100 dancers. Some of the dances consisted of a pair of people, another comprised circling around four people and in some others the members would be divided in a way that half the room dances with the other half of the room, switching partners while twirling in between each other.

The nice thing about ceilidhs is that the steps aren’t too complicated and it has a casual atmosphere so even if you’re just a beginner or just there to have some fun, one can get fully immersed in the dance without fretting over choreography so much. Sounds of the fiddle, flute, tin whistle, accordion accompany the dance.

It’s difficult to describe a dance in words so I’ll post some videos I found that seem to capture the ceilidh spirit. But if you ever visit Scotland, I encourage you to go to a ceilidh, it’s so much fun and you’ll leave with a good workout :D

* Videos by RossyG1, Stocky210, dwjmac on youtube*


The Ceilidh Dance: what it is and how you pronounce it by StellaSee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

A Ceilidh does look like great fun! As you say, the steps don't look too hard, and the dancing looks very enjoyable. Thanks for the information and the videos.


StellaSee profile image

StellaSee 4 years ago from California Author

Hi Alicia yeah ceilidhs are so much fun~ There's a whole bunch of Scottish clubs all over the US so if you happen to be living near one that's hosting a ceilidh, I highly recommend it! You get such a good workout too, it's like who needs a gym? haha.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

I've never seen this type of dance before, but it does look fun and informal. And like you said, if you try it at least you'll leave with a good workout! Thanks for sharing.


StellaSee profile image

StellaSee 3 years ago from California Author

Hi Vespa, yea I too had never heard of ceilidhs until my first week in Scotland, if you ever get a chance to attend one, I highly recommend it!

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