What it feels like to ... BE A CEILIDH CALLER

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - CATHER­INE COUTTS

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.

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