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Welcome to The Real Ceilidh Interactive Experience

The word ceilidh comes from the Gaelic for ‘gathering’ or ‘party’. These days ceilidhs centre around dancing – Scottish style. It’s all about fun, not footwork. The Caller talks you through the dance before you begin and there’s always a helpful soul on the dance floor who’ll point you in the right direction. As long as you’re enjoying yourself you’re doing it right. So, if you’re ready to ceilidh step this way!

  1. First Dance The Gay Gordons Interactive Ceilidh Experience

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  2. Second Dance Dashing White Sergeant Interactive Ceilidh Experience

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  3. Third Dance Strip the Willow Interactive Ceilidh Experience

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Preparing for Ceilidh What to Wear

It’s true that formal Scottish dress can, depending on the occasion, be quite prescriptive, but when it comes to ceilidhs there’s usually wiggle room - in all senses of the word.

Most ceilidhs are usually ‘smart casual’. It’s nice to make the effort but equally you need to wear something that’s comfortable to dance in.

How to pronounce Ceilidh

​To non-Gaelic speakers ‘ceilidh’, might look like a bit of a tongue-twister, but the only twisting it involves is reserved for the dance floor.

Follow our guide and you’ll soon be saying it like a native.

Step 1:

Say ‘Kay’ followed by ‘lee’.

Step 2:

Pat yourself on the back because that was perfect.

Get to know the Ceilidh Band

Live music always made a ceilidh special and it’s no different today. Your typical ceilidh band has around five musicians playing the fiddle, accordion and drums, but some bands also feature the guitar, flute – even a mandolin.

In days of yore you didn’t even need a band to have a ceilidh. People would ‘diddle’ by singing puirt à beul which means mouth music. Making ceilidhs not only the first house party, but the predecessor to the beat box.

First Dance The Gay Gordons

People have been dancing The Gay Gordons since the late 19th century. Some better than others mind you, but that doesn’t matter. Everyone and anyone can master it in a matter of minutes which is why it’s usually one of the first dances of the night.

Download dance steps

Ceilidh Facts

First Dance The Gay Gordons

About the dance

Traditionally this is the first dance of the evening.

The dance is over 130 years old, and was named after a famous army regiment from the North East of Scotland called the Gordon Highlanders.

How many?

Couples dance

Intensity

Light

Download dance steps

Fun facts

  • The Gay Gordons dance is over 130 years old. Which is ironic, as it will take years off you.

  • It was named in homage to the famous Gordon Highlanders army regiment. ‘Gay’ means extraordinary.

  • It is usually danced to a march like ‘Scotland the Brave’ or the tune ‘The Gordon Highlanders’.

  • The Gay Gordons is also a form of the card game Solitaire. Again, ironic as you’ll never feel alone when you’re dancing it.

The steps

Second Dance Dashing White Sergeant

You don’t have to be dashing or a sergeant to dance this jolly reel. What’s especially good about this dance is that you can sing along to the words. Though silent singing in your head is absolutely fine.

Download dance steps

Ceilidh Facts

Second Dance Dashing White Sergeant

About the dance

This is a group dance so you’ll need to gather in groups of three. It’s a reel, and it’s a very sociable dance, changing partners every so often, meaning your group of three will get the chance to dance with lots of different people.

It dates back around 150 years, having first become popular in the mid 19th century.

You might find that different villages or different areas of the country have slightly different versions, especially in the reeling part, but it doesn’t matter which version you do. It will work.

How many?

Groups of 6 with sets of 3.

Intensity

Medium

Download dance steps

Fun facts

  • The Dashing White Sergeant tune was composed by Sir Henry Rowley Bishop with words by General John Burgoyne.

  • The more well-known lyrics were penned by Sir Hugh S. Robertson (1874–1952) for the Glasgow Orpheus Choir.

  • The dance steps were influenced by Swedish circle dancing.

  • It is the regimental march of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

  • In the USA, West Point graduates march to the tune of the Dashing White Sergeant at their passing out parade.

  • Some say the tune suggested was the inspiration for I Wish I Was in Dixie, as there is similarity in the opening bars.

  • The Guinness World Record for the largest Highland dance involved 1,453 pupils from five schools in the Nairn region dancing the Dashing White Sergeant on 22 June 2007 to celebrate the Highland Year of Culture.

The steps

Third Dance Strip the Willow

This has to be one of most folk’s favourite ceilidh dances. Fast, birling and super simple, this is pretty much everybody’s favourite dance, absolutely not to be missed.

Download dance steps

Ceilidh Facts

Third Dance Strip the Willow

About the dance

Strip the Willow is a group dance with one long line of gents facing a long line of ladies.

All you really need to do is grab yourself a partner and stand opposite them in line.

How many?

Groups of 8

Intensity

High

Download dance steps

Fun facts

  • Strip the Willow is an old Hebridean weaving dance.

  • On 30 December 2000, 1,914 people danced the largest Strip the Willow as part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations at the ‘Night Afore Fiesta’.

  • The dance is also known as Drops of Brandy.

  • Orcadian Strip the Willow involves ‘multiple willow stripping’ where every fourth or fifth couple strips downwards and everyone else moves upwards.

The steps