Evening. Time to delve into my ancient history again, thanks to a ceilidh-related request from a fiddler friend. You see, many centuries ago, when I was wandering around various bits of the country with the WildGeese Ceilidh Band, playing the bass and waffling instructions (along with bad impressions & odd 'humour') into a microphone in an attempt to prevent any major injuries on the dance floor, there was one particular dance I used to call that seemed to offer all the participants (band included) more...amusement...than any other.
Now my good friend Jon asked if I could pass on the instructions, but I'd completely forgotten a couple of important things - firstly, which dark recess of a cupboard I'd "tidied" the book it originally came from into, and secondly, how I'd modified it (slightly) to allow for the level of both technical ability and alcoholic impairment found in your average ceilidh dancer.
You see, the "average" ceilidh is a very special thing. It will, almost inevitably, be a wedding. In a marquee. That's on a slope. And it shall bring together a wider range of experience, age, lack of willingness to participate (especially the blokes), and quantity of booze required to sufficiently overcome that aforementioned lack (again, blokes), than at any other species of public performance. I have no statistics to prove this, of course, but seeing as how I've done hundreds of wedding ceilidhs, I'm a self-proclaimed internet expert on the matter - so if you don't agree with me, then you're just like Hitler. Or Stalin. Whichever you prefer. Possibly Robert Mugabe if you're feeling a little more creative.
Anyway, at these events the caller has to cope with incredibly reluctant folk who've driven all the way up from East Grinstead, (had several rows over directions, arrived late, and are still angry because one of them got the drinks in damn quickly so they wouldn't have to drive back even though the other thought they'd agreed....), and have no clue what all this "Scotch dancing" nonsense is about, being thrown together with smug eejits from the Royal Scottish Country Prance (sic) Society, who find ceilidh dances so dreadfully simple and beneath them, so why, oh why can't the band just start because everyone will be able to follow what they're doing easily...and why has their request for the "Reel of the Auchterfistin Fish-manglers" (sets of 11 couples, arranged diagonally at the points of a decihedron, with only the spare ones in the middle dancing while the rest look on with artificial, synchronised-swimmer smiles and clap along) not been played yet?
Fortunately another delving session produced the goods - "Back In Step" (the dances) by 'The Occasionals', which if you click on the link, can, I believe, be obtained in exchange for money (hopefully that should prevent any potential unpleasantness surrounding copyright).
So here it is, for anyone wishing to partake - "The Russian Ballet". Better known (to the band), as "The Russian Snogging Dance" (for reasons which shall become obvious).
Music - anything with a heavy 2-big-beats-in't-bar feel that can start slow & speed up. Russian, if you've got it, but there's no point being too bothered about it. They'll be too drunk to care.
Sets of 3 - (1 man & 2 women, 2 women & 1 man, 3 men, 2 wolverines & George Osborne, whatever. A mixture, ideally)
Each set of 3 stands in a line, "odd-one-out" in the middle of the trio, facing anti-clockwise ("widdershins", if you will), and holding hands. Which is nice.
First 4 bars: Starting on the left foot (not that it really matters), march forward for 3 steps, and kick the right foot out in front while shouting "Hoi!" loudly, in as guttural a cod-East European manner as possible. Then march backwards for another 3 steps and kick/"Hoi!" again. We used to start the dance at "Soviet State Funeral" pace, (the ones where the guy's secretly been dead for months, but the corpse had finally become so tatty they couldn't keep propping it up at military parades any longer), which seemed to work pretty well.
Next 8 bars: An intricate little manoeuvre officially known as "Double Arches" - aka "going under the sweaty armpits". (8 bars should allow plenty of time for this, but once the dance speeds up, it can get...interesting). The middle person raises their left arm, thus making an arch (with their left-hand partner's right arm). The right-hand partner now heads over to & through this arch, followed by the middle person - who turns underneath their own left arm - and back to their original position. The key to this is to keep holding hands - although if the middle person uses too tight a grip they can end up in what closely resembles a very painful Jiu Jitsu restraint position. Not nice at all.
Fairly obviously, the middle person now raises their right arm, allowing the left-hand partner to scoot through that arch & back to their place. Hopefully people haven't neglected their personal hygiene on the day.
Last 4 bars: Middle person turns & snogs (at last - here's the gravy) the person on their left, turns and snogs the person on their right, then walks forward to join a different pair of 'outside' partners - calling something like "Kiss! Kiss! Forward, two, three, aaand..." helps to prevent over-lingerers slowing the whole thing down with too much tongue-entangling at this point. All of which means, if you've done your job properly & you've got a fair mixture of trios on the floor to start with...oh yes. The slow dawning of realisation on the part of those who may, perhaps, not be entirely secure in their sexuality is priceless. Oddly enough, this discomfiture is almost always confined to the blokes...
....and there you have it. Not earth-shattering, not ground-breaking, but a simple wee bit o' fun. Repeat until they can't keep up with the band, or something of that order.
Sometimes I miss it. I really do. Ach, well.