What's it all about
and why is it so popular the world over? These are the
questions that we want to try to answer. There are many club
websites with good descriptions of the history of Scottish dancing (some
of these are listed on the
SCD History page).
So instead of repeating these here, we give below a brief
description of the different types of Scottish Country dances
(or SCDs) and how they progress.
Above all SCDs are great fun and a very
social type of dancing. There is lots of eye
contact, smiling and plenty of opportunities for
gentle flirting (if you feel so inclined!).
And at least in Surbiton, we do not take it too
seriously (the dancing that is).
There are three main types of dance: reels,
jigs and strathspeys
(background and samples of the music used). Basically, the first two are fast (and in fact few of us can
distinguish them from each other) while the strathspey
is slow and, as is often said, stately (or at least
it can be!).
Nearly all SCDs are done in
The most common type is the longways set, usually of
four couples - sometimes for five, or rarely six
but there are also square sets (also for four
couples) and triangular sets (for three couples). There is even a dance called the 32-some reel - for
of the fascination of SCDs is that there are so many
different dances. For instance in Surbiton, we
dance just under 200 different dances each year
(though you do not need to memorise them since we
always have a walk-through before each dance).
Each dance combines just a few basic
(essentially one for "setting" and one for
and number of
Setting, as one wag put it, means to stand admiring
your partner and shuffling from one foot to the
other (though there is a bit more to it if you want
to make it look elegant. The
formations are the key to learning SCDs. Once
you know the main ones, everything falls into place
You can study these in books or computer animations
but the best way to learn is to
get onto the floor (preferably with an experienced
partner) and try them!
An important idea in all SCDs is progression.
Most commonly, the first couple begins the dance
with the other dancers playing a supporting role.
One pattern that is used in many four-couple dances
is for the first couple's dance (which often lasts
for 32 bars - or about half a minute in reel time) to be repeated 8
times. The first couple dance with the second
and third couples then repeat the same pattern with
the third and fourth couples and then move to the
end of the set where they can have a bit of rest
while the second couple takes over. Eventually
all four couples will have performed the dance twice
and everyone is back in their starting positions.
This would be known as an 8x32 bar reel for three
couples in a four couple set. Another variant
would be 4x32 reel for 4 couples (in which each
couple does the dance just once (with all three of
the other couples supporting) before moving to the
end of the set and becoming the fourth couple.
|Mel Briscoe of Alexandria, Virginia in the
United States has produced some useful and amusing
unwritten rules of Scottish Country Dancing.