Members of the Ceili dance club practice a dance during one of their weekly meetings in the Viking Union. Photo by Erik Simkins/The AS Review

Members of the Ceili dance club practice a dance during one of their weekly meetings in the Viking Union. Photo by Erik Simkins/The AS Review

By Alex Bacon/The AS Review

Pounding feet, clapping hands and spinning bodies form geometric shapes and lines as the dancers of the Ceili (pronounced “kay-lee”) dance club practice a traditional Irish reel.

“Ceili is Irish social dancing,” Ceili Coordinator Laura Gorrin said.  “It’s mainly about making patterns with the people you’re dancing with.”

This month marks Ceili’s third year as a club.  It was started by Gorrin, Olivia Olmsted and some of their friends. Gorrin said she always danced when she was younger.  Olmsted was a competitive Irish step dancer for 12 years.  When Olmsted met Gorrin, the two started the club with other friends who were interested.

Gorrin said one member of the club described the dances as making Celtic knots with people. According to Olmsted the dances are usually comprised of four or more people dancing in figures, or patterns.

Ceili performs traditional Irish dances such as the “Fairy Reel” and the “Four Person Reel” as well as newer dances such as the “Iron Hand” or the “Chutney,” which were created by Gorrin’s former dance teacher.

The “Fairy Reel” is a dance done with at least six people.  The group forms two lines of three facing each other.  The lines  step together and apart twice and then join to form a circle.  The circle moves right and left and then breaks into lines again.  Then, some dancers move to the left, others move to the right and some cross the space in the middle, spinning and twirling throughout the dance.

Attendance usually ranges from four dancers and four musicians to 12 dancers and 12 musicians.  Olmsted said there have been musicians that play guitar, accordion, mandolin, bass, fiddle and the bodhran (a traditional Celtic drum).
“The more people, the more dances you can do,” Olmsted said.

According to Olmsted, dances range from extremely easy to complex.

“We cater to whoever’s there,” Gorrin said.

“If you can walk, you can do this dance,” Olmsted said.

This statement is also the club’s motto.  Instruction is interwoven with full dances.  Someone calls out steps and demonstrates them. This is followed by a practice period.  Next, steps are strung together and practiced. Finally,  the group tries the whole dance.

“We’re always looking for people who want to play Irish music as well as people who want to dance,” Gorrin said.
Ceili welcomes beginners and is willing to teach people how to do the steps in each dance.

Occasionally members of Ceili will meet at the Skylark’s Hidden café in Fairhaven and dance to the Irish music played live on Sunday nights.  Ceili also performs every spring at Western’s International Night.  They also perform for the Scottish country dance class on occasion or when they get performance requests.

Ceili usually meets from 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays in Viking Union 565 but occasionally they meet in Bond Hall.  If meetings are moved from the VU to Bond, there will be a sign on the door of VU 565 and an e-mail sent out to people on the mailing list.  Anyone interested in getting on the mailing list or learning more about the club can e-mail Olmsted at