Popular Ceilidh Dances


The variety and origins of ceilidh dances are too numerous to mention in this brief resume of traditional Scottish dancing. However, we've managed to dig out the most famous and well-known ceilidh dances, marches, reels and jigs for your enjoyment. We've also included a couple of humourous ceilidh dances that'll bring a smile to the faces of your guests. Our ceilidh band provide all of these dances, and much, much more.


The Dashing White Sergeant

Formation: three facing three around the room, man between two ladies or lady between two men.

Music: The Dashing White Sergeant - 32 bar reels, starting and ending with "The Dashing White Sergeant".

Bars:

Description

1-8:

Join up in a circle of 6 and circle round to the left for 8 steps (4 bars) and back to the right.

9-12:

The person in the middle turns to the partner on the right and both set to each other, then both turn round once with right hand, (or both hands). The other partner stands still.

13-16:

 Repeat with the other partner.

17-24:

 Using elbow grip, turn 1st partner, then 2nd partner, then 1st partner, then 2nd partner. (Variation - dance a reel of three, giving left shoulder to 1st partner to start).

25-28:

 Holding hands in lines of three advance towards opposite line, (two skip steps), and retire.

29-32:

 Both lines dance forward, one line raising their hands in an arch and the other line dancing underneath, and dance on to meet the next set of three coming in the other direction.

Repeat dance from the begining with new set of three.

 

Canadian Barn Dance

Formation: couples around the room facing anti-clockwise, ladies on the right.

Music: 2/4 or 4/4 pipe march (not 6/8) or schottische.


Bars:

Description

1-2:

Starting with the outside foot, walk forward for three steps and hop (or kick).

3-4:

Walk backwards for three steps and hop.

5-6:

Skip sideways away from your partner (men towards the centre of the room, ladies towards the edge) for two steps and clap.

7-8:

Return to partner and join in ballroom (waltz) hold.

9-12:

In ballroom hold, skip sideways to the man's left, lady's right for two steps then back again.

13-16:

Use four step-hops to polka anti-clockwise round the room.

Repeat dance from the begining.

 

The Gay Gordons


Formation: couples around the room facing anti-clockwise, ladies on the right.

Music: 2/4 or 4/4 march. E.g. "Scotland the Brave", "The Gay Gordons".


Bars:

Description

1-2:

Right hands joined over lady's shoulder (man's arm behind her back) and left hands joined in front, walk forward for four steps, starting on the right foot.

3-4:

Still moving in the same direction, and without letting go, pivot on the spot (so left hand is behind lady and right hand is in front) and take four steps backwards.

5-8:

Repeat in the opposite direction.

9-12:

Drop left hands, raise right hands above lady's head. Lady pivots on the spot. (The man may set).

13-16:

Joining hands in ballroom hold, polka round the room.

Repeat ad lib till end of ceilidh dance.


ceilidh dance


Highland Schottische


Formation: couples in a circle around the room, ladies on the outside, men on the inside, joined in ballroom hold with partners.

Music: Schottische.


Bars:

Description

1-2

Men with left foot, ladies with right, point toe in 2nd, bring foot up in front of shin (3rd aerial), point in 2nd and bring foot up behind calf (3rd rear aerial). Bounce on supporting foot on each of these four beats.

3-4

Step onto that foot, close other foot behind, step onto the original working foot again, and close original supporting foot behind calf.

5-8

Repeat 1-4 with other leg.

9-10

Repeat 3-4 (ie step, close, step, hop).

11-12

Repeat 7-8 (ie 9-10 in other direction).

13-16

Polka as in Canadian barn dance - step, hop, step, hop - rotating clockwise and following line of dance anticlockwise around the room.

Repeat ad lib till end of ceilidh dance.


 

The St. Bernard's Waltz

Formation: couples around the room in ballroom hold heading anti-clockwise, ladies on the outside.

Music: waltzes.

 

Bars:

Description

1-4:

In ballroom hold, take three steps sideways towards the lady's right, man's left, then stamp both feet.

5-6:

Take two steps sideways in the opposite direction.

7-8:

Take two steps towards the centre of the room (lady heading forwards with right foot then left foot, man backwards with left foot then right).

9-10:

Take two steps back out (same feet).

11-12:

Lady turns on the spot with her right hand joined to her partner's hand.

13-16:

Waltz around the room in ballroom hold.
Repeat ad lib till end of dance.

ceilidh bands music


Strip the Willow

Formation: Longwise sets of 4 couples, men on the right and ladies on the left. Couples number from nearest the band.

Music: 6/8 or 9/8 double jigs. E.g. "The Irish Washerwoman", "The Curlew", "The Jig of Slurs" for 6/8 and "Drops of Brandy" for 9/8.

 

Bars:

Description

1-8

1st couple spin RH.

9-20

1st lady turns 2M LH, partner RH, 3M LH, partner RH, 4M LH.

21-24

Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase.

25-36

1st man turns 4L LH, partner RH, 3L LH, partner RH, 2L LH.

37-40

Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase.

41-52

1st lady works down men, while 1st man works down ladies, turning 2C LH, partner RH, 3C LH, partner RH, 4C LH.

