Dance & Steps


The Origins of Highland Dancing are shrouded in antiquity and legends. Very little is known partly because the Highland culture and traditions were passed down by word of mouth and partly due to dance masters passing their steps down to their protégées. This created steps and dances that took on the regional characters of the diverse regions of Scotland. It is noted that centuries ago, Scottish regiments used Highland Dancing as a form of exercise to keep the troops in shape and ready for battle. For example, in the six step fling, a dancer will jump vertically 192 times while performing complicated footwork and using all the muscles from head to toe. As a matter of fact, the muscles used for dancing were the same ones required by soldiers while in battle. During the World Wars, women took on Highland Dancing to keep the traditions alive while their men were defending their homeland. Previously, Highland Dancing competitions were strictly for men. Now, women outnumber men at competitions 100 to 1.


The National Dances include Blue Bonnets, Flora MacDonald’s Fancy, Hielan’ Laddie, Scotch Measure, Scottish Lilt, The Earl of Errol, The Village Maid, and Wilt Thou go to the Barracks Johnnie? These dances varies considerably in character. Only two of the above dances are performed in a kilt, namely ‘Barracks’ and ‘Laddie’. The remainder of the dances were created by dancing masters in the 19th century to be danced by women, as females were not originally allowed to dance the strong Highland Dances, or even wear the kilt. The National Dances are more balletic, ‘lady-like’, and softer—although they require tremendous skill to execute correctly, as the rhythms and technique are often more complicated than in the conventional Highland Dances. The costume is called ‘Aboyne’, and includes a full tartan skirt, a white blouse, a velvet vest laced up the front, and a plaid (pronounced ‘played’); women may also wear a white dress with a plaid. National Dances were generally not performed in competition until the 1960s in North America. Today, females and males dance both Highland and National Dances. Males have the option of wearing tartan trewes or a kilt for the National Dances.