Scottish Highland dance is one of the oldest forms of folk dance. Now this ancient tradition is carried on by thousands of dancers all over the world. Outside of Great Britain there are especially active Scottish communities in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Scottish dancers need not be of Scottish descent though, and many people dance to enjoy the athleticism and camaraderie.
The present form of the Highland dances evolved through the centuries as refinement in the general form of dance occurred, but the original basic steps and the themes were passed on through the years. Competitive Highland dancing started during the Highland revival of Victorian Britain and was for men only. Ladies began competing by the turn of the twentieth century. Although historically Highland dancing was restricted to males, today it is mostly performed by females. No matter who dances them, Highland dances require both athletic and artistic skill.
This dance is done over and around two crossed swords. One story of the sword dance is that it was danced prior to a battle as a prediction of what was to happen in the impending battle. To kick the swords was considered a bad omen, and the soldier would expect to be wounded. If many of the soldiers kicked their swords, the chieftan of the clan would expect to lose the battle. The tune “Gillie Callum” dates back to the days of Malcolm Canmore (Shakespeare’s “MacBeth”)
“Pronounced “shawn trews”, this Gaelic phrase means “old trousers”. This dance is reputed to date from the rebellion of 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie challenged the might of England at Culloden, and lost. As a penalty, Highlanders were forbidden to wear the kilt. Seann Triubhas is a dance of celebration in response to the Proscription Repeal which restored to the Scots the right to wear their kilts and play the bagpipes again. The movements in this dance clearly depict the legs defiantly shaking and shedding the hated trousers and returning the freedom of the kilt. The quick time part of this dance with light and merry steps recreates the Highlander's great joy when the ban is lifted..