What would the Highland Games be without an Highland Dancing competition?
Nothing captures the spirit of the Scottish culture better than Highland Dancing during Highland Games. Nowadays, most dancers are female, but the roots of these dances lay in the military clan culture and Scottish folklore.
Originally, Highland Dancing was only for men. The Clan chiefs used the different dances to pick their best men. The men showed off their strength, technique, and stamina during dancing.
In Highland dancing, the dancers dance on the balls of the feet Highland dancing is a form of solo step dancing, from which it evolved, but while some forms of step dancing are purely percussive in nature, Highland dancing involves not only a combination of steps but also some integral upper body, arm, and hand movements.
Some Highland dances do derive from traditional social dances, however. An example is the Highland Reel, also known as the Foursome Reel, in which groups of four dancers alternate between solo steps facing one another and a figure-of-eight style with intertwining progressive movement. Even so, in competitions, the Highland Reel dancers are judged individually. Most Highland dances are danced solo.
Categories in Scottish Highland dances
Scottish Highland dances are generally divided into several types. Categories are more for convenience than strict style:
- Highland dances (such as the Highland Fling and Sword Dance), danced in Kilt
- National dances (such as the Scottish Lilt, Flora McDonald’s Fancy), danced in National or Aboyne dress
- Character dances (such as the Sailor’s Hornpipe and Irish jig)
The best known dances are the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance. In the Sword Dance the dancers dance over two crossed swords, representing their own sword and that of the enemy.
It is important that the dancer does not touch the swords – nowadays touching the sword has a penalty of losing points or even disqualification, in the olden days it was seen as a bad omen for the upcoming battle. In the Highland Fling the dancers aim to dance in one spot and their arms represent the antlers of a deer.
National dances are more feminine and ballet like, and allow for softer movements.