Simple Scottish dances

The sections below provide some instructions on how to dance a number of straightforward and well known Scottish country dances - enjoy!

Sets of four couples in longwise formation, men stand with left shoulder to top of room women on opposite side of the set facing partner. After one turn through the dance the top couple finish at the bottom of the set. A new top couple begins.

Music: 4 x 32 bar jig

2 counts per bar.

There are several versions of this, a common one is:

Bars

1 - 8: 1st woman, followed by 2nd and 3rd women, dances across the top of the set, behind 1st man, in front of 2nd man, behind 3rd man and across the set and back to place.

9 - 16: 1st three men repeat bars 1 - 8 round the women.

17 - 24: 1st couple join both hands and dance (gallop) down the room for eight slip-steps, then back up again to the bottom of the set (4th place).

25 - 32: All four couples join hands on the sides and slip step down the room and back up again (frequently making train noises).

Finish in the order 2, 3, 4, 1

Repeat with new top couple.

Source: Devised by Hugh A Thurston and published by the RSCDS in Jigs and Reels.

Sets of four couples in longwise formation. After one turn through the dance, the dancing couple finish in second place and repeat the dance from this position, dancing with the two couples below them and finish at the bottom of the set. After two turns the new top couple begins.

Music: 8 x 32 bar jig

2 counts per bar

Tune: The Machine without Horses

Bars

1 – 4: 1st couple set and cast off one place. 2nd couple step up on bars 3-4.

5 – 8: 1st and 3rd couples dance right hands across once round.

9 – 12: 1st couple set and cast up one place. 2nd couple step down on bars 11-12.

13 – 16: 1st and 2nd couples dance left hands across once round.

17 – 24: 1st couple, followed by 2nd couple who dance up the sides to begin, dance down between 3rd couple, cast up round them, dance up to the top, and cast off into second place, and 2nd couple dance up to top place.

25 – 32: 2nd and 1st couples dance rights and lefts.

Repeat, having passed a couple.

Source: Rutherford's Complete Collection of 200 of the most Celebrated Country Dances, 1775 and RSCDS Book 12.

Sets of four couples in longwise formation. After one turn through the dance, the dancing couple finish in second place, repeat the dance from this position, dancing with the couple below them and finish in third place. For the third turn of the dance the original dancing couple repeat with the couple below them and a new top couple begins.

Bars

1 – 2: 1st couple dance a petronella turn (dance a three-quarters turn, moving diagonally to the right and pulling right shoulder back to face partner).  See Petronella Turn in Section 3.

3 – 4: 1st couple set to each other.

5 – 8 1st couple repeat bars 1-4, always moving diagonally to the right, to finish in partner’s place.

9 – 16: 1st couple repeat bars 1 - 8 to finish in original positions.

17 – 24: 1st couple lead down the middle and up to finish facing each other in the middle of the set with both hands joined. 2nd couple step in.

25 – 32: 1st and 2nd couples dance a poussette.

Repeat, having passed a couple.

Source: The Ballroom or the Juvenile Pupil’s Assistant (1827) and RSCDS Book 1.

Three facing three round the room (man with two women or a woman with two men).

Music: 32 bar reel - ‘The Dashing White Sergeant

2 counts per bar.

Bars

1 - 8: All circle six hands round to the left and back to the right. Finish in original Iines of three.

9 - 12: The middle dancer in each group of three, faces the right hand partner, set to each other and, giving right hands, turns or swings once round. The left hand partner stands still.

13 -16: Facing left hand partner, repeat bars 9 - 12.

17 - 24: Dance reels of three, the centre dancer passes the right hand partner left shoulder to begin. (A common variation is for the centre dancer to turn or swing each of their partners in turn, beginning right hand with the right hand partner, then left hand to the left hand partner.)

25 - 28: Joining hands, in lines of three, advance and retire.

29 - 32: Both lines dance forwards, one line raising their hands in an arch and the other line dancing underneath, and dance on to meet the next line of three coming in the other direction.

Repeat with the next three dancers.

Source: Attributed to David Anderson, Dundee (c 1897) and RSCDS Book 3.

Four couples in a square set, men with their partners on their right. Couple with their backs to the music are couple number 1, couple on their left number 2, couple opposite number 3 and couple on the right number 4.

Music: Reels, played 40 bars for the chorus, then plus 8 x 48 and for the figure and 40 bars for the final chorus.

Bars

1 - 8: All circle eight hands round to the left and back to the right.

9 - 12: All women join right hands in the middle, and holding partners around waist, all dance right hands across.

13 - 16: Still retaining arms round partners’ waists, swing the men into centre and dance left across back to places.

17 - 20: All face partner and set twice.

21 - 24: All, giving right hand (or swing hold) turn or swing partners finish in original places facing partner.

25 - 40: Giving right hands to partner to start, dance a grand chain around the set, men dancing anticlockwise and women dancing clockwise. Give left hand to the next dancer, and continue to original places.

