Rich in Scottish history, Highland dancing has proven to be one of the most difficult dance forms around. Requiring vast amounts of strength, stamina and precision, Highland dancing has become an integral part of Highland Games celebrations. Dancers are judged on an individual basis, with points awarded for technique, strength and overall presentation. Dancers have been attending the North Lanark Highland Games to compete since the Games began in 1984, each vying for the highest points trophy, the ‘Dancer of the Day’ award.
Dances in the NLHG competition include:
Pas de Basques and Highcuts
This is one of the first dances taught in Highland Dancing. This dance is exactly the same as the first step of the Sword Dance, but is danced to the front, without the use of swords. It is usually taught to young dancers who are not yet prepared to learn the entire Sword Dance. Pas de Basques and Highcuts are only competed in by Primary dancers. This is the first competition level for young dancers and is also performed for first level examinations.
The Highland Fling
Originating as a wild dance of triumph following victory in battle, the Fling is said to be inspired by the capers of the stag, with the dancer’s appraised arms representing the animal’s antlers. Traditionally warriors and clansmen performed this dance on a small round shield. Most of the shields also carried a sharp steel pike protruding 5 or 6 inches from the center. One can understand the quick footwork and dexterity needed by a dancer to avoid the pain caused by a false or careless step. The modern Fling is highly stylized and calls for the greatest skill in technique and exactness of timing.
The Sword Dance
Many claim that the Sword Dance originated when the Great King Malcolm Canmore seized the sword of his opponent and placed it over his own to form a cross, over which he danced triumphantly to the music of the pipes. Legend followed that for a soldier to touch or displace the sword portended evil in an upcoming battle. Today the Sword Dance is a dance of power, strength and precision. Dancers are disqualified from the event if they touch the sword while dancing.
The Seann Triubhas
Pronounced as ”shawn trews”, it’s translation means ”old trousers”. This dance originated during the prohibition of the wearing of kilts. The movements and motions depict a person in the act of shredding his britches that the highlanders were forced to wear. The mood of the dance is uplifted as the trousers are finally kicked off and the wearer is free to move around in his kilt.
The Scottish National Dances
The dancers for the National Dance wear an attire different from those worn for the other dances. It is called the Aboyne Dress, and is very feminine and appearance. The National Dances are gentler, more flowing and graceful in nature than the strong vigorous Highland dances. Spectators will note that the rhythms are more complicated than the traditional dances. The two main National Dances at our Games are Flora MacDonald’s Fancy and The Scottish Lilt.
The Sailor’s Hornpipe
The Hornpipe, adapted from an English dance, mimics a sailor doing work aboard ship; hauling rope, sliding on the rollicking deck, and getting his paycheck. It has quite a lot of detail involved to portray the character, so the dancer does not touch his palms, assumed to be dirty, on his uniform. This is often performed in a British Sailors uniform, and its name is derived from the accompanying instrument, the hornpipe.