RSCDS-Seattle 99 Core LIst of Dances
The Darling Diversion: The History of
Scottish Country Dancing
Tracy Antley-Olander, based on The
Darling Diversion by Evelyn M. Hood)
Scottish Country Dancing as we know it today has a long and
fascinating history, dating to before the Norman invasion. Like
so many early cultures, the Scots regarded dancing as an integral
part of their ceremonies and festivals. They danced ring dances,
reels, pantomimes, and the like.
Saxons may have added influences to Scottish dancing, the real and enduring
influences were Norman, and their descendants the French. The Normans brought
couple dancing to the north. When James V of Scotland married Marie deGuise in
1524, his new French wife brought all her country's dance influences to her
rough new home, including the bow and curtsey and several figures, such as
advance and retire.
|In a small country like Scotland, ruled
primarily through the clan system, what the laird did his
people did. Scottish country dancing influences traveled
from court to countryside, from hall to barn, and back
again. During the time the Scottish court fled to France
in the mid 1600s, Scottish country dancing acquired the
ballet-like footwork we see today. The same French court
roots that created what we call ballet added an important
aspect to Scottish dancing. By the end of the 17th
century, dancing was all the rage. As the 18th century
drew to mid-century, great Balls were held in England and
Scotland. Scottish country dances were quite popular.
Dancing masters taught children and adults in cities and
hamlets. Even the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his
brave Scots at the Battle of Culloden in 1745 did not
dampen enthusiasm for Scottish dancing. By the end of the
century, things Scottish were increasingly popular,
including its music, dances, and poetry.
The 19th century saw a blossoming of dancing. Everyone wanted
to dance well; it was the mark of a lady or gentleman. Dances we
do today were already old favorites, some dating from 1750. The
waltz and quadrille began encroaching on the more technical
country dances as the century wore on, and intimacy between
couples replaced the spirit of the dances done in sets.
By the 20th
century, Scottish country dancing had all but faded to the rural halls. Modern
dances such as the two-step and fox-trot joined with the waltz to dominate
dances. Then a small group of individuals began seeking out old dances and
music. Led by Miss Jean Milligan and Mrs. Stewart of Fasnacloich, they formed
the Scottish Country Dance Society in Glasgow, Scotland in 1923.
sought out old versions of dances, talked with elderly people who had danced in
their youth, and gradually standardized footwork, figures, and dances. Now, the
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (Royal was bestowed on the Society by King
George VI, Queen Elizabeth II's father) has branches and clubs worldwide. New
figures have been devised, and hundreds of new dances written. You can go to
many cities in the world and do the same figures you dance in Seattle. Truly,
SCD is an international dance society where those who love the music, the grace,
the happy social spirit can gather to dance the traditional dances of Scotland,
the darling diversion.
The Story of SCD: The Darling Diversion. by Evelyn M. Hood. History
of SCD. Collins, 1980.
back to top
Here is a link to
a dissertation on the strathspey server about dancing healthy.
"The only traditional Scottish dress is that of the man;
the ladies have always worn the dresses of the period. The tartan
sash is the only traditional thing the ladies can don. It should
be fastened on the left shoulder or passed over the left shoulder
and fastened at the waist on the right side. This second method
looks best with a long sash that comes nearly to the bottom of a
long evening dress." [Dr. Jean Milligan, Introducing SCD]
The RSCDS has
a special privilege, from Her Majesty the Queen, to wear the sash on the left
shoulder. SCDers proudly wear their sashes on the left, in accordance with our
privilege. Others normally wear the sash over the right shoulder, except wives
of clan heads, who have a special privilege to wear the sash pinned on the left.
of wearing the sash noted by Thomas Innes, Lord Lyon, 1961:
across one shoulder, the long end taken under the other arm and back over
the shoulder again where it is broached, the ends hanging freely front and
back (as in the RSCDS dancer motif on the cover). The style seems to date
from Victorian times.
- Sash fixed at a shoulder, about midway along, the ends
taken one forward and one back and then tied to each
other at the waist on the other side, from where the
short ends hang freely.
- Style for
a wider sash (18" or more wide and about 2 yards long.) Gathered in
to a brooch on a shoulder: the top, possibly rather longer, end hangs
freely from the shoulder at the back and the lower one is draped slightly
as it is taken across the back and is then fixed all the way across the
back waist, with nothing but the fringe hanging below the waist from this
end of the sash. [The
Sash, by Jennifer A. Shaw. RSCDS Bulletin No. 71]
How to fold a Sash
To make a rosette, e.g., for the third style listed above, lay
the sash out to its full length, and fold it in half. Fold the
folded end down 6 or 7 inches and wind a rubber band tightly
around the middle (fig. 1).
Then spread it into a rosette (fig.
and fasten the edges of the half circles
together with invisible pins at A and B. Fasten a large brooch in
the center of the rosette. Now you're ready to pin the sash to
your dress. Using a large safety pin, pin the rosette to the
shoulder of your dress from underneath, with the ends of the sash
floating down your back. Now ask a friend to help you. Moving the
top layer of the sash out of the way, ask your friend to pin the
closest edge of the sash to the right side of your dress at the
waist with a medium safety pin, so it doesn't show. That's it.
Miss Milligan had this to say about Scottish men's formal
wear: "When wearing a kilt, the shirt should be white or
pale pastel. A plain tie should be worn - not a tartan one - and
the sleeves should be fastened at the wrists. For day dress, a
tweed kilt jacket is correct, but is rather expensive. The
stockings are plain colored - fawn, green and blue or even white.
A leather sporran is suitable for day wear or for evening dress.
Animal face sporrans are for evening dress only. The belt with
silver buckle is worn with evening dress only. Full evening dress
is very beautiful, but costly, and good advice should be taken
before it is bought."
- cost a good deal, so talk with people before purchasing one. The kilt should
reach just to the top of the knee cap.
Sporran - The pouch that men wear with the kilt. It takes the
place of pockets for carrying keys and cheat sheet. A leather sporran is the
most versatile, being acceptable as day or evening wear.
What is worn under the kilt - One of the great Scottish
mysteries (and straight line for several jokes)
Flashes - The pieces of ribbon (now often elastic) used to
hold up the stockings.
Skean dhu/Sghian Dhu - The knife carried in the stocking top.
Kilt Jacket - Shorter than a suit jacket.
"A sporran is a useful thing, when trousers you must
It also proves itself a boon, in case your kilt falls
What tartan can I wear?
The association of particular tartans with clans is a recent
development, started in Victorian times. If you have Scottish
ancestry and choose to follow that tradition, then you probably
know more about it than we do and don't need our advice. There
are some tartans that most everyone agrees anyone can wear: State
and District Tartans (Washington state has one, as does Seattle),
Canadian Provincial Tartans, and other generic tartans, like
Culloden or Clergy. Check our links section for websites with examples of tartans. There
are also tartans with no name, that anyone can use. If you don't
have Scottish ancestry, don't worry about it. Before the
Victorians, there was not such uniformity about who wore what
tartan. The purpose of our group is to dance, so first and
foremost, find a tartan you like. If you are interested in the
traditions of clans, tartans, etc., ask around. There are
knowledgeable folk in the group, and there are other
organizations devoted to such subjects.
back to top
Lang Syne - How does it go??
Written by Robert Burns (several of its verses)
auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And Days o' lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
We'll tak a right guid willie-waught,
For auld lang syne.
Athole Brose - Hogmanay
beverage made with oatmeal water, scotch whiskey and honey.
"For e'er since he wore the tartan hose He dearly liket Athole brose."
Neil Gow's Farewell
("cayley") = dancing + singing + music + poetry + games + skits +
humor. Sometimes a ceilidh consists solely of performances, our Ceilidhs are
usually primarily dances, with a few performances thrown in.
Scottish Country Dance (SCD) - the social dancing of Scotland.
Demo. - dance demonstration.
dancing shoes; resemble a ballet slipper with laces.
- the traditional Scottish sausage is made with oats, onions, spices and the
usual sausage ingredients, stuffed into a sheep's stomach. (Before you say ewww!
- consider what other sausages are usually made of and stuffed into.)
Traditionally served with neeps
or rutabagas (the gold/yellow colored root veggies) and
tatties (potatoes). Today, the haggis is often
more "Americanized" since some of its parts are hard to acquire.
Highland Dance - solo dancing of Scotland using leaps and
acrobatic foot movements.
- Scottish new-years celebration.
Diagram - system of graphically describing dances, originated by F.L. Pilling in Scottish Country Dances in
Robert Burns (1759-1796) - most famous of Scottish poets.
SCD - Scottish Country Dance.
("skeen doo") - The small knife a man carries in his stocking. (Gaelic
meaning black knife)
Sporran - predecessor of the fanny pack, since kilts don't
Step Dance - soft version of highland dancing that has roots
in national dancing.
Tartan - a
plaid design with a repeated pattern, or sett.
back to top