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What is Scottish country dancing?

Scottish country dancing (SCD) is a sociable dance form with roots stretching back for centuries. For more information about SCD History go to the RSCDS website

Participants are grouped into sets, typically of 3, 4 or 5 couples arranged either in two lines (men facing women) or in a square, and work together to dance a sequence of formations. This will leave the couples in a new order, and the dance is repeated enough times to bring them back to their starting positions, with everyone dancing each position in turn.  This form of dance is similar to English country dancing and that found at ceilidhs or barn dances; however in SCD there are defined steps which add flow and energy to the movement of the dance. There are now many thousand dances and so we learn how to dance rather than to remember every one.  Scottish country dances you might have heard of are the Eightsome Reel and the Dashing White Sergeant.

Highland Dancing is not the same as Scottish Country.   Highland dancing is normally solo examples would be the Highland fling or sword dancing.  However, some highland steps are incorporated into a few country dances.

SCD is danced principally for social pleasure and enjoyment, and in some parts of the country groups also perform and there are even occasional competitions. Although the basic steps and formations are easy to pick up, many dancers enjoy improving their dancing ability and  technique and often do this by attending day schools and weekend schools run by local groups in addition to their  weekly classes.  There is also the annual summer school run by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society in St Andrews to which dancers from beginners to experts come from all over the world.   There is plenty to learn to keep this as a hobby of a lifetime.

There are also excellent physical and mental health benefits due to the sociability as well as the physical and mental stimulation.  It is an excellent stress reliever because when dancing, we find that we forget everything else!

There can be no dancing without music, and Scottish country dancing has attracted some of the most talented musicians to play for it. From the first chord to the final bow or curtsey, dancers are inspired by the driving reels, jaunty jigs, smooth strathspeys or lilting slow airs.  Reels and jigs are known in other forms of dance but the slow elegant strathpey is unique to Scottish country and highland dance.  If you can’t afford a live musician or band, there are numerous inspirational recordings – go to the RSCDS online shop for more details of those stocked by RSCDS.

Scottish dancing is a living tradition with both dances that are 200-300 years old and new dances that are being written all the time.  Dances vary considerably in complexity and ease of dancing – thus with careful selection of dances a programme for an evening dance can cater for beginners with 6-12 months’ experience, or be designed to challenge and interest the most experienced dancers.

SCD is very sociable – it is common practice to dance with different partners during a night of dancing so no partner is needed to attend classes or dances.  Thanks to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society the dance form is sufficiently popular and uniform that any SCD dancer can pack their dance shoes and be welcomed by a local group almost anywhere in the world.

As everywhere else, in Carlisle and North Cumbria we encourage all to come to learn and enjoy Scottish Country Dancing for fun, fitness and friendship and there are many classes to choose from. To find a club near you go to the Other Groups pages or use the Map of Groups. All you will need to join us is a pair of soft-soled flat shoes, you don’t need to bring a partner or to wear a kilt and you will find experienced dancers eager to help you.

How to Join

To join the Carlisle and Border Branch of the RSCDS or to renew your membership, please complete the Membership form and send it to our treasurer Graeme Ridgewell, at 48 Moorhouse Road, Carlisle, CA2 7LU.  The membership year is from July 1st to June 30th each year and most members re-join when classes start in September.  The fee includes £16 for membership of the society and £4 for membership of our Branch.  You can pay to join as many branches as you wish.   Each member receives a magazine twice per year and reduced class costs at many RSCDS classes.