About Highland Dance Competition
Precise foot placement of the dancer is the distinguishing characteristic of Highland Dancing. In other aspects, regardless of the ability of the dancer, bad placement and positioning of the feet hinder the performance. The judges also scrutinize arm movements of the dancer, as well as the posture. Technique, timing, and deportment are the main observances, and ratings of the competitors are taken into consideration in judging.
Ancient warriors and clansmen performed this dance on a small, round shield called a targe, which they carried into battle. Most targes had a needle-sharp spike of steel projecting in the center, which is the reason that precise footwork and agility of the dancer were so essential. An error in judgement in a step was obvious immediately, as the pain from the spike reminded the warrior of his false step. The Fling was danced as a victory dance after a successful battle. Even today, the Fling is danced on one spot without moving around, as the warrior had done on his targe.
The Sword Dance, or Ghillie Callum, is one of the older and more recognized of the Highland Dances. Ghillie Callum was a personage, according to tradition, who met an enemy in battle, overtook his sword, and crossed it with his own on the ground to symbolize the sign of the Cross, and then danced over them in celebration. It is believed this occurred near Dunsinane during 1054, and in the Sword Dance, the tradition lives on.
This gentle, flowing dance was created solely for the female dancers at the Aboyne Highland Games, which disallows female competitors from wearing the kilt. The Aboyne dress is a shortened style of popular 17th century Highland dress, which used a sett of plaid with white known as arasaid. Male dancers are permitted to wear the kilt.
Pronounced in Gaelic "shan trews" which means “old trousers.” As in history, we know the Scot wasn’t allowed to wear his beloved kilt when the British set proscriptions against Highland dress. This dance was originated when the ban was lifted. The steps and movements depict a person shedding his trews or breeks (britches) and the freedom and joy of once again being able to wear the Highland kilt!
Flora MacDonald’s Fancy
This folk dance is perhaps the most graceful of the Scottish Dances. It commemorates Flora MacDonald, who smuggled Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as her maid, from the Highlands of Scotland to the Isle of Skye in her open boat. The Flora was introduced at the Aboyne Games as a woman’s dance after the Games forbade women to wear kilts.
Irish Jig (Scottish Version)
This dance is not associated with the true Irish jig of Ireland, but a parody of an Irish washerwoman upset at her husband. The dance should be danced by both male and female performers together, but in competition it is danced as a solo dance for a boy or girl. Among the Irish immigrants to Scotland were these washerwomen who, frustrated with spouses and resentful of employers, danced. Their movements and gestures of anger and stomping are obvious in this dance.
The hornpipe is a national dance in which competitors wear the dress of the Royal Navy. The dance depicts sailors performing their daily routines on board ship.