‘Rockin’ the Boat’

Dance the Night Away – Dance Traditions From Around the World.

I’ve been watching a charming series on Netflix, Derry Girls, which takes place in Derry (Londonderry) Northern Ireland, and is set in the 1990’s. During a scene involving a wedding, the DJ plays the song Rock the Boatand everyone immediately rushes to the dance floor. They all  sit down on the floor (including the bride in her gown) and begin waving their arms around and rocking as if in a boat. Well, this was hysterical.

I have come to learn that is this also a real thing!

Irish viewers were well familiar with this, but the rest of us had no clue. I’ve also come to learn there is another song that everyone participates in, something called Oops Upside Your Head, a funky tune from 1979, by The Gap Band. It seems you get on the floor for this one, too.

This got me thinking about how there are many wedding dance traditions around the world, although no others that I know of require sitting on the floor. I’m not going to review the father-daughter dance or the couple sharing their first dance. I’m talking about when everyone dances! 

Group Dancing – always fun in so many ways.
Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your beautiful photography.

Traditional Jewish wedding dances include the famous Horah, when everyone dances together in circleto the traditional song Hava Nagila. And although I promised not to talk about the couple’s dance, I simply must mention the famous chair dance which happens right in the middle of the group Horah. The crowd lifts up the newlyweds on chairs, and the dancing continues around them. I’m always worried they will drop them.

For an Italian family, you might see everyone dancing the tarantella. The dancers link arms in a circle and basically spin each other around! It is extremely lively and involves a fast tempo and much flirting and teasing.

Up on the chairs!

You may have heard of the Money Dance – which comes from Poland. I was surprised to learn that this only dates back to the early 1990’s.  Guests pay to dance briefly with the bride or groom. The money goes into a purse, or apron pocket, carried precisely for this purpose. A great way to raise money for the Honeymoon.

The Dabke Danceis a folk dance popular in several Arab countries. It’s a line dance and literally means ‘stamping of the feet.’ 

And a lively dance called Bhangra comes from the Punjab region of South-east Asia. Many styles of songs can be played, and people will yell out different phrases such as hoik hoi hoi, balle balle, chak deoroy hoi. This energic dance brings everyone to their feet.

The money is flying for the Money Dance!

If there’s one thing you can always count on at a Greek wedding, it’s dancing. And then, more dancing. “Zorbas” (or, formally, Sirtaki) isn’t a traditional Greek wedding dance song, but it’s one of the most famous Greek pop songs, thanks to its appearance in the 1964 blockbuster movie Zorba the Greek. But there are many, many traditional dances that aredone at weddings, including the Money Dance.

Of course, here in the States there are many group dances – everything from the Chicken Dance to the Macarena, the Electric Slide, even the Hokey Pokey. There is the Cha Cha Slide, Achy Breaky Heart for country fans, and the younger crowd might know The Harlem Shake, or the Wobble.  YMCA still can get the gang up, along with some old school rock like The Twist, Shout and Rocky Horror Show’s Time Warp.

Everybody raise your hands!!

Back to the Irish! Besides the group frenzy of Rock the Boatand Oops, there are the more traditional dances, such as the Ceili,which is best performed with a traditional band. It’s a step-dance style, and there can be a ‘caller’ calling out the steps. There is a very similar thing in Scotland, not surprisingly.

Some of these dances are named after locations in Ireland such as the Walls of Limerick, Haymer’s Jig,  Kerry Set and the Seige of Ennisand even some waltz tunes include names such as Galway Shawlor Take MeHome to Mayo. A lot of couples choose songs to reflect their family’s heritage or ancestral home.

Scottish wedding receptions kick off with the bride and groom dancing a traditional reel. The bride’s second dance is reserved for the person of the highest rank amongst the guests and by the third dance, the newlywed couple are typically joined by all their guests. Next come all those dances like the Ceilidance, only in Scotland they spell it Ceilidh.Sword Danceis usually performed as the last dance and guests then gather in a circle and sing the traditional song Auld Lang Syne.

I can’t wait to talk to my next Irish-American bride or groom and ask if they will have Rock the Boat at their reception!

This entry was posted in Wedding Ceremonies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form.
  • Categories

  • Archives