As Saturday night arrived, part of me was dreading my first Ceilidh. I could picture myself falling over people’s feet, not knowing what to do and generally making a fool of myself. To be honest I did all three things at one point or another, but ironically it became part of the fun of it and was one of the best nights I’ve had in Cambridge so far.
I should also mention that this was a Ceilidh with a twist: it was set to chart music, rather than the typical band. I was informed, by more experienced Ceilidh-goers, that this made things a whole lot more difficult. Music ranged from Paolo Nutini’s ‘Pencil Full of Lead’ to the Rednex classic ‘Cotton Eye Joe’, the latter of which (after the fourth repeat) has been stuck in my head ever since… The music definitely added an extra buzz and fed into the enthusiasm of what became a very hot and sweaty room full of people.
There were two definite dance highlights. The first has to be the ‘Aggressive Canadian Barn Dance’: The women made a large circle, and would be left spinning, mid-dance, while the men raced to the other side of the room to choose another ceilidh companion. This added quite the competitive element to the evening.
The second highlight was the final dance set to the fantastic ‘Cotton Eye Joe’, known as ‘Orcadian Strip the Willow’, which involved two ‘chains’, one of men and the another of women, facing each other. The top couple would link arms and spin, then link arms with a new partner and spin, before spinning again with their own partner in the centre. They would progress down the chain and were followed by the next couple and the dance continued. If that sounds exhausting, it's because it was. Halfway through I genuinely thought I was going to collapse, and there were a few overzealous spinners throwing their partners across the room, but the atmosphere was brilliant all the same.
If you ever have the opportunity, go to a Ceilidh. You won’t regret it. Next time I look forward to the real thing, live band and all.