Forum: Irish / Irish

Starting a Ceili
By Tave
On Fri Aug 28, 2015 11:55 PM

I'm looking to start up a local ceili, probably once a month or every other month. I've been to one, years ago now, it was part of a Scottish Highlands Festival and they mashed it with a few Irish things (like the local Irish dance school). Does anyone else have experience with these? Have you run one, or attended one? Was there a good mix of beginners and trained dancers, and how well did they mix? Were the beginners able to follow along well enough to enjoy the ceili? What made it a success and how could it have been better? And how often is/was your ceili hosted? Thanks!

2 Replies to Starting a Ceili

re: Starting a Ceili
By StepdancerPremium member
On Sun Aug 30, 2015 04:09 PM
Welcome to the board!

Our local Comhaltas (a group which promotes Irish music and dance) sponsors a ceili in our city 4 or 5 times a year. We mostly get a mix of adult ceili dancers and country set dancers, and sometimes a stepdancer or two.

As for your question about beginners mixing with trained dancers, my experience is that beginners and trained dancers do not mix well most of the time (in Irish; I have no experience with Highland). We have some trained dancers who are kind to beginners and a few brave beginners who will mix with trained dancers, but that's rare. Most trained dancers I see are visibly impatient with beginners, and most beginners never begin because they see the trained dancers and their attitudes and stay firmly in their chairs. I can see both sides, but there has to be a place for people to start, or the art will die. New dancers in particular need a way to start where they feel safe (or at least safer). In my city, Irish is especially poor at welcoming new dancers.

One way we have addressed this is to have a set list of dances which includes something for everyone. Easier dances are noted as being good for newcomers (a signal for the trained to stay put if newcomers annoy them), while more complex figure dances are noted as being better for those with some experience. We walk through all the dances, and call them as they are danced. Invariably we have some annoyed trained dancers joining easy dances and brave beginners joining harder ones, which is fine if said dancers are willing to go with the flow. If things get contentious, we then verbally note that this is a ceili, a.k.a. a party, attended by lots of different people who have varying levels of experience, and some degree of tolerance is to be expected. You'd think this would be obvious, but we find it helps to say it out loud. A lot. ;)
re: Starting a Ceili
By Tave
On Sat Sep 12, 2015 06:53 PM
Thank you, Stepdancer! I really like that idea of providing a list of which dances are best for what level of familiarity. That could give the new ones a chance to try it out, and then again also get the chance to see what they can work up to. I'm curious to see how this works out, and if we have a similar experience with the beginners vs. experienced dancers!
This will definitely be an Irish ceili too, it was just the only other one I had been too was a mix of Irish dance and Scottish poems and music.

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