Holding Each Other Up

Certain events pull me through the year’s rhythm: in January the Methodist church up the road has its Epiphany service. In February we all hunker down in the coldest month of the year, trying to heat our houses, pay our Christmas bills, and eat something besides carbs and legumes.

In March, the ceilidh cometh.

017 A ceilidh (“Kay-lee”) is a Celtic communal dance featuring Dashing White Sergeant and Eightsome Reel and Gay Gordons. Think American Square Dancing, pre-America. Take out the guitars, add fiddles, and throw in a bagpipe as Wind the Clock becomes Strip the Willow.

This year the dance is Saturday, March 9 (and if you’re close enough to come, it starts at 7 in the Presbyterian church next door to the bookstore). It’s free. Some people come to dance, others to view the dancing. Watching cheerful Appalachians of all sizes and ages muddle our way through the steps of various dances we sorta learned in grade school, but forgot when our brain space was required for algebra class—well, it’s tres amusant, as they say in Scotland.014

None of us know what we’re doing, and that’s half the fun. More or less held together by Sigean, the house band, laying down underpinning ribbons of rhythm to which we cling, we listen to Cynthia West (dance instructor) shout “No, left. Left! THE OTHER LEFT!” and get through it, together, holding each other’s hands. Sometimes we hold each other up as feet falter. It’s teamwork at its finest, even though you probably don’t know the name of the last six people you’ve twirled with during a reel.

When everyone’s face is red and we’ve ditched our sweaters—and in some cases our shoes—and drunk every last ounce of water from our bottles and started on the pitchers provided out of the church kitchen, we have the traditional Ceilidh Half-Time Show.

Circling chairs on the dance floor, everyone who wants to takes a turn. As the old saying goes, tell a story, sing a song, or show your bum. Everyone contributes to the community amusement at a ceilidh, one way or another.027

I look forward to the ceilidh all year. It’s a physical manifestation of what our bookstore is: space to come together and cheer ourselves and each other up simultaneously. Snow on the ground? Christmas bills kicking your butt? Never mind; dance with me, and we’ll drive the cold winter away. And give each other a lot of kicks and giggles doing it.


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8 responses to “Holding Each Other Up

  1. March 9th is a Saturday, not a Friday… which is it?

  2. Ooops! Don’t see how to remove a comment! I see you have already corrected it!

  3. Donna Chapman

    Sounds fun to me….I love to go to John Campbell FOlk School when I can scrape together the sheckles, and one night a week they have folk dancing and it is so much fun. I will think of you on Saturday night 🙂

  4. summer1231

    This sounds like fun……I can remember in physical education classes we had to learn how to do the “put your left foot in and your right foot kick out and then you put your body inside the circle and shake it all around” that’s all I remember. But we had to do this every week and at the time we hated it. But look at you all are you not funny and having fun doing this ceilicdh dance I am happy for you

  5. We (m ostly self) watched squares (but always forming a circle) in what we called barn dancing because that’s the only inside space big enough and empty enough) when I was early into this life; later when I taught at Van Hornesville, NY HS, I at first thought “Swing your partner” meant ‘Don’t let her feet touch the floor’.

  6. Read about this in your book! Love seeing the photos of this revel!

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