Some tips on making a ceilidh succesful

If you've never organised a ceilidh
before, whether a public event or as part of a party,  you might find this advice useful. We certainly don't want to tell you how your event must be run, but we do have a lot of experience of playing for ceilidhs at all sorts of events and parties, and we're always happy to share this experience to help make an evening succesful.

If you have any other questions about creating a good event please get in touch.

There are some further FAQs, more specifically about booking The Hedgehog's Skin, on the contact page.

Do you need to have done this kind of dancing before?

No! The caller tells you what to do, the dances can be chosen to suit an audience of complete beginners, and it doesn't matter if you get it wrong! This is social dancing, not a performance. Most importantly of all, remember that music and dancing have evolved for people to enjoy themselves. Therefore, if you are having a good time, you are, by definition, doing it right!

Is ceilidh dancing suitable for young children?

Children can enjoy ceilidhs. and clearly it's great for them to experience live music and a healthy, social form of dancing. Not all dances are suitable for children though
. The Hedgehog's Skin are experienced at working with young children (it includes a number of parents and school-teachers!), and can tailor the dances to suit them.

What is crucial is that young children have an adult as their partner.

There is an age, however, below which it doesn't work. You do need to be able to tell your left from your right, to listen to instructions, and occasionally act independently from your partner - very young children cannot do this, even if they are dancing with an adult.

How long should a ceilidh last?

This, of course, depends very much on the event.

Generally it's not worth having a ceilidh for anything less than an hour, and equally anything more than four hours (including breaks), and people will tire.

It's worth remembering that ceilidhs aren't as intense as other kinds of live music and dance: the dances take time to explain, and people generally want a rest after a couple of dances. This means they last longer! Thus an hour - which equates to five or six dances - is about the shortest amount of time for which it's worth booking a band.

Having a break during the evening, if the ceilidh lasts anything more than two hours, is always a good idea.
It does far more than give the dancers (and the band) a rest, it gives the evening some structure. Often there are natural breaks for a supper, a raffle, or some kind of floor-spot or cabaret, but even if there isn't, have an interval anyway. 

The interval should start before the mid-point of the evening, otherwise it is taken entirely out the of the second half of the evening. If anything, plan for the second half to be slightly longer than the first: it is often livelier as the audience have relaxed into the swing of the evening.

For a full evening ceilidh at a party, a suggested structure could be a first half of an hour to an an hour and a quarter, a break of around 45 minutes (less, if it is simply for a rest), followed by a second half of an hour and a quarter to two hours.

Can you mix a ceilidh with other types of music, or a disco?

Be very wary of pleasing no-one in an attempt to please everyone!

That said, having a shorter ceilidh with something else afterwards can work very well: the ceilidh can go at full-pelt all he the way through, and a change of music can give the night a lift.

What definitely doesn't work is alternating back and forth between a ceilidh and a disco every couple of dances: neither has any time to establish any momentum and everyone is dissatisfied.

Ceilidhs are single, self-contained events:the programme of dances and the order they're done in is crucial to people's enjoyment, and it is impossible to structure this well if the evening is broken into short segments rather than allowed to flow.

So, if you do decide to split the evening with a disco or another band, always have only one stint of each, with a break in between. This allows both to have a proper begining and ending, with the audience raring to go for both halves!

What sort of rooms work best?

All that's really needed is a good space for dancing! Ceilidh dancing does take a certain amount of space, so filling a room to the fire-limit isn't a good idea.

Squarish dance floors are better than long thin dance floors.

A hard (even better, sprung) floor is good. Carpet isn't good for dancing, neither is concrete.
Sports halls aren't acoustically great for live music. For ceilidhs in particular, the reverberant sound can make it very hard to hear the caller.

How should the room be set up?

It's important to have chairs, and tables too if there's space: at ceilidhs the dancing isn't continuous so people need somewhere to catch their breath! But leave as much space as possible for dancing.

Make it as easy as possible for people to get onto the floor: set tables out one row deep all around the room rather than all packed together in one area. This is especially important at parties where people may not have come specifically for a ceilidh - any obstruction to getting on the floor might be enough to disuade them from dancing!

The band shouldn't be too far from the audience (so don't have chairs and tables set up only at the opposite end with the dancing space in between). It's best if they are in amongst the party. Remember that the caller needs to be able to speak to the audience, even when they're not dancing, to announce the dances and encourage people onto the floor.

If the room has a stage, it's best for the band to use that: it's much easier for the band and caller to do a good job if they can see the dancers.
In a rectangular room, it's often best for the band to be on one of the longer sides, rather than at an end: this means they are closer to more of the audience.

If possible, have the event self-contained in one room. Again, if it's a party rather than a public event, having (for example) the bar in a different room can split the company in half. Ceilidh dance music isn't usually over-loud or over powering. People who aren't dancing won't mind being in the same room, it's perfectly possible to hear people speak over the music.

Home About the Band