Scottish Highland Dance dates back to the military traditions in Scotland as early as 1054, and is an extremely physical style of dance which was once performed only by men in the early centuries. In these times, Highland Dance was incorporated into military training for soldiers ~ as a way to improve stamina, agility and discipline. There are varying stories and myths that have been passed down through generations to explain the significance of the movements and steps of the many dances, most of which have become widely accepted through time. In fact, many of the oldest steps and dances have been lost or changed through time, as with any indigenous cultural entity with outside influences – however, the base, core movements and ideals of the steps and dances have remained – and have been standardized for learning, competition and level format. The Gaels love their stories, and there are many to accompany the dances.
Highland Dance is highly competitive today, dominated by women, and focuses on technique, strength, flexibility and presentation. There is a training process involved, starting from a very young age ~ and development of the dancer evolves over years of instruction and practice. There are over 20 dances, including the Traditional Highland Dances: Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Seann Triubhas and the many Reels. National Dances: Scottish Lilt, Flora MacDonald’s Fancy, With Thou Go To The Barracks Johnny, Highland Laddie, Blue Bonnets Over The Border, Village Maid, Scotch Measure. Non-Competitive Dances: Hebridean Laddie, Tribute To James L. MacKenzie, Dusty Miller (and many more). The Character Dances: Irish Jig, Sailor’s Hornpipe and the Cakewalk. The students progress through levels – learning more complicated movements, steps, rhythms and dances with time and experience. It is a very repetitive and progressive form of solo dancing.
With long standing traditions, and a true strength within our Cape Breton cultural community, Highland Dance will continue only through instruction and performance. It is truly unique in form, and one of the toughest styles of dance to master. It is definitely ‘survival of the fittest’, and considered one of the most sophisticated styles of dance in the world. Highland Dance is taught in countries all over the world, including: Scotland, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, England, Ireland and more 🌎