My lovely friend and hostess in Edinburgh, Sara, was invited to a ceilidh by one of her friends on Saturday evening. I had never heard of a ceilidh before and neither of us really knew what this might entail, but it seemed like a quintessentially Scottish experience that we couldn’t miss. So not quite knowing what to expect, we picked up some booze (BYOB dance events in churches are such a great idea) and walked into what ended up being one of my Edinburgh trip highlights.
We were skeptical at first: what was this intergenerational folk dancing event we had just paid cover to walk into? Sara’s friend told us to just “grab a man and follow him” through the lively jigs. We did as we were told– everyone was so friendly it was easy to join right in.
A trio from Belgium (fiddle, accordion, guitar) played the tunes, along with a Scot on percussion who called out the dances to lead us along. (There was even a “Canadian Barn Dance” –it is probably what we would call square dancing back home?–so I suppose Sara and I were just getting in touch with our roots!)
The dances were pretty easy to pick up, but oh my goodness was it ever a good workout. More than once I happily told Sara that I felt like I was in some (sweaty) modern Scottish version of a Jane Austen ball. We merrily skipped, polkaed and twirled the night away…and I woke up the next morning with bruises on my arm from all the grabbing and spinning around. Who knew Scottish dancing could resemble a contact sport? (I’m kind of proud of my bruises actually, they’re my Scottish souvenirs — shoutout to my dance buddy Chris who was certainly strongest spinner in all of Scotland that night.)
This all just goes to show: dancing is always a good idea. I’ll definitely be leaving my dance card free for a ceilidh or two next time I’m in town– thanks Edinburgh!