Dancing Events

Scottish dancing takes three basic forms. The first, folk dancing, involves both men and women and are frequently performed for recreation.. The other two, the Highland dances and the National dances, are traditionally individual events involving competitions.

In judging the competition dances, the judges look for are the precision and timing of the steps in conjunction with the required arm and leg movements. The dance should appear relaxed and in control of all movements.

The Folk Dances.

Scottish Country Dancing. Scottish Country Dancing developed in the Lowlands of Scotland and was first accompanied by the fiddle. It is performed in rows with sets of partners facing each other and requires very intricate and precise footwork. It is typically a demonstration and audience participation event.

Gaelic Step. The Gaelic Step resembles Appalachian Clog Dancing. A dancers arms are held at the side with heavy rhythmic stamping of the feet. The traditional Irish Step Dancing is somewhat similar.

The Highland Dances. Highland Dancing s thought to have originated in the Highlands of Scotland around the 11th Century. The dances were originally performed by men and require a great deal of stamina. There are only four dances recognized by the Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance: the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, the Seann Truibhas. and the Reel.

In judging the competition dances, the judges look for are the precision and timing of the steps in conjunction with the required arm and leg movements. The dance should appear relaxed and in control of all movements.

Highland Fling. According to tradition, the Highland Fling was originally performed by the Highland warrior on his targe after battle. Accordingly, it is danced in one spot without traveling steps. The steps are simple but must be executed precisely with positions being strongly held. This dance is often considered to be the greatest test for the Highland Dance.

Sword Dance. This dance was traditionally performed by the Highland warrior on the eve of the battle using the warrior's sword and scabbard. The sword and scabbard are crossed on the ground to define the dancing spot. According to legend, the warriors that were able to dance the Sword Dance without touching the sword with his feet would be successful in the approaching battle.

Seann Truibhas. Seann triubhas, pronounced sheen trews, are the Gaelic words for "old trousers". This dance celebrates the lifting of the Act of Proscription, the law that forbade the wearing of the kilt by the common highlander. The dance symbolizes the kicking off of the hated trousers.

Strathspey. The Strathspey dance begins at the slow tempo of the strathspey. The basic step is the same step used in Scottish Country Dancing combined with figure eight movements. Dancers are judged individually in this group dance.

Highland Reel. The Highland Reel dances to the fast tempo of the traditional Reel. Dancers are judged individually in this group dance.

Half Tulloch or Full Tulloch. The Half Tulloch and Full Tulloch, which is also known as the Hullachan, is another format of the Reel. It is attributed to the movements of cold parishioners used to stay warm. The parishioners were waiting waiting outside the Church one cold morning for a rather tardy preacher. Dancers are judged individually in this group dance.

The National Dances. Many of the National Dances were originally choreographed for women. The focus is more on grace than brute strength and stamina.

Sailor's Hornpipe. Of Celtic origin, the Sailor's Hornpipe is a traditional solo dance known throughout to the British Isles. The name is derived from and English wind instrument made from an ox horn with a costume based on the historical British seaman. The dance depicts shipboard activities such as rope hauling, climbing, looking to the sea and being a bit tipsy.

Irish Jig. The Irish Jig, while not a traditional Irish jig, is danced with controlled abandon. If it's danced by a female, the dance is supposed to represent an angry Irish washerwoman who's husband has been delayed at the local pub. If it's danced by males, it's the story of Paddy's Leather Breeches, which have shrunk because of a careless Irish washerwoman.

Scottish National Dances. The National Dances are sedate with elegant movements. Traditionally, they were created solely to be danced by women. Many steps are taken from from classical ballet. The Scottish Lilt is a dance that is performed in a shortened version of the traditional 17th century women's attire (the arisaid over a white dress). Flora Macdonald's Fancy honors the national heroine who helped hide Charles Edward Stuart
after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Scotch Measure is a graceful variation of the Fling. It can be danced solo or in pairs. The Earl of Erroll uses ballet steps to create a flowing movement with complicated footwork.

Musical Events

Piping. Piping competition is a solo event with pipers competing at six skill levels. The judging is based on tuning, timing (including tempo and breaks between tunes), execution and expression. Competitions fall into two categories: the MSR (marches, strathspeys and reels) events and the piobaireachd (classical music for the pipes). Some functions also offer competition in the jig and hornpipe categories.

Drumming. Drumming competition is a solo event with drummers competing at five skill levels. The judging is based on roll, tone, tempo, execution, rhythm/expansion, quality/variety and blend.

