New Dancers' Page
Scottish Country Dancing is fun! It provides both physical and mental exercise in a congenial social setting and all to the accompaniment of lively Scottish music.
Scottish Country Dances are usually performed in sets of 3, 4, or 5 couples, arranged either in two lines (‘men’ facing ‘ladies’) or in a square, and the dancers dance together through a sequence of formations. This may leave them in a new order, in which case the dance is repeated enough times to bring them back to their starting positions, with everyone dancing each position in turn.
Scottish Country Dancing is not something which can be learned in a night, you need to attend classes regularly to become proficient, but you will still have great fun while you are learning, and you will find that everyone is very friendly and helpful.
You do not need to come with a partner; it is normal practice for everyone to find new partners for each new dance. At class nights, each dance is walked through in stages so everyone knows what to do and where to go. Don’t worry if it seems strange at first, there are always plenty of experienced dancers on hand to help you.
Here are some basic terms you will hear at a dance class:
Turn by the right/left – Full right-/left-hand turn with partner
Right/left hands across – all put right/left hands together to ‘wheel’ round
Cast off – Dance down the set behind the line.
Cast up – Dance up the set behind the line.
4 or 6 hands round – 4 or 6 people circle round (usually to the left).
Cross by the right/left – Cross over the set giving hands.
Cross down – Cross and move down the set giving hands.
Back to back – Dance round partner (do-si-dos)
Lead down/up – Dance with partner R hand in R hand.
Dance down/up – Dance with partner nearer hands joined.
In class, you will learn a variety of simple formations which are the ‘building blocks’ of all the dances.
There is much more information on formations, footwork and hand positions on this website:
Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary