The Folk Dance Tradition

The Scottish Ceilidh

A Scottish traditional dance is usually referred to as a Scottish Ceilidh, though the term ‘reeling dance‘ is sometimes used for an evening of the more complicated Scottish dances. For a general Scottish evening where the dancers of the sort that are not too difficult and nonexperts can do, then you would have a Scottish ceilidh band. From more complex set of dances, you would still want a Scottish ceilidh band but you would need a caller who was expert in that range dances.

 Scottish Dances that are relatively easy for beginners to do include: 

Gay Gordons

Dashing White Sergeant

Strip the Willow

St Bernard's Waltz

Scottish Barn Dance 

Many of the tunes that are played by Scottish ceilidh bands, English barn dance bands and Irish ceilidh bands are the same, as are the actual dancers. Each nationality claims that they originally with theirs, and certainly the tunes are played in subtly different styles whether they are English Scottish or Irish. Dances that come under that category and would be played to Scottish tunes are: 

The Real Wee Willie 

Pat-a-Cake Polka

Oxo Reel

Jack's the lad


These are dances that we are quite often asked for, but are really quite unsuitable for inexperienced dancers.

Eightsome Reel

Military Two Step

Eva Three Step

Reel of 51st

Duke of Perth   

There are in fact a huge variety of dances that are learnt by specialist Scottish dance clubs that are never danced in general ceilidhs. These mostly derived from the Victorian period where Scottish dancing and Scottish nostalgia with the in thing. Whether it was bagpipers playing on the Trossachs as the steamship, the sun Walter Scott leaves for a cruise on Loch Katrin, or listening to Scott Skinner playing tunes he is just composed and pretended were traditional Scottish tunes, at the London Palladium, the Victorians were deeply into nostalgia. To give you an idea of how many Scottish dances there are, just look at this set of dance names for the letter 'F'. 

Fa' This

Faculty Of Actuaries

Fàilte Gu Alba

Fain To Follow

Fair Donald

Fair Isle Stacs

Fair Jennie's Jig

Fair Jenny's Jig

Fair Maids Of Lyon

Fair O' Feir

Fair Ronny's Reel

Fair Rosamund

Fairbridge Reel

Fairfield Bridge

Fairgrieve's Fancy

Fairly Shot O' Her

Fairy Dance

Fairy Flag

Fairy Ring

Fairyknowe Lodge

Falcon Square


Falconer Hall

Falkirk Bairn

Falkirk Lass

Falkirk Millennium Wheel

Falkland Beauty

Falling Leaves

Falls Of Bracklinn

Falls Of Clyde

Falls Of Feugh

Falls Of Foyers

Falls Of Rogie

Famous Grouse


Far Cuillins

Far North Queensland

Faraway Isle

Fare Thee Well

Farewell To Crumlin

Farewell To Fife

Farewell To Forty-Nine

Farewell To Helensburgh

Farewell To Miller's Forest

Farewell To Peebles

Farewell To Scotland

Farewell To The Highlands

Farewell To The Island

Farewell To The North

Farewell To The OTC

Farewell To The South

Farewell To Wiston

Farm House Jig

Farnham Maltings

Father Connelly's Jig

Father To Son

Favourite Partners

Feilleadh Beag


Fellowship Reel

Fergus McIver

Ferguson's Fancy

Fergusson Strathspey

Ferla Mor

Fermat's Bicycle

Ferry Boats On The Mersey

Ferry Louper



Festival Dream

Festival Fling

Festival Interceltique

Festival Man

Festival Reel


 How many of these are really dance today? Very very few, except in the specialist dance clubs. I remember being hired for an event of the Edinburgh universities Scottish dance Society (the event was being held in England). They were supplying their own caller, and we were playing the music. We assumed that they wanted to use their own caller because they were doing all these very complicated Scottish dances, but we were amused that in the event they did the same straightforward Scottish dances that we do for weddings and birthday parties. Indeed, they did the same dances may be two or three times different parts of the night. So you never know what’s going to happen and Scottish ceilidh.

