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Commonwealth Ceilidh connects cultures

James Allenby, Get Scotland Dancing

Blog / Sport and physical activity
On Saturday 21 June 2014, as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, thousands of people danced in the global 24-hour Commonwealth Ceilidh.

As the dust settles on dance floors across the globe the fun is over, legs are aching, and many organisers worldwide are taking a well-deserved rest. An online gallery of photos and videos document this epic event but what else is left after we all joined hands for the final Auld Lang Syne?

The Commonwealth Ceilidh was created through a partnership between Get Scotland Dancing (GSD) and the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS). This was one of many new dance partnerships created and developed over the last 12 months that will continue to flourish. As a member organisation of independent branches and affiliate groups, RSCDS connected as part of the GSD national steering group and their branches through local engagement sessions. Many RSCDS groups wished to engage more closely with local schools and numerous links were made with local Active Schools Co-ordinators to enable this.

Planning more than 70 Commonwealth Ceilidhs around the world meant new links with other dance groups and styles, venues and musicians, to create each unique event. Cultures met and internationalism was promoted with events such as Nairn's 'Highland-Russia Connection'. Whilst RSCDS Aberdeen invited a local Bollywood group to perform at their event and now look forward to new collaborations. The close ties of musical rhythm between Indian music and the newly recorded ceilidh tunes also developed in Edinburgh with members of the local RSCDS branch and of Indian classical Dance Ihayami joining each other's classes to mix their styles. This collaboration led to the development of a new dance for the programme and this, along with two others developed in Aberdeen and Glasgow will take their place in the active archive of Scottish Country dances promoted by RSCDS.

All fifteen dances were filmed with local branch members on three locations and remain free for everyone to see and learn at Links with the British Council mean these resources will be accessed by schools around the world as teaching ideas that educate new generations about Scottish culture.

Mounting such an ambitious international event and securing the dedicated support of groups around the world to make it happen feels like such a great achievement for so many involved. Domestic and international media coverage exists to document a special moment in time but new links between groups and their local media remain to be taken advantage of in future. Raising the profile of Scottish Country dancing to a new generation was also enabled through a bespoke social media campaign that kick started a new way of RSCDS communicating online with an encouraging 800% increase in online activity.

Still, the most important and enduring legacy of this project can not be captured or counted. The memories of fun, laughter and a moment of joining hands at dances around the world during a special year will linger forever; whether that be someone experiencing Scottish Country Dancing for the very first time, or simply appreciating their much loved tradition. As time moves on we hope that dancers, new and existing, young and old will continue to join hands at these fun, social and inclusive dances and continue the Scottish tradition of celebration. 

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