By Nimue Brown
Dancing can be an act of prayer, ritual, meditation or magic. Shared dancing reinforces bonds of community and celebrates rites of passage. It can also be part of how we get to those rites of passage. More in the sense of helping people pair up and reproduce than in the sense of killing people. Thinking about dancing can be useful for thinking about ritual, because there are similarities of function and implication. Ritual too can be full of prayer, meditation and magic, can reinforce community, celebrate rites of passage and whatnot.
The celidh is a structured form of community dance where people are helped into groups or pairs if needs be, and told the steps. A few dances will give you most of the basic steps, it’s easy to get the hang of. The structure facilitates contact, reduces awkwardness and self consciousness, enables people with little natural talent to dance, and happily includes people of all ages.