Blue Bonnets

Blue Bonnets is a balletic dance, which is thought to depict a graceful lady trying to attract the attention of the passing ‘Bluebonnets’ – the name given to soldiers who wore a broad blue woolen cap with a plume, and who were often the first to face the English.

The dance is performed to the tune of the same name. Words were set to the tune by Scotland’s Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish historic novelist, poet, and writer.

Flora Macdonald’s Fancy

The ‘Flora’ is a pretty dance choreographed in honour of famed Flora MacDonald. After the massacre at Culloden in 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie had a high price on his head, and Flora helped him escape to Skye by disguising him as her maid, Betty Burke.

The crossing was short but dangerous, as the small boat weathered both bullets from the shore, and storms. Both survived, and the Prince escaped to France, never to return.

Flora was later arrested when her part in the escape became known. However, her courage, ingenuity, and popular appeal meant that she was well treated, and was later released from the Tower.

When I was a child, I was told the legend that Flora loved Bonnie Prince Charlie, and that she performed the dance high on a hill, as he sailed for France.

Flora Macdonald’s Fancy is often danced to The Atholl Highlanders, The Cock of the North, The Piobaireachd (pronounced Pibroch) of Donald Dhu, or any suitable 6/8 March.

Hielan’ Laddie

Soldiers are thought to have created the dance during the First World War. The dance is performed to the famous tune of the same name. In 1881, Highland Regiments throughout the British Army adopted ‘Highland Laddie’ as their Regimental March (‘theme song of the Regiment’) ‘in compliance with official decree’.

Highland Laddie is the most common of the Regimental Marches—being used by such Regiments as The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and the 48th Highlanders of Canada. Canadian Forces Adminstrative Order 32-3 mentioned that the tune was used during the Second World War in order to raise the morale of men after battle, and played at the victory parade in Amsterdam, Holland.

Scotch Measure

Scotch Measure can either be danced as a solo dance or as a partner dance, in which case it is called the ‘Twa Some’. The male dancer would wear his kilt, and the female dancer the Aboyne or white dress; the dance is thought to show the Scottish dating ritual.

Scottish Lilt

The ‘Lilt’ or ‘Scottish Jig’ is another pretty dance; it is unusual in that the counting is in sixes rather than eights, which is the norm.

The dance is commonly performed to Drops O Brandy or the Battle of the Somme, a spirited tune, which belies the tragedy of the battle it commemorates. The forces of most Commonwealth countries were present at this battle.

The Earl of Errol

The ‘Earl of Errol’ may be based on an 18th-century Irish-style hard shoe dance (although today it is performed in soft shoes), which was choreographed for the Earl of Errol.

The Village Maid

Of all the dances, this dance is most heavily influenced by ballet. The dance is unusual in that there is very little hopping, which is so characteristic of Highland Dancing, and the dancer steps flat onto the foot– most of the other dances require that the dancer be on the ball of the supporting foot.

Wilt Thou Go to the Barracks Johnnie?

The ‘Barracks’ is thought to have been a recruiting dance for the army. A recruiting officer would use a dancer to attract people to his recruiting station or use the dancer for entertainment while in a village. The dance is performed to such pipe tunes as Braes o’ Mar or The Barren Rocks of Aden.

Special Event Dances

The Broadsword, performed by four dancers over four highland broadswords placed to make a cross, was commonly taught to those in Scottish Regiments of the army. The dance is performed tostrathspey tunes, and then speeds up for reel tunes for the last one or two steps of the dance.

The Cakewalk, unlike the other dances, actually originates in the southern United States of America, from which famed dancer, judge and examiner, James. L. McKenzie (1905-1992), MBE, took back to Scotland, as he was so taken by the dance.

The Cakewalk imitates a couple promenading in a dignified manner, high-stepping and kicking, and mimicking ‘high society’. The dance has its roots in plantations and, sadly, slavery.

Plantation owners would bake a special cake, invite the neighbors over, and have a dance contest among the slaves. By the 1890’s, the Cakewalk was a much-celebrated dance; in 1892 the first Cakewalk contest was held in New York.

Today, the dance is a favourite special event at competitions, with the dancers developing themes for their costumes such as the Wild West.