Steps & holds

Steps used for moving are called travelling steps; and steps used for dancing on the spot are called setting steps.

If you would like to refresh your memory on travelling and setting steps please visit the guide to basic SCD steps.

YOUR BASIC GUIDE TO SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE STEPS

Foot positions

All steps start with heels together and toes pointing diagonally out. This would be your starting position, but within the course of dancing there are a number of different foot positions.

All descriptions of the foot positions are taken from The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing.

The heels are together. The weight of the body is evenly balanced on both feet.

The working foot is placed to the side with the heels in line. In some steps in Scottish Country Dancing the weight is on one foot and the other leg is extended to the side, well turned out from the hip, the knee is straight, the foot is stretched and the toes are pointed towards the floor.

The heel of the working foot, in front, touches the hollow of the instep of the supporting foot. When on the ball of the supporting foot, the heel of the front foot is just over the instep of the back foot. 

The working leg and foot, from third position in front, are fully extended diagonally forward, between second and fourth positions.

Travelling steps

Travelling steps are used for moving about the set, which is part of creating the shapes and formations that are an intrinsic part of country dancing.

In Reels and Jigs this step is used for travelling. The step should light and lively, giving the feeling of flight and easy, relaxed movement. One skip change of step takes one bar of music.

The basic movement is: hop, step, close, step

  1. Hop on the left foot and, at the same time, fully extend the right leg forward with the foot pointed down. (hop)
  2. Step forward on to the right foot. (step)
  3. Bring the left foot behind the right foot so that the left instep comes to the right heel. (close)
  4. Step forward again, bring the left foot past right leg and extend it, ready to begin the step again. (step)

The step is repeated by hopping on the left foot.

 

Skip Change of Step - Formal Style 

                 

 

Skip Change of Step - Informal Style  

 

In Reels and Jigs this step is used to travel sideways, either with hands joined in a circle or with both hands joined facing partners. Two slip steps take one bar of music.

The basic movement is: step, close, step, close

  1. Step to the left with the left foot. (step)
  2. Bring the right foot to the left foot so that the heels come together, slightly off the ground. (close)
  3. Step to the left with the left foot. (step) 
  4. Bring the right foot to the left foot so that the heels come together, slightly off the ground. (close)

This is repeated as often as necessary. To travel in the opposite direction, begin by stepping to the right.

In Strathspey time the step is strong and more controlled. One Strathspey travelling step takes one bar of music.

The basic movement is: step, close, step, pull through

  1. Long step forward with the right foot. (step)
  2. Bring the left foot behind the right foot so that the left instep comes to the right heel. (close)
  3. Long step forward again with the right foot. (step)
  4. Bring the left foot past right leg, with a small hop, ready to begin the step again. (hop)

The step is repeated by stepping forward with the left foot.

 

Strathspey Travelling Step - Formal Style  

                  

 

Strathspey Travelling Step - Informal Style 

 

Setting steps

Setting steps are used for dancing (setting) on the spot and are commonly used when setting to your partner.  

In Reels and Jigs, this step is often called pas de basque and used for setting and/or sometimes for travelling short distances.

The basic movement is: spring, beat, beat, and.

  1. Spring onto the right foot. (spring)
  2. Bring the left foot in front of the right foot with the left heel just over the right instep, transfer weight onto the left foot and bring the right foot off the floor. (beat)
  3. Change the weight onto the right foot again and extend the left foot forwards and to the left. (beat)
  4. Hold the position. (and)

The step is repeated by springing on to the left foot.

 

Pas de Basque - Formal Style 

              

 

Pas de Basque - Informal Style 

 

In Strathspey time the setting step is similar to the travelling step but moving to the side instead of forward.

The basic movement is: step, close, step, hop.

  1. Step to the right with the right foot. (step)
  2. Bring the left foot behind the right foot so that the left instep comes to the right heel. (close)
  3. Step to the right again with the right foot. (step)
  4. Bring the left foot up behind the right leg, with a small hop, ready to begin the step again. (hop)

The step is repeated by stepping sideways with the left foot.

 

Strathspey Setting Step - Formal Style 

                  

 

Strathspey Setting Step - Informal Style 

 

Hand holds

Setting steps are used for dancing (setting) on the spot and are commonly used when setting to your partner. Information on holds was taken from The Manual of Scottish Country Dancing.  

This hold is used when dancing an Allemande (and also the Gay Gordons). Couples face in the same direction, men with their partner on their right and join both hands, left in left, right in right and the right hands above left. The man raises the woman’s right hand over her head to hold it just above, but not resting on, her right shoulder. The left hands and arms are held away from the body, comfortably above waist height.

Couple face in the same direction, men with their partner on their right, and join both hands, left in left, right in right and the right hands above left hands. The arms are held away from the body, comfortably above waist height. 

Examples are in poussettes and when slipping up, down or across in jig and reel time. Both hands are joined with partner at a comfortable shoulder height and width, with arms slightly bent and elbows down. In a strathspey poussette, arms are slightly bent and held slightly wider than in the reel or jig poussette, with elbows down.

Sign up for the RSCDS electronic newsletter

Sign up to:

  • Keep up to date with RSCDS events 
  • Advertise your event with the RSCDS and reach thousands of people worldwide

Join an RSCDS Branch & receive member benefits

There are 159 RSCDS Branches and over 300 Affiliated Groups in more than 50 countries around the world, located on all continents (except Antarctica).

They organise and run classes, dances and other social events in their own areas and are committed to helping develop Scottish Dance and Music for future generations.

We encourage you to try Scottish Country Dancing for yourself to see just how much fun it can be, so please come along and learn how to 'Dance Scottish'. 

Wherever you are in the world there is most likely Scottish Country Dancing.

Find my nearest branch

  • Copyright © 2019 Royal Scottish Country Dance Society
  • Registered Charity No. SC 016085
  • Company No. SC 480530
  • 12 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, EH3 7AF