Ceili is an Irish word, derived from the Old Irish word céilide, meaning “visit.” In modern usage, it refers to a social gathering, usually with music and dance. Since Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, the interest in Irish dance, including social dance, has grown in the US, and ceilis are held in many US cities. Last week, I attended my first ceili at The Dubliner pub, which is conveniently located about 5 minutes from my house.
I went with one of the members of the dance troupe I play flute with. He’s an older gentleman, probably my dad’s age. He just loves to dance and he frequently goes to ceilis, so when I expressed interest in going, he said he’d make sure to be there so he could show me the ropes and introduce me to everyone. That was great; I’m not sure if I would have gone without knowing someone.
I’m not a dancer. I feel self-conscious dancing at clubs or parties, but I enjoy social dances, with set moves and partners so that I don’t have to make it up as I go along. As an introvert, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people through conversation alone, but dancing with someone fosters a different sort of connection. There’s something about coordinated movement, especially with physical contact involved, obviously, that feels very intimate.
Playing music is the same. In high school, when I was really involved in band and orchestra, I frequently had crushes on fellow musicians, and how could I not? Part of it was because we shared an interest in music, of course, but it also had a lot to do with the intimacy of sharing the emotion of a piece of music and working together to convey that emotion through our instruments. There’s nothing like sharing the passion, and the intense concentration on that passion that is required to bring a great musical composition to life, to get the juices flowing. As the music climbs toward its climax, the musicians are carried along on its crest.