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Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland

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Aboot Tradeetional Dance

Scotland is fair lowpin wi tradeetional dancin. Thoosans o fowk o aw ages tak pairt in an watch tradeetional dance in Scotland an aw ower the warld.

Written accoonts oan Scottish dancin gauns back tae the Seeventeen-hunders. Ower time, parteecular styles huv come aboot an monie different airts o Scotland huv thir ain taks oan parteecular dances. It is gey weel accepted that the Reel is the only dance tae huv stertit off in Scotland. This wus a dance fur thrie or mair fowk whar steps wur danced oan the spot alternatin wi awbodie yaisially daein the same traivellin step aroond in a ring or in a figur o echt. Pairtly due tae whar they are. The Western Isles, Orkney an Shetland aw danced thir ain reels ferr intae the Echteen-hunders afore the introduction of mair modren dances. Shetland huz made a point o pittin siller intae keepin thir tradeetional Reels tae the fore an monie are still danced theday. Stert tappin yer tae tae the soond o the pipes or fiddle an ye are oan the wey tae Scottish dancin.

Tae mak it easy tae git yer heid roond, Scottish tradeetional dance can mair or less be said tae be fower different styles, wi cairtain techniques, moves, fuitwork, pattrens in common wi thaim aw. Dances wi the same name, fur example Reel of Tulloch, can be din in a different style, chyngin the feel an the luik o the dance. Whither it’s ceilidh dancin, heilan dancin, scottish-country dancin or step-dance Scottish music oan the pipes, fiddle, accoradion an Gaelic sang jines an celebrates it aw.

Ceilidh dancin
Fowk gether as it taks thir fancy tae dance weel-kent dances lik the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willae an Dashin White Sairgint. Ceilidh dancin is weel likit at weddins, celebrations an festivals an monie communities huv a ceilidh dance calendar. Maist dances are din in couples or in sets of thrie, fower, six, or echt. They are easy tae lairn an often thair is a dance-cawer at a dance tae tell ye whit tae dae or fowk can jist jine in an lairn oan the hoof, sae tae speak. Ceilidh dancin huz developed frae a time whin fowk gethert in a hoose an music was played or sumdie wud ‘diddle’ the tune or sing puirt-a-beul (mooth music). Some o the dances back then wur the Scotch Reel, Reel of Tulloch an Hielan Schottische an versions o thir are still din in ceilidhs theday. Sometimes ceilidh dances wi the same name are danced wi differnet slants dependin oan the parteecualr airt ye're in. A Canadian Barn dance or Schottische is danced a wee bit different in Sooth Uist than it is in Braemar. Ceilidh dancin huz happent an still dis, oniewhar fowk want tae git thegither an dance, frae a kitchen tae a muckle haw, an thair huz been a tradeetion o dancin oan brigs an roads. Fun, enjoayment an gittin fowk gethert thegither wi weel-kent dances is jist exactly whit is meant bae ceilidh dancin. A braw Ceilidh is no withoot a braw Ceilidh band, as the music is yin o the foondin stanes tae the dancin wi the richt tempo an tunes suited tae the dances. Auld Time Dancin in Scotland is anither social foarm o dance includin dances lik the Eva 3 Step, Waltzes, Swing an Ballroom.

This is maist likely baith the auldest an youngest foarm o tradeetional dance in Scotland. Solo step-dancin come oot o the steppin oan the spot frae the auld Reels. Until aroond 1992 step-dancin was harlie seen or danced in Scotland an nae monie fowk kent aboot it. It’s rediscovery pairtlie happent through the veesits an teachin in Scotland o Cape Breton step dancers, in parteecular Harvey Beaton an Mary Janet Macdonald. This dancin wus kept verra much gaun in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada bae Scottish interlowpers whae settled thair in the late Seeventeen-hunders. The style is excitin, percussive fuitwork, danced in hard-soled shuin tae music played at a parteecular tempo oan pipes, whistle, fiddle or puirt-a-beul (mooth music). That is, duntin yer heels, taes an feet in as monie weys as possible an furfancied, keepin time wi the rhythms o the music in strathspey, reel an jig time. Thair are monie steps that can be lairnt passed oan through faimilie generations.  The style huz nivver been nailed doon, except dancin steps neat an cantie an close tae the flair. Monie dancers huv thir ain wey o dancin an steps they like tae dae tae parteecular tunes. Scottish tradeetional step-dancin seen in Scotland theday huz been lairnt frae Cape Breton step dancers, this in turn stertit off in Scotland. Some o the beats o the feet frae step-dancin can be seen in monie o Scotland's ither tradeetional dances, fur example in Hielan (Flooers o Embra), Hebridean (Till A-Rithist/Aberdonian Lassie), Ceilidh (Jacky Tar).

Hielan Dancin
Hielan dancin is maist likely the best kent o Scotlands dance tradeetions at hame an throughoot the world. Amaist awbodie huz a picter o a kiltit dancer daein the Hielan Fling or the Gille Callum/Sword Dance tae the soond o the pipes. Gille Callum is kent as the auldest o the Hielan dances. Hielan dancin wus historically danced bae men an wus pairt o trainin in the Hielan raigiments. The dancin requires strainth tae perfoarm wi conteenuous jumps, high lowps, pernicketie airm an fuitwork, balance an poise. Thair are monie bonnie dances includin the National dances, Blue Bonnets an the Scottish Lilt. Some o thir are almaist balletic, highlichtin influences frae the dancin o the French coorts. Hielan dancin plays an important pairt o Hielan Games an at monie games thair are competeetions. Cowal Hielan Getherin in Dunoon huz been host tae the Scottish an Warld Hielan dancin Championships syne 1934.  The 'Hebridean Dances' named bae whar they come frae can be seen danced bae Hielan dancers an step-dancers. The style is mair canny than Hielan, wi the arims held lower, the knees mair bent an some o the steps are kin o like the fuitwork in step-dancin. They were towt in the Western Isles in the mid-Echteen-hunders bae the dance maister Ewen MacLachlan. 

Scottish Country dancin
Scottish Country dancin is a wee bit mair foarmal than ceilidh dancin. Care is tain tae keep the technique o the dances whilst still enjoayin the social side o the dance. In the Seeventeen-hunders, monie Country Dances wur held in graund fantoosh haws an attendit bae weel-tae-dae maimbers o society. Techniques wur hanked bae the dance styles o the time an the tradeetions o the reels danced in the Scottish countryside. Scottish Country Dances are still held in castles an stately hames an in city, toon an veellage haws wi dances lik the Reel of the 51st, or the Duke of Perth/Broun’s Reel. The dances are made up o fower or five couples facin yin anither tae foarm sets an are characterised bae the top couple in a set makkin its wey tae the fuit wi the dance repeatit fur awbodie tae come back tae thir stertin plisses. Thair are a wheen o pernicketie foarmations in Scottish Country Dances an the settin an traivellin steps, yiss o haunds, an pattrens are danced wi a respect fur the smaw details o the dances. Thair are alsae dances in the foarmation o a square set danced bae fower couples, the Quadrilles, browt frae France in the Echteen-hunders wi oreeginally fower, five or six feegurs. The Quadrilles danced in Sooth Uist are fair enjoayed theday. Thair are thousans of Scottish Country dances an new dances are bein come up wi aw the time. The music o strathspeys, jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas, an hornpipes aw play a signeeficant pairt in Scottish Country dancin.