Catherine Coutts, ceilidh caller and highland dance teacher

Scottish dancing is fun, energetic and once people do it, they almost always enjoy it. At ceilidh events, there's a lively buzz to the room and a real sense of community. Usually, one person will pluck up the confidence to take to the dance floor and the others will follow their lead. I love seeing the delight on people's faces, the warmth, and the happiness that fills the room when the ceilidh band starts to play.

From the age of five I practised ballet dancing which was an incredibly competitive dance form. At 12, I became interested in Highland dancing because my friends at school did it. The training was intense and I remember the teacher being very strict over simple things like pointing my toe a certain way. It takes years to build up the skills to dance well, but Highland dancing is incredibly supple compared to ballet.

I completed my Highland dance qualification and taught a children's and an adult beginners' class, which attracted people in their late teens and some in their seventies. As a teacher, it's important to make dancing fun while involving techniques. Some people were natural dancers while others were ready to work.

Dancing has always been part of my life and taken me all over the world from Peru to South Korea. When I retired from Highland dancing, I set up an entertainment industry with Highland pipes and dancers. At one point, I had to find a ceilidh band and a caller at short notice which sparked my interest in ceilidh calling. This requires being able to manage large groups of people. What I love about ceilidh dancing is that everyone can take part. It isn't formal like ballet, or Highland dancing and the best part is seeing everyone join in and have fun.

I do freelance work which involves ceilidh dancing for Finnish teachers, weddings, birthday and large corporate functions at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Sometimes, I can expect three ceilidh events in a week which is very busy, but I love dressing up for the occasion and being surrounded by happy people. It makes it feel all the more worthwhile.

One of the best experiences I've had as a ceilidh caller is when I was asked by the Portobello Ceilidh Band to take part in the fiftieth anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge. That was an incredible night. A torchlight procession took place across the bridge, the sky was illuminated by fireworks, as people feasted on delicious traditional food and drink.

I've taught people who come to Scotland to ceilidh dance because it's a great way to encourage people to mix. It's an enjoyable learning experience and everyone wears tartan for the occasion. The night usually kicks off with Scots music to get everyone into the mood. If the group are energetic, I'll teach them to do the Cumberland Square. Sometimes people feel quite nervous about this, especially if they've never danced before, if so, I'll keep it simple and start off with the Circassian Circle or the Gay Gordons. I love connecting people together through dance and sharing Scottish traditions and culture.

Visit portobelloceilidhband.com

Sophie McLean