Irish language

How the Bluffer grew to love céilí dancing

Robert McMillen

GO mbeannaí Dia daoibh agus bhur gcéad fáilte isteach chuig an leathanach dátheangach is fearr san Irish News, The Bluffer's Guide to Irish.

One of the saddest – and paradoxically, most enjoyable – plays the Bluffer ever saw was Owen McCafferty's The Absence of Women. When the pretty young girl was gently ag cliúsaíocht - flirting with a man at a dance, his get-out clause was “Belfast men don't dance.”

Now, ag damhsa - dancing has never been a problem to the Bluffer although as a teenager in the Gaeltacht, he found it difficult staying on his feet when being céilí-swung around the room by a farmer's daughter from Tyrone.

Nowadays, there doesn't seem to be as many céilís as there used to be. I've often heard it said that during the Belfast Blitz in April 1941, bhí céilí ar siúl - there was a céilí on in the Ulster Hall.

(Perhaps one should be arranged for the 75th anniversary of the Blitz next year).

There was always great fun to be had with his favourite dance, Baint an Fhéir - the Haymaker's Jig.

By this time he had perfected his luascadh - his céilí swing (almost) and he had no problem attracting two members of the opposite gender for Cor na Síóg - the Fairy Reel.

Others were Aoibhneas na Bealtaine - the Sweets of May, Ballaí Luimní - the Walls of Limerick and Ionsaí na hInse - the Siege of Ennis.

There would be endless calls of “péire amhain eile” - as the MC would appeal for another couple to make up the requisite numbers of dancers and boys/men would be dragged up or embarrassed sufficiently to get their dancing shoes on.

It was easy enough if it was Tonnaí Thoraí - the Waves of Tory, a simple enough dance until each couple had to replicate the movement of waves on the dancefloor, something that became a step too far for the terpsichoreanally challenged.

At the other end of the scale from the Waves of Tory, there was Cor Seisear Déag - the 16-hand reel which required a degree in calculus to navigate. Then there were na Ceithre Rincí Beirte - four two-hand dances which veered into the dark, mysterious world of na damhsaí seit - set dancing which was yet to explode into our consciousnesses.

In the past decade or so we has seen a burgeoning of sean-nós Irish dancing, which people - including Duke Ellington's granddaughter - say greatly influenced the development of tap dancing in the USA.

Irish dancing itself was influenced in the early years by dances brought from mainland Europe, such as the quadrille and the mazurka.

Belfastmen do dance and some love to do it while others require some Dutch courage before turning into John Travolta, Fred Astaire or Michael Flatley on the dancefloor. The Bluffer's advice is to let the music fill your body and take it from there!

ag cliúsaíocht (eg clooseeakht) - flirting

ag damhsa (eg daowsa) - dancing

bhí céilí ar siúl (vee caylee er shooil) - there was a céilí on

Baint an Fhéir (bwintch un yayr) - the Haymaker's Jig

luascadh (looascoo) - a céilí swing

Cor na Síóg (cor ne sheeawg) - the Fairy Reel

Aoibhneas na Bealtaine (eevnyiss na baltinya) - the Sweets of May Ballaí Luimní (balee limnyee) - the Walls of Limerick

Ionsaí na hInse (unsee ne hinsha) - the Siege of Ennis

péire amhain eile (payra awine ella) - one more couple

Tonnaí Thoraí (tunee horee) - the Waves of Tory

Cor Seisear Déag - (cor shesher jayg) - the 16-hand reel

Ceithre Rincí Beirte (kera rinkee bertcha)- four two-hand dances

na damhsaí seit (ne daowsee setch)- set dancing

Irish language

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