What is a Ceilidh and do I need to be an experienced dancer to join in the fun?

What is a Ceilidh?

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"It's not hard to pronounce Ceilidh, if you practise deilidh!"

First some official definitions:

Ceilidh, noun, Late 19th century: from Scottish Gaelic ceilidh and Irish célidhe (earlier form of céilí), from Old Irish céilide 'visit, visiting', from céile 'companion'. –

Oxford English Dictionary

In modern usage, a céilidh or ceilidh /ˈkeɪli/ is a traditional Gaelic social gathering, which usually involves playing Gaelic folk music and dancing. It originated in Scotland and Ireland and is consequently common in the Scottish and Irish diasporas, as well as throughout England where it has undergone a fusion with English country dance. In Scottish Gaelic it is spelled cèilidh (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [ˈkʲʰeːli]), and in Irish it is spelled céilí (Irish pronunciation: [ˈceːlʲiː]).

Wikipedia

Is it the same as a Barn Dance?

You are right, it means pretty much the same thing, although a barn dance can have a hint of Americana about it. We are not hung up on what it’s called, we just want you to have a good time. 

So whatever you call it, it's what you get when you take the gentler Country or Folk dancing and add excitement. An evening of dance with Skylarking is great fun, it’s energetic, and crosses age barriers. Despite the Celtic or American sound to its title, we feel that what we give in one of our dance sessions is quintessentially English. You don’t have to wear a kilt or a cowboy hat, and you only need to sit on straw bales if there is no other seating!

Ok, that’s the funny word taken care of but you still may be thinking this sort of thing is only suitable for people wearing traditional dress, who live in VW camper vans in the forest or bearded, flip-flop wearing eccentrics. How wrong you are. Ceilidhs are for people who like to socialise, get up and dance and have a really good time. If this doesn’t apply to you, skip the rest, otherwise continue reading...

The thing about a Ceilidh or Barn Dance is that everyone can take part, young or old, experienced dancer or beginner, and even those who are rhythmically challenged! Some people can be nervous or embarassed on the dance floor – but with a ceilidh, you and your guests will be guided by a very nice person (the Caller) who will introduce each dance and guide you through every step of the dance. Before the music starts, we walk you through the moves and then call out helpful hints once the dance begins.

The choice and the pace of dances are adjusted to suit the age range and experience of the group. No dancing experience is necessary and mistakes don’t matter, because the emphasis is on having fun and being sociable!

At our dances, you will do English folk dances made up of simple moves; most of the dances have been created specifically to be manageable by even the most inexperienced dancer.

And with our unique combination of traditional tunes and modern arrangements, musically there’s something for everyone! We play a mix of tunes from England, Spain, Italy and France, all backed by a lively rhythm track created to really drive things along.

A Ceilidh Dance is a social occasion and is especially good at getting people who don’t know each other to get together in events such as Village dances, weddings and private parties.