In 1976, a pub in Berkeley, the Starry Plough, started allowing a Celtic band to play there on Monday evenings, with an Irish dance performance group dancing to their music. One of the latter’s later members, Terry O’Neal, began teaching Irish dancing at the Plough in 1980, thus beginning a long tradition of and creating a new community for Berkeley style (“County Berkeley”) Irish ceili dancing for enthusiasts throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1992, Ammy Woodbury began dancing at the Plough; in 2003, Bob Carragher started dancing there. They and others danced and performed Irish ceili dance at events and locations other than Monday nights at the Starry Plough.
In the summer of 2010 Danya Volkov (BS 2011, MS 2013), who had seen the ceili dancers at some of these events, started a small ceili group on Stanford campus, meeting on Tuesday evenings in Peterson Hall (then known only as “Building 550”) and taught by Bob and later Ammy. In the fall, we moved to studio 42 of Roble Gym; then to the Graduate Community Center in summer 2011; and finally to our current location, Hacienda Commons, in fall 2011. We also became an official Stanford student group (Voluntary Student Organization) in spring 2011.
Stanford Ceili’s first performance was at Party On The Edge, in the fall of 2010. Since then, we have also performed at Fall Ball, the Bon Bon Ball, the Viennese Ball, and Big Dance, usually 4 times per year, as well as other occasional events. We have acquired a reputation of being a fun, energetic group that gives exciting performances, even on extremely short notice.
However, from the start, Stanford Ceili has focused on being a social dance group with performance being secondary; we emphasize a casual, fun atmosphere. We have always been open to Stanford and community members alike. We are made up of people who’ve never done Irish dancing, have years of competitive step dance experience, and everything in between. After the large increase in the number of attendees in summer 2011, we began regularly teaching both Beginner and Intermediate lessons. We always meet on Tuesday nights for lessons (“drop-ins” always being welcome) with dancing afterwards, except for the final Tuesday of each month which is an all-dance session (to which all are also welcome). In 2011, we hosted our first St. Patrick’s Day ceili, which has become an annual tradition, with ceili dancers from around the Bay Area joined (since 2012) by musicians providing live Irish music. In 2013, some of the musicians in our group began jamming, eventually forming Common Ground. They provided an integral part of our first mini-show, at the 2013 Big Dance, which showcased not only ceili-style dancing, but, for the first time, step-dancing and live music.
 Everything up to here is based on “A brief history of the Monday night session at the Starry Plough,” page i, “Syllabus of Irish Dances as danced at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, California,” by Terry Clyde F. O’Neal II and Lee Thompson-Herbert, 1996.
For a list of previous officers, look here.
For a list of the current officers, look here.
For the 2012 version of this website, look here.