School hall ceilidh is a fabulous night of fun

Impromptu entertainment from left to right, Abigael Gray, Pacha Ball, Zoe Duckworth and Iona Sinclair
Impromptu entertainment from left to right, Abigael Gray, Pacha Ball, Zoe Duckworth and Iona Sinclair

A GREAT band, excellent dance caller and a grand plate o’ stovies turned a family ceilidh into a fabulous night of fun at Ballater School, writes Joan Anderson.

The village welcomed the return of excellent ceilidh band Straefoot, from Aberdeen, who had already wowed all age groups at a New Year community dance in the Victoria Hall a few weeks ago.

The latest event was run by Ballater School Parent Council, who also organised a raffle and refreshments in the school hall for around 80 children and adults.

Once again, musicians Pete MacCallum, Malcolm Reavell and Carley Williams provided perfectly tailored music, guaranteed to get everyone from toddlers to grannies birling and whirling.

Pete’s laid-back, amusing style of calling the dances meant that even complete beginners mastered everything from the Virginia Reel to the Gay Gordons.

And when the newbies’ curse affected the Dashing White Sergeant (leaving two orphaned trios stranded at each end of the hall), Pete came up with a tidy solution that neatly avoided the usual directionless charge round the circle. Abandoned threesomes head for the centre, he instructed. And it worked. Sweet simplicity and nobody got kicked or – worse – felt obliged to sit down.

The very popular Circassian Circle was enlivened by an extremely enthusiastic group of adult male dancers who turned their charge to the centre into a bonding warcry for dads and granddads.

At one point, someone requested a Lady Gaga song, but the band quickly returned the challenge. If any of the Ballater folk could sing Lady Gaga, they’d be delighted to play along. Alas, no takers. Which is a shame as it would have been interesting to see which of the Scottish country dances went best with it!

Some of the village children, however, spontaneously offered to entertain the band with an impromptu Highland Fling, much to the amusement of one of their dance teachers, Fiona Brandie, who had come along to support the Parent Council event, and unexpectedly found herself watching her pupils among those showcasing their talent.

Indeed, the children’s gift was a very proud moment for the families and friends of Abigail Gray, Iona Sinclair, Zoe Duckworth, Pacha Ball, Louise Hendry, Katie Hendry and Lizzie Scripps. Who needs Lady Gaga?

Another highlight in a night of cultural delights was the Riverside Jig, a Glasgow dance which involved a lot of sharp ducking as a row of hand-holding runners swarmed from one end of the hall to another. Woe betide those still finishing slow dohsedohs as the onslaught commenced. The kids, in particular, loved forcing adults into nosedives…or else!

To round off the evening, the entire crowd enjoyed the unending swirl of an Orcadian Strip The Willow the full length of the hall, leading Parent Council chairperson Helene Thom to conclude – when she got her breath back – that the Straefoot ceilidh had been “fantastic”, and the rosy-faced dancers heartily agreed with her.