How to Dance the Walls of Limerick at a Céilí

Want to learn a few Irish dances that anyone can do? You’re in the right place: Let’s céilí!

When I started planning a live Teacher Turboboost event in Cincinnati, I knew I wanted to bring a touch of Ireland to the conference. I did a lot of Irish dancing growing up and have always loved to explore the intersection of music and dance in different cultures, so I decided to close with a céilí! 

This is a totally optional part of the Turboboost event (it’s right at the end so you can easily leave before the céilí if you like). But I’m getting a lot of questions about it, so I thought I’d write this post to explain what it’s about – and invite you to join in the fun even if you can’t make it to Cincinnati this July 20th and 21st, 2024.

If you haven’t heard about the upcoming live Teacher Turboboost 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio, learn more and grab your ticket at teacherturboboost.com.

What is a céilí? And how do I even say it?!

I’ll start with the pronunciation. It’s actually one of the few words in the Irish language that’s easy to pronounce. 

It’s just 2 syllables: “KAY-lee”. (Think of the name Kayleigh if that helps you. )

Now, what is it?!

A céilí is basically an Irish dance party. 

These are community dances that are designed to be simple enough for everyone to learn and dance together. (It’s really nothing like Riverdance or Irish dancing competitions, if you’re familiar with those.)

There are no complicated steps to learn. Just a few simple repeated movements that anyone can do. 

How do céilí dances work?

Most céilí dances are danced with a partner. In some you dance with just your partner, and in others you’re facing another couple.

The partners are often described in terms of the man’s part and the woman’s part, but anyone can do either part. I prefer to use the terms “lead” and “follow” for this reason. Any gender can be a lead or a follow; it really makes no difference.

We’re going to be doing three dances at our Teacher Turboboost céilí 2024, so I’ll describe how to dance those in more detail here to give you a sense of it.

Note: For the purposes of this article, I will refer to “measures” as “bars” for the sake of simplicity.

Céilí Dance No. 1: The Peeler and the Goat

This is a two-hand reel, so you stay with your partner the whole time. I’ll describe the steps here, but the video is especially good if you’re a more visual learner.

Start by facing your partner and taking crossed hands (your right hand in their right hand, and your left hand in their left hand).


Go to the leader’s left for 2 bars (measures), then back to the leader’s right for 2 bars (measures). Repeat to the left and right again.


Link your right arm in their right and dance around each other for 4 bars (measures). Repeat with the left arms.


Holding crossed hands again and facing each other, lift your hands slightly and turn the follow under. This should take 2 bars (measures). 

Still with the hands joined, turn the lead under. This should also take 2 bars (measures).

Repeat turning the follow and then the lead again.


Join in “waltz hold” and dance around for 8 bars (measures).

Céilí Dance No. 2: The Walls of Limerick

The Walls of Limerick is one of the more popular céilí dances, so let’s learn about how to dance it…with Beanie Babies!

Start With 2 Couples

Stand beside your partner holding hands and facing another couple. 

Advance and Retire” Twice

Move in towards the other couple for 2 bars (measures), then back out to where you started for another 2 bars (measures). Repeat this in-and-out motion.

Swap the Follows

The person on the right of each couple (the follow) swaps places with the other.

Swap the Leads

The person on the left of this new couple (the lead) swaps places with each other, re-joining their own partner.

Sidestep With the Opposite

Take the right hand of the person opposite (as if you’re going to shake hands). Sidestep out away from your own partner for 4 bars (measures), and then sidestep back to where you started for 4 bars (measures).

Dance Around

Face your partner and hold both their hands (or go into a “waltz hold” if you prefer). Then just dance around for 8 bars (measures).

Finish your dance-around facing the opposite direction as you started (back-to-back with the original couple), so that you’re now facing a new couple.

Céilí Dance No. 3: The Sweets of May

We’re going to give this one a go, as it’s always been my favourite. It’s a little more involved, but I think we can do it!

This is a dance in a group of 8 with 4 couples. Start with all 8 people standing in a circle and holding hands (with each person standing next to their partner).

The Intro: Circles

Sidestep to your left (in a counterclockwise circle) for 2 bars. Then sidestep to your right in a clockwise circle for 2 bars (ending up back where you started).

Now repeat this, but going in the other direction – sidestep to your right (clockwise) for 2 bars and then back to your left again (counterclockwise).

The Body: “Cross”, “Advance and Retire” and “Ring the Bells

These three elements make up the “body” of this dance. Think of it as a main part that has an intro (the Cross, above), a bridge (the Lead Around, below) and then different endings.


For this step, we designate the couple facing the music and the couple with their back to the music as the “tops” couples. The other 2 couples, who are standing next to the music, are called the “sides” couples.

The 2 “tops” couples go across the circle for 4 bars, trading places with the other top couple.

Then the “sides” do the same, crossing the circle for 4 bars to trade places with the other side couple.

Advance and Retire

Tops go towards each other and then back out (4 bars), and then sides do the same.

Ring the Bells

Patsch (tap your legs) 4 times, then clap twice. Repeat.

Swap places with your partner.

Patsch 4 times and then clap twice. Repeat.

Swap places with your partner so you’re back where you started.

The Bridge: “Lead Around”

After you do the body once, there’s a bit of a bridge element called the “Lead Around”.

Hold one hand with your partner and promenade around the circle together. Let go of the hands, turn around and take inside hands again to promenade back to your spot.

The Endings: “Seesaw”, “Sides Under” and “Rings”

At this point, there are 3 different endings that go with the body of the dance. In each case, you’ll repeat the body of the dance before doing the ending. When you put all the steps together, the dance will look like this:

  1. The Intro: “Circles”
  2. The Body: “Cross”, “Advance and Retire” and “Ring the Bells”
  3. The Bridge: “Lead Around”
  4. Repeat the Body
  5. Ending 1: “Seesaw”
  6. Repeat the Body
  7. Ending 2: “Sides Under”
  8. Repeat the Body
  9. Ending 3: “Rings”


Hold both of your partner’s hands with arms stretched out and dance around the circle while doing a seesaw motion with your arms. 

(We’ll probably stop here, but just in case you’re curious I’ll continue with the remaining 2 endings! 🤯)

Sides Under

The tops form an arch and the sides go under one of the top’s arches. Dance back to place. Repeat this with the sides going under the arch of the other tops this time. 


Repeat the “Circles” we did in the intro: Join hands in a circle and dance to the left and back, then to the right and back.

Have you ever been to a céilí?

Whether you have or not, I’d love to hear if you try these dances at home. Share your experiences in the comments below.

If you want learn how to dance a céilí live and in person, you’ll definitely want to attend the Teacher Turboboost 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 20th – 21st. Learn more and grab your ticket at teacherturboboost.com.

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