The Four Types of Traditional Highland Dancing

The Linda Jamieson School of Dance, a preeminent dance institution based in Ontario, Canada, provide professional and caring training to young dancers through its various programs. The Linda Jamieson School of Dance’s director and choreographer, Linda Jamieson, has won several championships and maintains extensive qualifications in ballet, jazz, musical theatre, and Highland dancing.

One of folk dance’s oldest forms, Scottish Highland dancing served as an early precursor to modern square dancing and ballet. There are two groups of Highland dance: traditional dances and the more modern national dances. Following are brief descriptions of the four traditional Highland dance forms.

1. The Highland Fling is considered to be the oldest of Scotland’s traditional dances. As a dance of celebration, it was commonly performed on a circular shield that had a large spike set in the middle by male warriors after they had won a battle. Today, it is often performed to pipe music and includes a tight around-the-leg movement.

2. The Sword Dance, also known a Gillie Callum, is believed to have been created by Celtic Prince Malcolm Canmore when he crossed his own sword with a defeated opponent’s and danced over his foe in celebration of his victory. This dance is performed to pipe music today, and dancers lose marks if they touch the swords. If the swords are displaced, dancers are disqualified.

3. Gaelic for “old trousers,” Seann Truibhas was developed as a response to the Proscription Repeal, which allowed Scots to wear kilts and play bagpipes again after the practices had been forbidden. Involving rather graceful steps, the dance starts with a balletic slow time that involves graceful brushing movements, followed by a series of quick steps.

4. The Reels, or Reel of Tulloch, is generally performed in a group. It is believed to have originated in a churchyard when parishioners stamped their feet, clapped their hands, and swung each other around in an attempt to stay warm while waiting for a tardy minister to arrive.


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