21.3.16

No Heels Allowed: An American's experience learning how to reel

I am in no way shape or form a "dancer." While I can do the cotton eye joe like there's no tomorrow (major shoutout to learning this bar mitzvah classic in elementary school gym class), the last time I did the whip/nae-nae I broke my dress strap in front of my friends (#truestory). And while I love a good ceilidh, I would be totally lost without the head of the band calling out the dance steps.

So why did I pick up reeling this past September? Well, to be honest it was because the guy I was dating (now my boyfriend) invited me along to reeling practice one Tuesday night and I really wanted to impress him.


But now, I reel because I love it. I genuinely enjoy being spun around until I'm dizzy by complete strangers. I take pride in knowing how to do some of the dances without making any mistakes. Plus, I've made some amazingly good friends through reeling.




The beautiful venue of the White Tie Reeling Ball
Photo credit: Oliver Buchanan Photography

So what exactly is reeling? I've been asked this same question by Scottish, English, and American people alike. In short, it's just like ceilidh dancing but more formal and with a lot more spinning. And if you don't know what ceilidh dancing is, I'd say reeling is comparable to square dancing but faster paced and 100 times more fun.

Here's a bit of history for you: Reeling is a type of folk dancing that originated in Scotland, with the first record of the dance dating back to 1590. Reeling could very well be older than this, perhaps dating back to the Middle Ages. While Scotland can claim reeling as its own, the dance is also practiced in Ireland and England, and has a strong influence on American square dancing.


Okay, history lesson over. Onto the dancing. I think it's really hard to get an idea of what reeling is without doing it or seeing it. So I thought I'd show you guys with a professional video as well as a snippet from my snapchat story:





Just some pros- I'm not this good.



video

All the twirly dresses!

See? Lots of spinning. And clapping. And sometimes howling and shouting (note: this gets messier the more drunk everyone gets). One of my favorite parts of this whole reeling thing, though, is that it's not all just Scottish country dancing. We throw a little rock and roll/swing in there too. Just watch:


video

Kinda cringey but I never said I was a good dancer ;) 

All of this weekly practicing leads up to one major event: the white tie reeling ball. Everyone gets dressed up in the most formal attire and heads over to a beautiful venue (the Hub) for a night of dancing, drinking, and all around good fun. 


The men look dashing as ever in their tails, and the ladies get to wear long flowy gowns. But it's really all about practicality when it comes to what you wear-straps are an absolute must, as is a nicely tailored dress that doesn't drag on the floor. And the most important part? Wearing flats. You definitely don't want to be worrying about balancing on those stilletos when you really should be worrying about what the next step in the dance is. Trust me- I wore flats for the entire night and my feet still hurt. I can't imagine what it would have been like in heels.       



All dressed up.

Let me tell you, I was so nervous for this ball. I know it sounds kinda lame, but the thing is we had to know the dances by name and be able to just do them right then and there. Plus, you have to get your dance card all filled out with names of your partners before the dancing even starts. This was giving me major flashbacks to middle school events where you had to be "picked" to dance. Even though I did some of the asking this time, trying to pick out my friends from the crowd of hundreds of people was no easy feat.  

But in the end, it all turned out fine (of course). I had my dance card all filled out and managed to get through every dance without too many mistakes. Most importantly, I didn't fall on my face (thank you flat shoes) and had tons of fun! By 3 AM when the ball had finished, I was a tired, sweaty, but happy mess. It was a near miracle that my straightened hair managed to survive the night- even though my feet didn't.   


This all just goes to show that if you try something new, you might reel-y enjoy it! 

(Sorry, this post was just asking for a ridiculously cheesy pun)

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