Country Dancing, folk-dance, ceilidh and barndance are related terms referring to forms of social group dancing, in which people join togther in teams, groups or sets, and dance together in linking patterns of movement. This kind of dancing in found world-wide in an immense variety of forms, and the main three forms found in the British Isles are English, Scottish and Irish, each of which is represented in Liverpool.
Scottish folk-dance has two main divisions, known as country dance or ceilidh. Scottish Ceilidh dancing is restricted to a small corpus of dances which most Scots would have experienced from their schooldays, and which they can mostly dance in a light-hearted informal way, without worrying about correctness, and with no need for a Caller to explain what to do. Scottish Country Dancing is a much more detailed and organised form of group social dancing, where the movements, actions and steps have to be learned first in a club, class or society. The parent body for this dancing is the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Royal Scottish Country Dance Societywith its headquarters in Edinburgh, represented in Merseyside by two of its local Branches (Liverpool and Wirral ). There are also a number of Scottish societies and clubs where this dancing is taught and practised. At an evening dance, dancers would be expcted to have learned much of this dancing beforehand, and would only be provided with written sheets of reminders and maybe a brief spoken reminder as well.
Irish folk-dance is also in two forms, generally known as ceilidh and step-dancing. Irish Ceilidh consists of a small number of social dances which would be well-known to many Irish people, and normally learned at school or parish in Ireland or in Irish ex-patriate clubs and societies elsewhere. At a ceilidh evening, being told the name of the next dance is considered sufficient preparation. Irish step-dancing, best known these days through the fame of "Riverdance," is a display form of folk-dance, intended for an audience to enjoy watching. Typically wearing very colourful and eye-catching costume, the dancing can be done as solo, pair, or whatever number the choreographer may choose. This dancing can only be done by learning it at a school or academy of Irish Dance, and although a display of this dancing may well figure in a Ceilidh evening, but it is not done by the general dancers. In Merseyside, Irish Ceilidh dancing is mainly done in the St Michael's Irish Centre, while the step dancing can be learned in a fair number of schools of Irish dance in the Merseyside area.
English folk-dancing also has two forms but three names; ceilidh, country-dance and Playford. However, they are all more closely related than in Scottish and Irish, all being social dancing in sets, and can be done by everyone, as there is always a Caller to explain and remind. English Country Dancing is the basic form, and dances done can be simple or intricate, and can be derived from peasants and townsfolk having fun, or derived from the gentry in their mansions. English Ceilidh is a term used to refer to the simplest English country dances, those which are not intricate, requiring very little understanding but a good amount of energy and life. Barndance is a term used almost interchangeably with English Ceilidh, ceilidh being considered more rumbustious and barndance rather more sedate. Playford is a term used for the upper-class dances, typically as seen in "Jane Austen" films and the grand balls of the Regency period. Named after the most famous Dancing Master of the age, who devised many of the most famous and enduring dances of this style. This is refined, mannered and graceful dancing. English country dancing is taught and enjoyed in a good number of local folk-dance clubs in Merseyside and Lancashire, two main sources being Mersey & Deeside Folk and Lancashire Folk The parent body is the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) in London.
The word "ceilidh" originally meant "an evening gathering of song and dance and story-telling." Although some singing may be done, while the dancers catch their breath and refresh their energy levels, it is rare to find any story-telling involved these days. The word has a few related correct spellings, such as "ceili", "ceilidhe", although these can be correct only in terms of regional use or as a plural form of the word.