Highland Dancing

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The Loch Norman Highland Games at Rural Hill is honored to host the Carolinas Open Highland Dancing Championships, one of six sanctioned championships held in the United States. The sanctioning body is the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. SOBHD rules will govern all events.

Authorities on dancing have stated that Highland dancing is one of the most physically demanding forms of dancing in the world. The five basic foot positions used in Highland Dancing are almost the same as in ballet, underlining the common roots of the two dance forms. While all of the dances you will see in the competition are loosely called Highland dances, they are formally divided into Highland dances and National dances.

Highland dances require a great deal of stamina and are known for their meticulous, aggressive movements. Traditionally they were performed by men before and after battle. When Highland Dancing competitions were started during the Highland Revival in the late 1800s; most of the competitors came from military units.

Many of the National dances were originally choreographed for women and the focus is more on graceful movements and energy than on physical strength. Proper attire for male and female dancers varies slightly. In US competitions, the kilt, generally a man’s garment, is required for all competitors. National dances feature costumes appropriate to the theme of the dance.

Since 1950 the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) has set standards for performance and judge’s scoring. There are many accepted steps for each dance, some of which are required in competition by the SOBHD and others which are optional. All dancers may not, therefore, dance the same steps. In judging Highland dancing, the main points to watch for are the precision and timing of the steps and the leg, body and arm positions. The dancer should appear relaxed and well in control of the movements.

Highland Dances

Highland Fling
This is danced on the spot without traveling steps. It was said to have been originally performed by the Highland warrior on his targe after battle. The steps are simple but they must be executed precisely and positions strongly held; this dance is, by far, the greatest test for the Highland dancer.

Sword Dance
This dance was traditionally performed on the eve of battle by warriors using the sword and scabbard in the form of a cross to mark the dancing spot. Tradition held that if the warrior danced without touching the sword with his feet, he would be successful in battle.

Seann Triubhas
Seann triubhas (sheen trews) is Gaelic for “old trousers”. The dance symbolizes the kicking off of the trousers and celebrates the lifting of the Act of Proscription” which forbade wearing kilts.

Scottish National Dances

Strathspey & Highland Reel
This dance starts with the slow tempo ofthe strathspey and later changes to the fast tempo of the reel. It is performed by four dancers.

Sailor’s Hornpipe
Originally a Celtic dance, the Hornpipe is one of the traditional solo dances of the British Isles. The name comes from the hornpipe, an English folk wind instrument made from ox horn. The costume is based on a British seaman’s uniform.

Earl of Errol, Blue Bonnets Over the Border
Many of the steps in these dances are similar to Highland dances but, written for women, they emphasize flowing graceful movements and intricate foot work.

Scottish Lilt
In 1952, in Scotland, the Aboyne Games Committee insisted that all female competitors wear a costume based on traditional ladies attire. The dress is fashioned after the 17th century ladies attire called an arisaidh.

Flora MacDonald’s Fancy
This dance is also performed in the Aboyne dress and honors the national heroine who helped hide Bonnie Prince Charlie after the battle of Culloden. Many of the steps are drawn from classical ballet.