But there is difference between a Scottish ceilidh being held in the cities of Scotland and the ones being held in the wilds the west coast of the islands. In the Highlands it tends to be an all-inclusive social event for the local community. 

 Just as an aside, it’s interesting to see the variety of things that people ask for when they want a Scottish dance. There are misspellings like scotish dancing, descriptions like highland dance or Gaelic dancing, but all of these we treat as if what they are looking for is a Scottish ceilidh band

There is a similar variation of requests for things that need an Irish ceilidh band. For example people asked for Irish dancing and ireland dance, which is a bit confusing. Then there is the bare variety of spellings of ceilidh (hardly surprising considering the unusual spelling and the difficulty in pronunciation for the average English person.) We get variations such as Kaylee dance; ceighley dance; caleigh dance; kayleigh dance; kayleigh dancing;  caleigh dancing; ceili dancing; kaley dancing; kaylee dancing; but as with the Scottish ceilidh band equivalent, when we see any Of these things we offer an Irish ceilidh band

The English Barn Dance or Country Dance tradition

So what about English dancing? For what we would term an English barn dance, (which is sometimes spelt as an alternative barndance),  valid descriptions are English country dances,  english folk dances; country dances; country dancing; english country dance. 

Then there are requests for period dances. When we get a request like Jane austen dancers or Jane Austen Dancers; we offer The Ostentatious Dance Band, which plays authentic music of the period and to which the caller calls the very civilised (and sometimes not so civilised) dances the period. The tunes can be played either with a conventional barn dance band, or if a bit more authenticity is required then the band can include oboe and cello. It’s important for people not to get mixed up with the Jane Austin dancing that they’ll typically see on Hollywood movies, whether dances often have little to do with the real dances the period, and although a small dance band may be shown the soundtrack is usually of a Symphony Orchestra of eighty people play. But that’s Hollywood for you! 

We also sometimes get asked for dancers of the Thomas Hardy period, mostly when one of the Thomas Hardy novel is has been recently dramatised on television. For this we have a band called The Madding Crowd, which plays music of that period, which lies between the Jane Austen period and the present day. 

Jewish, Greek and Eastern European dance traditions

On occasions we get requests music for Jewish weddings or bar mitzvahs, and for this we have a specialised band called The Bagels

As a more general thing we get quite a few requests for a few tunes of various nationalities, perhaps because of the bride or groom originate from that country, or parents or guests. It can be just about anything. We have done Danish music and dance, German tunes and dances, Swedish and Norwegian (we include some Swedish and Norwegian waltzes in our regular repertoire, they really quite nice.) We recently did a ceilidh with a ring right ceilidh band where they wanted Greek music. The dances were to be called by one of the people at the party. 7/8 time is great fun to play and the music really does swing along very nicely. We also get requests for Eastern European, Russian, Bosnian and other music from that part of the world. It’s all really good stuff makes a great change for us. It’s also great to see the faces of the people from that country in their surprise that an English band can play their own music. 

We also get requests for old time dance; old time dances;  and we normally take this is not being anything to do with folk dancing but rather dancing to all-time waltzes, foxtrot and the like. We have very few bands that play music of this period. We did once play such music with string quartet, but it was of limited success, although the customer had particularly wanted a string quartet and they were pleased with the results. 

The Welsh music and dance tradition

Then there is welsh folk music. The Welsh term for a Welsh barn dance band is a Twmpath band. So sometimes we do get requests for Twmpath bands, but also welsh bands; welsh traditional dance; welsh groups;    welsh dance; welsh dancing; welsh folk band;  

The Welsh have a rich history of folk music which is kept alive in part by the many Eisteddfods that take place around Wales, where  traditional welsh music is performed in a competitive, though friendly, way, with welsh folk groups performing welsh Celtic music to get a placings and metals at the Eisteddfod. The welsh music bands that we have on our website and who perform welsh folk music are specialists in dancing and call relevant dances to welsh dance music. His music different to English music? It is subtly different though not as different as perhaps English folk music is to Irish. It tends to be made up of very pretty tunes that are relatively gentle in nature, certainly not wildly upbeat and energetic, though they certainly can swing along nicely. We most commonly provide such bands for welsh weddings.