FAQ 1 What’s the difference between a Barn Dance, a Ceilidh or Ceili and a Hoe Down?

I don’t tend to distinguish between the terms too much as which ever name you use, it’s really all about having good fun!

A Barn Dance, Ceilidh (pronounced “kaylee”) or Ceili and a Hoedown are similar in that the dancing involves people dancing together either in couples or in small groups of couples. The dances at a Barn Dance or Ceilidh or Hoe Down are done in formations of couples in circles for as many people who wish to join in, squares of 4 couples, lines of boys facing lines of girls. Some dances are progressive with couples moving on to new couples to dance with, or one person in the couple moving on to a new dance partner as the dance progresses – it’s very sociable and therefore a terrific ice breaker for weddings and occasions where people don’t all know one another.

In bygone days, a traditional Ceilidh had song spots and other entertainment spots interspersed with the dancing. These days, some, but not all bands offer songs in addition to dances, as part of the evening’s entertainment. The bands who offer additional songs tend to be those who play professionally or semi-professionally.

A Hoedown may have slightly more of an American theme and people often dress up in check shirts and cowboy hats to add to the atmosphere. A Hoedown evening may feature more American style dances than, say, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or English ones. Some bands are definitely more suited to playing for Hoedowns than others. Some people like to have a more Scottish or Irish theme, which again determines to a great extent which band will be the most suitable for the function, so do please let Fiona know if you have a particular preference for the style of music you wish the band to play.

The dancing is usually done to live music performed by experienced musicians, but can be just as much fun when danced to good quality pre-recorded music, which would be recordings of excellent live bands. Whilst there’s nothing like the atmosphere created by live music, for events with limited budgets, or for groups wishing to raise funds, using pre-recorded music saves on the costs of a live band.

In that the main difference between Barn Dances and Ceilidhs for private parties and public occasions is that the host or hostess usually pays for everything for a private party, whereas public events rely on tickets being sold and the event being marketed efficiently, often involving a Committee, organisers of public events often opt for a Caller using pre-recorded music in order to keep costs at a minimum, especially when the aim of the event is for charity fund-raising.

However NONE of these styles of music and dance discussed above are the same as Line Dancing, which is done solo rather than in couples and often to recorded not live music, and doesn’t create the same atmosphere at all.

It’s also important to know that the music played for Ceilidhs and Barn Dances is definitely NOT Country & Western music. Occasionally people get these styles mixed up – it’s important to be aware of this when booking a Ceilidh or Barn Dance band!

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