53-56

Spin with partner RH to the end of the phrase. (They are now at the end of set.)

Repeat with 2nd couple, then 3rd couple, 4th couple .... and repeat ad lib till music ends.


The Virginia Reel

This seems actually to be a family of similar dances - probably word-of-mouth having lead to variations. One variety is:

Formation: Longwise sets of 4 couples, men on the right and ladies on the left as viewed from the band. Couples number from nearest the band.

Music: "Hoedown" reels, e.g. "Turkey in the Straw".

Bars:

Description

1-8

All advance and retire, then turn partners RH.

9-16

All advance and retire, then turn partners LH.

17-24

All advance and retire, then turn partners BH.

25-32

All advance and retire, then dance back to back with partners (do-s i-do).

33-40

1st couple join both hands and side slip down the middle and back.

41-48

1st couple, followed by 2nd, 3rd and 4th couples cast off to the bottom; 1st couple make an arch and the other three couples dance up to new positions.

Finish 2,3,4,1, ready to start again.


The Drongo
 

Square 'Fun' Dance - With 4 Couples


1: Everyone forms a circle round the chosen 'Drongo'

  • Circle left For eight steps
  • Circle to right for eight steps.

2: Couple 1,2,3,4 [ Orbit and Dance Round Drongo] In a fun manner - 'poke', 'shove', 'squeeze' 'pinch' the Drongo. (No o.t.t. behaviour though!)

3: Ladies circle the Drongo - Make faces at him as you go, Stick your tongue out as you go.& 
   let the Drongo know what you think of him.

  • Left for eight round circle
  • Right for eight round circle

4: Gents take Drongo into the circle and circle round for a count of infinity.
   When the music stops, gents all grab a lady ... and the one left standing - well he becomes the next Drongo!

  • Lets all boo the Drongo.
  • Is the Drongo ugly?

PS.

  • The Drongo must be a man. (This is sexism at it's best)
  • He can be your perfect scapegoat for five minutes!
  • He's not allowed to retaliate - so he sticks his hands in his pockets.
  • Poor man - only a face that a mother or his dog could love!


 

The Polygamous Reel

Reel: 48 bars

For one man and two women - in sets of five people

1-4 All three set, then second woman dances up to first man's place while first man and first woman turn by the left one and a half times to end with first man in first woman's place and first woman in second woman's place.
5-8 All three set, then first woman dances up to first man's place while second woman and first man turn by the left one and a half times to end with second woman in first woman's place and first man in second woman's place.
9-12 All three set, then first man dances up to first man's place while first woman and second woman turn by the left one and a half times to end with first woman in first woman's place and second woman in second woman's place.
13-16 All three set, then second woman dances up to first man's place while first man and first woman turn by the left one and a half times to end with first man in first woman's place and first woman in second woman's place.
17-24 First man and second woman dance down the middle and up, casting to second place, first man finishing behind first woman.
25-32 Left shoulder reel for three across the dance.
33-36 First woman dances up, behind, and around her partner.
37-40 First woman followed by first man dances up, behind, and around second woman. First couple ends in progressed places on their own sides.
41-43 All dance left hands across halfway. First couple crosses by the right.
44-48 First and second woman turn one and a half by the left.

Notes

  • 2nd man steps up on odd-numbered iterations of the dance and down on even-numbered iterations. As in normal Scottish dances, once a woman has danced the dance twice through, she needs to step to the bottom to allow the lower-most woman into the dance.
  • In this dance, the man dances equally with the women and, indeed, there is no concept of "partner" - he is partnered with both women and dances with both of them.
  •  

    The Veleta


    Formation: couples around the room facing each other, both hands joined, ladies on the outside, men with backs to centre.

    Music: waltzes.

     

    Bars:

    Description

    1-2

    Step to the side along line of dance (man with left foot, lady with right) and swing other leg across. Step back and swing other leg across.

    3-4

    Step, close, step to the side along line of dance.

    5-8

    Repeat in the opposite direction.

    9-12

    Step, close, step to the side along line of dance and then back again.

    13-16

    Take ballroom hold and waltz along the line of dance.

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    "We enjoyed ourselves from the moment we arrived - till the last waltz" The band were great and the caller did a magnificent job of including everyone" - J. Smith, Dalry

    "I didn't know what to expect as it had been years since I had been to a ceilidh, let alone booked one! However, from the moment I contacted Scotland's Ceilidh Band, I received nothing but helpfulness and reassurance. My daughter's wedding will be remembered for years to come". - A. Harkness, Edinburgh

    "We needed to raise money for charity at short notice and didn't know where to start. On the recommendation of one of our members we contacted Scotland's Ceilidh Band, and both the fundraising advice and the event itself surpassed all our expectations - we raised over £1000 on the night." - D. Jeffreys, Glasgow

    "Our wedding wouldn't have been the same without Scotland's Ceilidh Band - you'll be remembered for years" - M. Bowes, Glasgow

    "You're ability to get an audience on the floor and dancing the stops was amazing - half of our audience were from England and didn't know what a ceilidh was until they met you!" - S. Purvis - Portsmouth