Scottish Country Dancing
Scottish Country Dancing (SCD) is a sociable dance form with roots stretching back for centuries. Participants are grouped into sets, typically of 3, 4, or 5 couples arranged either in two lines (men facing ladies) or in a square, and work together to dance a sequence of formations. This will leave them in a new order, and the dance is repeated enough times to bring them back to their starting positions, with everyone dancing each position in turn.
SCD is mainly danced socially, for the pure pleasure and enjoyment, but many groups also perform. Athough the basic steps and formations are easy to pick up, the technique is being honed continuously so that at its highest levels it is now an extremely athletic, balletic dance form (not that the majority of social dancers take it as seriously as that... As there can be no dancing without music, Scottish Country Dancing has attracted some of the most talented musicians to play for it. From the first chord to the final bow or curtsey, dancers are inspired by the driving reels, jaunty jigs, snappy strathspeys or lilting slow airs - leading to the popular expression "the music will tell you what to do." New dances are being written all the time and dances vary considerably in complexity and ease of dancing - thus careful selection of dances for a program can cater for beginners with a couple of months experience, or challenge and interest the most experienced dancers, or (as more usually happens) provide a range over the evening to suit most tastes.
Above all, SCD is very sociable - it is standard practice to dance with different partners during a night of dancing - and thanks to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society is sufficiently popular and uniform that any SCD dancer can pack their dance shoes and be welcomed by a local group almost anywhere in the world.
For information about Scottish Country dancing in Nova Scotia, go to www.rscdsnovascotia.ca.
For information about Scottish Country dancing world-wide, go to www.rscds.org.
When interest in competition Highland Dancing grew with the passing years, instruction became authoritative, and the dancing technique became more defined. Since there were differing ideas on technique and judging, the Scottish Official Board or Highland Dancing and its traditional and accepted technique of competition came into being.
The Highland Fling
The Highland Fling originated as wild dance of triumph following victory in battle. It is said to be inspired by the capers of the stag, the dancer's upraised arms representing the animal's antlers. Danced vigorously and exultantly, it is now highly stylized and calls for the greatest skill in technique and exactness of timing. Despite the variety of steps, it should, for example, be danced throughout in the same position on the board, perhaps because originally the Highland Fling was said to have been done on the shield of the clansman. It has become the classic solo dance at modern competitive dancing events, and is often selected at competitions to decide who will be judged the best Highland dancer of the day.
The Sword Dance
Like the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, or Ghillie Chalium has war as its basic theme. Today it is both picturesque and popular at Highland Games; legend has it that in older times it was danced on the eve of battle, and that for the soldier to touch or displace the sword was a portend of evil in the coming fight. There are many other theories regarding the origin of the Sword Dance, and one of the most attractive of these is that which tells how the great Malcolm Canmore, after having defeated one of MacBeth's chiefs at the Battle of Dunsinane in 1054, seized his opponents sword, placing it over his own to form a cross, over which he danced triumphantly to the wild skirls of the pipes.