Stanford Ceili Banner (photo credits: Rebecca Chung, Lucas Garron, Laura Kwong)




Stanford Ceili ceased operations after its final regular session (2019 December 3). See here for details.



Sessions And Classes


Stanford Ceili holds regular sessions each Tuesday. All sessions are free. Classes are held each session, in sequence, starting with the Intermediate class at 7pm, followed by the Beginner class at 8pm, and then followed by Social Dancing from 9pm.


Dances during Social Dancing are a mixture of "dances for everyone" (simpler dances that anyone can do; no experience is necessary), and dances taught in our classes. Even with no prior experience, you will be able to dance several dances in every session.



Beginner, Beginner-Intermediate, And Intermediate Classes


Each Tuesday, we teach classes at 3 levels: Beginner, Beginner-Intermediate, and Intermediate. New dancers attend the Beginner class series, which provides a gentle introduction to Irish ceili dancing. After learning that, dancers join our Beginner-Intermediate class series, which delves a little deeper. Dancers who have demonstrated mastery of the technique and choreography of both these series finally join our Intermediate class, to learn our most challenging dances.


The rest of this page describes why we have this structure, and how dancers move between the Beginner classes and the Intermediate one.


(For a quick summary, jump to the last section of this page.)


The Beginner classes follow a monthly syllabus to gently introduce dancers to Irish ceili dancing over the course of 4 classes:



The Beginner-Intermediate classes also follow a monthly syllabus to teach our Beginner-Intermediate dance, the 4-Hand Reel, over the course of 4 classes:


  • Week 1: Choreography, Part 1.
  • Week 2: Choreography, Part 2.
  • Week 3: Footwork & Technique.
  • Week 4: Putting it all together.


The Intermediate classes are tailored to the attendance that night. Each class is self-contained. There is no class series at the Intermediate level.


Please arrive and be ready to dance by the start of class. We will not permit latecomers to join after a class begins, as that is too disruptive.



Why split into 3 levels?


We want to give people who've never done Irish ceili dance a way to come up to speed. For people who've never done this sort of dancing (or any dancing) before, there's a lot to pick up. The 2 Beginner class series teach core concepts that are required for the Intermediate class: footwork, sequence, transitions, timing, safety, and dancing in groups. Additionally, they permit a more gradual ramp up toward the fast-paced Intermediate class


The intention is to provide an environment that allows new dancers to focus on these concepts while reducing frustrations that might arise from having a single class (new dancers might be overwhelmed by the more complex Intermediate choreographies; the class might move slower than the experienced dancers might desire).


For people with previous experience (in particular, step dancers), we still ask that you demonstrate mastery of the taught skills of both Beginner series (see below), and also take at least 2 classes from the Beginner-Intermediate series. The Berkeley style of ceili may be different from what you expect at Irish dance, and we want you to have a chance to become comfortable with it before taking the Intermediate classes.



How can I move to Intermediate?


Pass the 4-Hand Jig body test (for Beginner) and the 4-Hand Reel test (for Beginner-Intermediate).


We will run 4-Hand Jig and 4-Hand Reel at the start of Social Dancing if there are enough people who want to do it. Please be ready to dance by 9pm and let us know that you want us to check your dancing. After the dance finishes, we'll let you know if we think you're ready for the next level, or we'll tell you what still needs work.


We want to see basic mastery of the 2 dances. For the 4-Hand Jig body, this means we're looking for:


  • familiarity with the choreography (we will call it to help you remember)
  • transitions and timing: making decently smooth transitions between components of the dance, and being in the right place at the right time (not arriving too early or too late)
  • ability to do jig footwork: sevens, setting, and traveling
  • safe dancing: following the "passing" rule, being in control (basically, not taking up a lot of space)


For 4-Hand Reel, this means much the same requirements, but at a higher level:


  • knowledge of the choreography (you should not need someone to call it, or depend on cues from others)
  • transitions and timing: making smooth transitions between components of the dance, and being in the right place at the right time (not arriving too early or too late)
  • proficiency with reel footwork: sevens, setting, traveling, and Around-the-House
  • safe dancing: following the "passing" rule, being in control (basically, taking up as little space as possible)


We will be watching during the classes, and letting people know when they look ready. But feel free to approach one of the teachers and ask specifically, especially if you are not sure about something!


Here are some things you can do to improve your mastery:


  • practice the footwork outside of the ceili sessions, so that it becomes second-nature
  • practice the choreographies on your own, using 3 "ghosts" to become less reliant on cues from others
  • learn the names of the components of the body and figures and call them out just before you do each one
  • attend consistently (so that we recognize and remember you, and form a stronger impression of your abilities)
  • take one of the teachers aside and ask what needs work (we try to be proactive, but sometimes we lose track)
  • read the (online) descriptions of the 4-Hand Jig body and the 4-Hand Reel, which you can also find under the Our Dances page



Am I required toward Intermediate?


Absolutely not! When we say that you're "ready for the next level," it is an invitation. You're welcome to continue taking the Beginner or Beginner-Intermediate series, and move when you feel comfortable doing so!


Also, we will always do "dances for everyone" at every session, so you will always have the chance to dance something besides 4-Hand Jig and 4-Hand Reel every week, no matter how long you remain in either Beginner series.



Can I be moved back from Intermediate?


Yes, this sometimes occurs. Dancers who have not attended Stanford Ceili sessions in a long time, or whose skills have significantly deteriorated, may be asked to practice with the relevant Beginner class(es), and then be re-tested before being allowed back into the Intermediate class.


In addition, since the Beginner classes follow the Intermediate one, we may ask Intermediate dancers to volunteer to help with those classes.



Quick Summary (Beginner-To-Intermediate)


To move from Beginner to Beginner-Intermediate, become familiar with the 4-Hand Jig body and practice the jig technique to do it decently, then come to the beginning of Social Dancing and ask to be tested.


To move from Beginner-Intermediate to Intermediate, learn the 4-Hand Reel well enough to dance it correctly with 3 "ghosts," and practice the reel technique to do it properly and smoothly, then come to the beginning of Social Dancing and ask to be tested.