Dancing has been an important part of Scottish society since the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Some of the dances we do today were devised 250-300 years ago and are danced to the old,
traditional tunes. Scottish dances were danced at the Scottish and the French courts in the
days of the ‘Auld Alliance’ and many of the terms are French. Everyone in society in Scotland
did Scottish dancing but its roots were in the ballroom not the barns. It is quite different to
English folk dancing - it has no connections with the seasons, agriculture or fertility.
We dance the old dances to the traditional tunes but hundreds more dances have been written in
the last 100 years. Dances are written to commemorate events, people and places and most dances
have a story attached to them. Between 1750 and the early 1900s Scottish history is full of
stories of hardship and emigration but exiled Scots kept their dancing tradition alive wherever
they settled and many of the old dances have returned to Scotland via Canada, the USA or
New Zealand. There are Scottish dancing groups all over the world.
There are three basic rhythms in Scottish Country Dancing – the reel, the jig and the strathspey.
Reel and jigs are quick time and the steps are the same for both. Strathspeys are slower and more
elegant and the steps are slightly different. The footwork is precise and improves with practice
but it does not take too long to learn.
The dances are made up of different formations, which again are not difficult to learn. If you
have ever been to a Barn Dance, then you will already have met some of the formations or
movements that feature in Scottish country dancing e.g. right hand star, circle to the left, down
the middle and back, turn your partner etc. The simple dances are very easy to remember and the
beginner’s classes concentrate on teaching the basic steps, easy formations and simple dances.
With practice and experience we can all manage more difficult formations and more complicated
dances. The challenge for the experienced dancers is to dance together as a team and to make it
Although we are trying always to improve our dancing technique and learn more dances, we do not take
it too seriously. Dancing is fun for everyone!