HIGHLAND DANCE COMPETITION
Cincinnati Celtic Festival Highland Dance Competition
Perhaps nothing captures the spirit of Scottish culture better than the sight of Highland dancing being performed at some Highland gathering in some far-flung corner of the world. This sophisticated form of national dancing has been spread by Scottish migrants across the world and competitions are now regularly organized in Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United States.
The roots of these ritualistic dances lay with warriors imitating epic deeds from Scottish folklore.
According to tradition, the old kings and clan chiefs used the Highland Games as a means to select their best men at arms, and the discipline required to perform the Highland dances allowed men to demonstrate their strength, stamina, and agility. Later on, it was used as calisthenics for soldiers in the Scottish regiments.
Today, Highland dancing is a competitive and technical dance form which is recognized as a sport by the Sport Council of Scotland.
The oldest of the traditional dances of Scotland, the Highland Fling signifies victory following a battle.
The warriors made this dance a feat of strength and agility by dancing on their upturned shields which had a sharp spike of steel projecting from the center. Dancers learned early to move with great skill and dexterity. Others say the Highland Fling was inspired by the sight of a deer prancing on a hillside. The
upraised arms and hands in the dance represent the deer’s antlers.
Sword Dance (Gillie Callum)
Legend has it that the initial Gillie Callum was created by Malcolm Canmore, a Celtic Prince who fought a battle in 1054. Triumphant, he crossed his opponent’s sword with his own and danced over them celebrating his victory. It is also said that the warriors danced the Sword Dance prior to battle. If the warrior touched the swords, it was considered an omen symbolizing injury or death in battle.
Seann Triubhas (Old Trousers)
This dance originated as a political protest dating back to 1745 when the wearing of the kilt was an act of treason. Pronounced "sheen trews", this Gaelic phrase means "old trousers". The beautiful, graceful
steps reflect the restrictions imposed by the foreign trousers. The lively quick time in the dance recreates the Highlanders’ celebration of rediscovered freedom.
Pas de Basques/ Pas de Basques and Highcuts
For dancers ages 4-6, these movements are the building blocks for the Sword Dance and danced to the same tune.
Flora MacDonald’s Fancy
In honor of the Scottish heroine, Flora MacDonald, this is one of the more balletic Scottish National Dances. Flora MacDonald was a member of Clan Macdonald of Sleat, best known for helping Charles Edward Stuart evade government troops after the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. Her family generally
backed the government during the 1745 Rising and MacDonald later claimed to have assisted Charles out of sympathy for his situation.
Highland Laddie of Heilan Laddie
This dance was devised by soldiers in the First World War I and is featured often at dancing competitions. It is always danced to the famous tune of the same name. This dance is also a tribute to the Highland Laddie, Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The Scottish version of the Irish Jig is meant to parody an angry Irish washerwoman when she finds all of her clean wash knocked to the ground by unruly neighborhood boys. Another version describes a woman who shakes her firsts and flounces her skirt because she is furious with her husband who has
been out drinking until the wee hours.