Traditional Scottish Dance

Dance is common to all cultures and this is especially true of the people of Scotland who take their traditional forms of dance very seriously. Dancing in Scotland dates back very far and over time many variations have emerged. Each dance has its own background and beginning. Whilst there are many Scottish dances, you'll find that traditional dancing normally falls into one of four main categories: Ceilidh, Cape Breton Step Dancing, Scottish Country Dancing and Highland Dancing.


The Ceilidh dances are easy to learn and often look more difficult than they really are. Learning them is easy because the musicians and fellow dancers are always happy to help beginners learn the steps. The Ceilidh dances are very sociable, easy-going and good exercise when the pace increases. Scottish country dancing is similar to Ceilidh dancing but they are usually a little more formal, complex and better well-organized. Once you know the Ceilidh dance steps, you can join in anywhere in the world.

Cape Breton Step Dancing

This dance is mainly done solo and is done purely for stage performances where it is combined with traditional Scottish music. Cape Breton step dancing was almost lost in Scotland but fortunately it was preserved in Nova Scotia by Scottish emigrants. Recent years has seen it making a comeback in Scotland. It is very similar to the Irish hardshoe dances and the same types of shoes are used for this dance form.

Scottish Country Dancing

Scottish Country Dancing is mostly used at sociable gatherings – although it is often performed and there are even occasional competitions. This dance form is done in sets, normally of 3, 4 or 5 couples, that arrange themselves either in two lines (men facing ladies) or in a square. During the course of the dance, the dancers complete a set of formations enough times to bring them back to their opening positions.

Highland Dancing

Highland Dancing is usually performed solo by young people and is a very colorful and lively style of dance. Many Scots quote that there is no better scenery in Scotland than seeing a young kilted dancer, swaying and turning to the sounds of the traditional Scottish bagpipes. This form of dancing has become a very competitive one and the levels of standard had gone up immensely.

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