September 19, 2005

Scotland Chronicles - Day 8 – August 27 – The Ceilidh

Today was our first wedding anniversary and the Ceilidh dance party that Stephen and his parents organized. In preparation I had brought four different outfits but of course I had to go buy something new. It was colder than I had expected, plus, how could I not shop in all the great stores and actually have a reason to spend money – even if it was a 2:1 exchange rate.

We arrived at the Royal Scots Club and were escorted downstairs to a beautiful banquet hall painted burgundy, setup with a stage for the band and numerous tables decorated with flower centerpieces in the colors of the Duncan tartan. Very simple and elegant the room looked amazing. The tables were around the edges of a giant dance floor. As guests began to arrive we welcomed people into the room and the evening was launched with champagne toasts by my father-in-law, my dad and Stephen.

I’ve been telling people the dancing was akin to a Texas Hoedown but really I guess that Hoedown grew out of the Ceilidh tradition. The band began with a waltz, inviting me and Stephen to kick-off the evening. Good golly we hadn’t practiced and I certainly don’t know how to waltz. I began to have a bit of a meltdown having not been warned and not having practiced. Stephen spun me in dizzying circles, not romantic, more like a airplane’s downward spiral after being shot out of the air. I immediately asked if there would be other dances I should know and demanded to know why we didn’t practice in advance. Too late. Luckily everyone was asked to join us about 30 seconds into the demonstration.

The band introduced their first participatory dance, thinking they were presenting something simple, but probably not realizing that the 23 guests from the states had never done these kind of numbers before. Charlie, the band leader, quickly reviewed the steps and off we went. It was a screaming blur of more dizziness and I had to take my leave and decided that photographing the guests was a safer chore for me. Friends John and Nicole refused to allow me to escape, commandeered the camera and spun me back onto the dance floor.

Luckily the band got the picture and all future dances were much easier – or maybe we all started to get the hang of it. Our little dance circles were dotted with experienced Scottish folks who took control of the situation, pulling, pushing and spinning us in the correct directions. It went on like this for several hours and by the end of the evening we had all invented our own interpretations of the dances. My brother-in-law Mandeep and my sister Marlene invented a Punjabi version, my dad gave up on finding his partner and usually ended up dancing with whomever was across from him, my mom was running in circles and my grandmother Minerva teetering between partners.

It was a blast. The food was superb. The Manager of the Club was also the owner of the B&B hosting my family so they catered to all our special dietary needs, even providing a superb version of vegetarian haggis. It all ended too soon as we spilled out onto the streets to find cabs home and watch the fireworks over the city. It was a night to remember and a true melding of cultures. Next time we will all party in Connecticut to Jewish dances with some Punjabi house music for extra fun.