What it feels like to ... BE A CEILIDH CALLER
SCOTTISH dancing is fun, energetic and, once people do it, they almost always enjoy it. At ceilidhs there’s a lively buzz to the room and a real sense of community. Usually one person will pluck up the confidence to take to the dancefloor and the others will follow. I love seeing the delight on people’s faces, the warmth and the happiness that fills the room when the band start to play.
From the age of five I practised ballet dancing, which was an incredibly competitive dance form. At 12 I became interested in Highland dancing because my friends at school did it. The training was intense and I remember the teacher being very strict about simple things like pointing my toe a certain way. It takes years to build up the skills to dance well, but Highland dancing is incredibly supple compared with ballet.
I completed my Highland dance qualification and taught a children’s and an adult beginners’ class, which attracted people in their late teens and some in their seventies. As a teacher, it’s important to make dancing fun while involving techniques. Some people were natural dancers while others were ready to work.
Dancing has always been part of my life and taken me all over the world, from Peru to South Korea. When I retired from Highland dancing, I set up an entertainment industry with Highland pipes and dancers. At one point, I had to find a band and a caller at short notice, which sparked my interest in ceilidh calling. This requires being able to manage large groups of people. What I love about ceilidh dancing is that everyone can take part. It isn’t formal like ballet or Highland dancing and the best part is seeing everyone join in and have fun.
I do freelance work which involves ceilidh dancing for Finnish teachers, weddings, birthday and large corporate functions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Sometimes I can expect three ceilidh events in a week, which is very busy, but I love dressing up for the occasion and being surrounded by happy people. It makes it feel all the more worthwhile.