The following dances are frequently danced and we thought you might like to share some of the history behind these society favourites. For those who want to brush up on the dance steps, please see below or follow this link to our sister society, the Grand Chain who have produced a wonderful directory of dance steps within their own website.
Some of the links below refer to youtube videos, so you might not be able to watch them in China. We hope the short instructions with pictures help a little though. The number of whisky glasses indicate how difficult the dance is (no matter whether you’ve had that many!).
Dashing White Sergeant
The origins of this most famous of all Scottish dances are not Scottish at all. Its original title was ‘la Danse Florence’. The tune was composed by the English Sir Henry Rowley Bishop and the dance was influenced by Scotch reels and Swedish country dancing.
Duke of Perth
This reel is one of the most popular but also difficult dances. It is probably named after the Jacobite commander Drummond, originally the Earl of Perth who lived and fought in the 17th/18th century.
The Scots did other dances as well, but in the very beginning, there was the reel. The Eightsome Reel was developed and recorded in its current form at the end of the 19th century only.
The reel is the oldest form of dance in Scotland, which alternates between dancing along a looping track within the set and setting, showing off to your partner with fancy footwork. The Foursome Reel is preserved in highland dance competitions to date.
The name ‘Gay Gordons’ is the nickname of the Gordon Highlanders, a former British Army infantry regiment. This regiment was raised by the Duke of Gordon. This couple dance was first recorded in 1907.
Linton is a Scottish village which, like many, can boast of its poets and rhymers. The song The Linton Ploughman is supposed to have been written by James Morgan in the 18th century, beginning:
“Linton, to thee a song I’ll raise
The winds shall bear away my lays
The echoes shall repeat the praise
Of thee and of thy Ploughmen.”
The tune for this dance is from the Hebrides Islands off the north coast of Scotland and was first printed in 1909. It is said that the verse was written or translated (from Gaelic) for Mary McNiven by her friend Johnny Bannerman in 1935, when in fact, she was unmarried and remained so until she wed Skye-born sea captain John Campbell 6 years later. The dance remains popular in traditional circles to date.
Orcadian Strip the Willow
This is a set dance for as many people as you can get on the floor. It is a variation of the country or barn dance Strip the Willow which also is commonly used as part of a Scottish country dance.
Reel of the 51st Division
One of the most popular Scottish country dances of all time, the Reel of the 51st Highland Division is a modern Scottish country dance written by Lieutenant J.E.M. ‘Jimmy’ Atkinson of the 7th Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders while in a Prisoner of War camp during the Second World War. His idea of a reel with a St Andrews cross in its key formation was intended to symbolise Scotland, and the Highland Division, in adversity.
This dance was a very popular country dance in Scotland, and a part of most country dancing masters’ repertories in the 19th century. Allison Thompson (Dancing Through Time, 1998) describes the dance as one in which
“the man leads, not his own partner, but his neighbor’s partner down the length of the set, while her own partner follows jealously behind them. All three dancers then turn, and the lucky lady processes back to her place, while the two rival gentlemen hold hands in a triumphal arch over her head. The three-some figure of the dance mirrors the love triangle perfectly” (pg. 186).