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Country Dancing is a form of dance performed by groups of couples, usually in long lines with the men and women facing each other. A group of dancers arranged in this pattern is called a set, with each set consisting of three or more couples: the men have their left shoulder nearest the music or the ‘top’ of the ‘set’ and couples are numbered from 1 through to 4 with couple number one being at the top of the set. 

Traditionally, men have danced with women. However, you are encouraged to dance with whomever you please! For the sake of simplicity, in this guide we will be using examples of men dancing with women. In most Scottish Country Dances the man takes the leading position, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the position has to be danced by a man. Women dance with women and men dance with men, it is all about having fun and being comfortable. 

"An important feature of Country Dancing is that it is progressive. After each turn of the dance, the couple at the top finish one place further down. Each of the other couples, having reached the top, take their turn as leading couple". 

A typical Scottish Country Dance consists of a series of formations that are arranged in a different sequence for each dance, hence, having mastered the basic steps and some of the formations, a Scottish Country Dancer should be able to participate happily and easily wherever there is Country Dancing.

Some aspects of Scottish Country Dancing can be confusing to the new dancer - don’t let that discourage you, a bit of perseverance in learning the basics soon pays off and a whole world of fun and enjoyment awaits you. 

So let’s get started - you have a partner and you are now arranged on the dance floor in a set with three other couples and the music is about to begin, so what else do you need to know?

Terminology

Not too sure what we are talking about? Read this guide on the most common terms heard in Scottish Country Dancing.

Formations

Scottish Country Dances are made up of a series of “dance formations” or patterns, which can be straightforward or complex, but always fun!

Steps & holds

Once you have read the basics, get to know the many different kinds of steps and holds found in most Scottish Country Dances.

Examples

Instructions on how to dance a number of straightforward and well known Scottish Country Dances, with videos to help.

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