This is the second in a series of Dance Spot posts highlighting different places to go dancing.

Dance Spot: Stanford Ceili
Price: Free
- Tuesdays 7-9pm lessons + social dancing
- Thursdays 8:30-10:30pm social dancing only, but beginners welcome
Location: different places throughout Stanford (check website)

On Tuesday, I went to Stanford Ceili‘s monthly All-Dance Ceili. Ceili is an Irish dance similar to Riverdance but more casual and danced in sets. See this video for a sample of a Stanford Ceili performance:

All-dance Ceili happens on the last Tuesday of every month. This means it’s all dance and no classes. But even without classes, beginners are welcome because they alternate between “dances for everyone” and “taught dances.” I’m also glad they alternate because Ceili is quite physically intensive, like an aerobic exercise. So the “taught dances” are perfect times for me to catch my breath between dances and admire experienced dancers’ skills.

“Dances for everyone” are dances that are easy for beginners to pick up, and a caller will walk everyone through the steps before starting the dance. During the dance, the caller will call out the next steps of the dance. Even though I don’t know Ceili at all, I am able to do all the “dances for everyone” and have a great time! Here’s an example of a called dance:

“Taught dances” are dances that require more skill. These dances are taught in the Stanford Ceili Tuesday classes and require dancers to memorize the routine. Doing the wrong thing in this dance could cause crashes and injury, so Stanford Ceili even requires a test to advance from beginner level to intermediate level.

There were about 15 dancers at this event with experiences ranging from their 5th time at Ceili to many, many years. They were all very welcoming and energetic. While I was learning one of the “dances for everyone,” a group of people walked by outside and the Ceili dancers beckoned them to come in and watch. After the song ended, we then invited the audience to join us and dance.

While it didn’t work this time, one dancer told me that’s how she got into Ceili many years ago. She had just walked out of her apartment building with her friend to go running when they saw Ceili dancing. Instead of running, they ended up dancing. In the end, they converted to exercise through Ceili dancing instead of running.

When the dance event wrapped up around 9:30pm, one person asked: “are there Afters?” I was curious, “what are Afters?” It turns out that they sometimes get ice cream in Palo Alto after dancing. Happily, I joined them and we chatted the night away until the store closed.


More about Ceili caller

“A Ceili caller is usually the teacher or most experienced dancer of the group who has the dance memorized. They then call the movements out in a non-stylized way, intended to remind those who are non-dancers when and where to move. Social Ceili dances are often the easiest dances and very easy to shuffle through as a non-dancer. A caller makes sure that everyone at a social dance can participate.” Source: Wikipedia – Ceili dance