Figure - repeat 8 times

1 - 8: 1st woman moves into the centre of the set and dances setting steps while the others circle round to the left and back.

9 -16: 1st woman sets to partner, turns him, sets to opposite man and turns him.

17 - 24: 1st woman 1st man and 3rd man dance a reel of three passing partner right shoulder to begin. (variation - 1st woman turns or swing 1st man and 3rd man in turn, beginning right hand with their partner, then left hand to the opposite man).

25 - 32: Repeat bars 1-8.

33 - 48: Repeat bars 9 - 24 with 4th man and 2nd man.

This 48 bar figure is repeated with the 2nd woman, 3rd woman, 4th woman, 1st man, 2nd man, 3rd man, 4th man in the centre.

Chorus: Repeat bars 1-40 of the Chorus.

Source: It is said that this dance was devised by the Earl of Dunmore and some of his friends in the 1870s from their recollection of older round reels. The chorus for the danced, which is danced both at the start and end is made up of typical quadrille formations. Whilst the central portion of the dance is based on Scottish reel figures with a series of setting and reels of three. It became popular throughout the whole of Scotland and remains one of the archetypal Scottish dances to this day.

Sets of four couples in longwise formation. After one turn through the dance, the dancing couple finish in second place and repeat the dance from this position, dancing with the two couples below them and finish at the bottom of the set. After two turns the new top couple begins.

Music: 8 x 32 bar reel
2 counts per bar

Tune: Duke of Perth’s Reel

Bars

1 – 4: 1st couple, giving right hands, turn and cast off one place. 2nd couple step up on bars 3-4.

5 – 8: 1st couple, giving left hands, turn one and a quarter times to face first corners.

9 – 16: 1st couple turn first corners with the right hand, partner with the left hand, second corners with the right hand and partner with the left hand to finish facing first corners.

17 – 20: 1st couple set to and turn first corners to finish back to back in the middle, facing second corners.

21 – 24: 1st couple set to and turn second corners to finish in second place, on opposite side, facing first corners.

25 – 30: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples dance reels of three on the sides. 1st couple pass first corners left shoulders to begin.

31 – 32: 1st couple, giving right hands, cross over to second place on own sides.

Repeat, having passed a couple.

This dance has been danced throughout Scotland for over 200 years and is also known as Pease Strae or Broun’s Reel.

Source: The Ballroom and RSCDS Book 1.

Sets of four couples in longwise formation. After one turn through the dance, the dancing couple finish in second place and repeat the dance from this position, dancing with the two couples below them and finish at the bottom of the set. After two turns the new top couple begins.

Music: 8 x 32 bar reel (2 counts per bar)

Tune: The Drunken Piper

Bars

1 – 8: 1st couple set to each other and cast off two places, meet below 3rd couple and lead up the middle to face first corners. 2nd couple step up on bars 3-4.

9 – 12: 1st couple set to and turn first corners with the right hand, finishing in a diagonal line by joining left hands with partner. (Fig.)

13 – 14: 1st couple and first corners balance in line (set).

15 – 16: 1st couple, releasing right hands with corners, turn each other one and a quarter times to face second corners.

17 – 22: 1st couple repeat bars 9-14 with second corners.

23 – 24: 1st couple cross to second place on own sides.

25 – 32: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples dance six hands round and back.

Repeat, having passed a couple.

Source: This dance was devised by members of the 51st Highland Division when they were POW’s during WWW 2. The dance depicts a Saint Andrew′s Cross formation which was intended to symbolise Scotland and the Highland Division. The dance was published in 1945 by the RSCDS in Book 13. The full story of the writing of this dance is fascinating and further details can be found on line at:

http://www.historyinanhour.com/2014/06/04/history-reel-51st-division/

Sets of four couples in longwise formation. After one turn through the dance, the dancing couple finish in second place and repeat the dance from this position, dancing with the two couples below them and finish at the bottom of the set. After two turns the new top couple begins.

Music: 8 x 32 bar strathspey

4 counts per bar

Tune: Monymusk

Bars

1 – 4: 1st couple, giving right hands, turn once round and cast off one place on own sides. 2nd couple step up on bars 3-4.

5 – 8: 1st couple, giving left hands, turn one and a quarter times to finish 1st woman between the 2nd couple facing down, and 1st man between the 3rd couple, facing up.

9 – 12: 1st woman with 2nd couple and 1st man with 3rd couple set twice. On bars 11-12, 1st couple dance to the right into second place on opposite sides of the set, pulling right shoulder back.

13 – 16: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples set twice.

17 – 24: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples dance six hands round and back.

25 – 30: 2nd, 1st and 3rd couples dance reels of three on the sides. 1st woman passes 3rd man and 1st man passes 2nd woman by the right shoulder to begin.

31 – 32: 1st couple, giving right hands, cross over to second place, on own sides.

Repeat, having passed a couple.

Source: Preston Twenty four Country-Dances for the Year 1786 and RSCDS Book 11.

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