Drum Major. A Drum Major competition is a solo event for the Drum Major. Since the drum major sets the tempo for band through swinging of mace (staff), this competition is used to help create consistency between drum
majors. The drum major must compete in full dress and is judged on that dress, their deportment or general conduct and their flourish (manipulation of the mace).

Pipe Band. A Pipe Band competition is a band event where a specified minimum number of pipers and drummers are required. Each band must play a medley of tunes where the types of tunes required will depend on the
caliber or grade of the pipe band. In addition, the higher the level of competition, the longer the band will play. Three judges will determine each bands standing within the competition. The judges evaluate a number of areas including how well the tunes selected were played versus how difficult the tunes are to play, the quality of tuning for the pipes at the beginning and end of the set, and the musical nature of the selected tunes (e.i. do the selected tunes
flow easily from one to the next).

Massed Band. The Massed Band ceremony is when all participating pipe bands parade together playing a common medley of pipe tunes. Traditionally, the massed band will perform simple maneuvers on the parade field. The medley
consists of popular bagpipe tunes.

Celtic Harp (Clarsach). In the Highlands, the harp, or clarsach, accompanied the clan chiefs into battle until the bagpipes took over this roll in the 16th century. The clan harper would perform for both happy and sad occasions. TBS

Scottish Fiddle. A Scottish fiddle competition consists of the following pieces: Air, March, Strathspey and Reel.


Other Events

Over the years, many uniquely Scottish events have evolved and become regular features at Games and Festivals across North America. Some involve actual competitions while others offer a variety style show with an in-house audience.

Sheep Dog Trials. Sheep Dog Trials are really a competition examining a dog's working ability as each dog works sheep or other livestock in a prescribed course. The dogs must be controlled only by the whistle tones from
its master. The winner is the dog with the best time in in successfully driving the sheep through the course.

Scottish/Celtic Canine and Feline Breeds. These dog and cat shows feature competitions between Scottish/Celtic breeds, not just the commonly seen border collies. Some of the canine competitions feature exhibitions where dogs are competing in AKC sanctioned events.

Scottish Animals. Some functions make arrangements with nearby ranchers and farmers to bring Scottish breed livestock for exhibition. This includes cattle (the Scottish Highland Steer or Red Angus, the Belted Galloway),
horses (the Clydesdales) and sheep (Jacobs Sheep). Often, these animals are part of a petting zoo for children.

Spinning and Weaving. Many of the larger functions now feature a spinning and weaving demonstration where wool is turned into yarn and then woven into cloth. Often, a lecture is given to the audience as part of the demonstration.

Ceilidh. The Ceilidh is a variety show that features examples of traditional music and dance. Typically, it features folk music, pipe music, fiddling, country dancing and highland dancing. Some are structured and feature professional entertainers. There is usually a supplementary charge for admission to this event.

Tattoo. The Tattoo is very similar to the Ceilidh except that the performers are typically part of a military regiment. In addition to the music and dancing, athletic ability and endurance are featured. There is usually a supplementary charge for admission to this event.

Story Telling. Story Telling is a relatively new activity for most events. Story tellers relay the almost-lost oral history of the Celtic lands and its peoples. Typically, this activity is associated with an entertainment program for children.

Tartan Ball. The Tartan Ball is a formal event where formal Highland Dress is often required. Scottish Country Dancing is featured to the accompaniment of live Scottish music.

Whiskey Tasting. Whiskey Tasting is just as the name implies - adult patrons are able to sample different Scotch Whiskeys. This often includes both the single malts and the more common blends. There may be a supplementary
charge for participation in this event.

Celtic Art. Some events provide space to Celtic artists to show their work. This can include items paintings, photography, jewelry, and sculpture. Often, these works are for sale.

Living History. The Living History exhibition is a re-enactment of life from a specific period of Celtic history. The group builds an encampment based on available materials for the specified period and demonstrates this lifestyle to the event visitor. Re-enactment ranges from a simple camp through orchestrated maneuvers.

Tossing The Wellie. According to non-verifiable tradition, this competition arose as the result of men coming home tracking mud into the house. In retaliation, women threw boots at the men. The modern competition is one for distance where a Wellington; (boot) is thrown.

The Haggis Hurl. Another non-verifiable tradition is associated with the haggis hurl. This tradition tells of women tossing lunch (a haggis) across a stream to their husbands. In the modern version, a haggis (a soft two pound bag that may, or may not, be real) is tossed for distance and accuracy from atop a barrel or platform. At some festivals, this typically women only event features competitions between teams from the various clans and families.

Bonnie Knees Contest. Judges, typically female and blindfolded at some events, are asked to rate the portion of the male leg that is exposed between the hose and the bottom edge of the kilt. Some functions have specialized awards for Boniest and Most Dimpled knees.