Highland Dancing

Competitive Highland Dancers must be registered with the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing and the Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators. Dancers in the Premier and Pre-Premier categories compete in traditional Scottish Highland Dances before a judge. Pre-Premier includes Primary, Beginner, Novice, and Intermediate levels. Dancers must register for competitions and may earn medals or trophies. Dancers earning a first, second, or third place in a Highland Dance earn stamps, which are accumulated to move up through the specific levels.

Highland Dancing developed in the rugged Scottish Highlands sometime around the 11th Century and has continued up to the present time. There are three basic dances in Highland Dancing: The Sword Dance mentioned above, the Highland Fling, and the Seann Trubhas. The first two were originally danced exclusively by men before the beginning of battle to ensure good luck and to instill the proper fighting spirit.

Weapons played important roles in these dances. The Gillie Calum is actually danced on crossed swords, and to touch a sword during the dance was considered bad luck. The Highland Fling was originally danced on the Highlander’s small leather shield, called a targ; as a result it is danced in place today.

Because of their warlike nature and their intrinsic importance in Highland culture, these dances (along with the kilt) were outlawed by the English in the wake of the Stuart Rebellion of 1745. These proscriptions were officially lifted in 1786, and a new dance, the Seann Truibhas or “Old Trousers” was created.

This dance features a kicking motion, which describes and celebrates the Scots’ kicking off their hated trousers in order to put on the kilt. Today, all of these dances are done in modern Highland dress by men, women or children. Novelty exhibition dances, such as Flora MacDonald’s Fancy, the Sailor’s Hornpipe and the Irish Jig are danced in special costume.

While watching the dancing competition, spectators often note that competitors are performing different steps, This is not because the individual is in error, but rather each dancer performs their choice of steps within a range as set out by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD)  (CLICK LINK FOR THEIR WEBSITE).  The variety of steps adds interest to a competition, and test each dancer’s ability to concentrate.

Each Highland Dance competitor is judged on three major points: Timing, Technique and General Deportment.