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No event at a games has more enthusiasm or colour than Highland Dance. Regarded as one of the more sophisticated forms of national dance, its history is entwined with legend.
THE HIGHLAND FLING - Thought to have originated in 1790, the Fling is probably the most famous Scottish dance. Story says an old shepherd saw a stag rearing in the distance. He challenged his grandson to imitate the animal, thus the steps and curve of arms and hands. It is also said that Scottish kings used the Fling as a test of strength, stamina and agility to choose their best warriors.
THE SWORD DANCE (GILLIE CALUM) - The Sword Dance dates back to the 11th century, the days of King Malcolm Canmore (of Shakespeare's MacBeth). The traditional dance originates from the victory of Calum a Chinn Mor (Malcolm Canmore) over one of MacBeth's chiefs at the battle near Dunsinane in 1054. The King took his sword, crossed it over the sword of his enemy and danced over them in exultation.
THE SEANN TRIUBHAS - Pronounced "shawn trews", this Gaelic phrase means "old trousers". The dance dates to the rebellion of 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie challenged the might of England and lost. As a penalty, Highlanders were forbidden to wear the kilt and had to wear trousers. On hearing the news that the ban on wearing the kilt was lifted, they tore off their trews and this dance was born. The motions of this dance defiantly depict a man taking off his "breeks"(britches) and returning to the freedom of the kilt.
STRATHSPEY AND REEL - The four dancers in this dance move in and out in interweaving patterns. These patterns represent eternal life and are an incorporation of the Celtic pattern in dance form. It is said to have originated in memory of the entwined serpents of Moses' Rod of Life. Each dancer must rely on the other three to maintain proper placements and patterns. Originally reels were a martial dance and women did not take part.
SCOTTISH LILT - The Scottish Lilt, a gently flowing National Dance, was invented for female competitors at the Aboyne Highland Games, which prohibits female competitors from wearing the kilt. The Aboyne dress is a shortened version of a popular 17th century plaid Highland dress.
FLORA MacDONALD'S FANCY - A step dance primarily for ladies that honors a heroine of the second Jacobite rebellion who provided assistance in Prince Charles’ escape to Skye in 1746. Music: "The Last Measure Prince Charlie Danced with Flora MacDonald" and "Wha’ll be King but Charlie". (Neither of which ever happened) Flora MacDonald’s Fancy is named for the woman who smuggled Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as a maid, to Skye after the 1745 battle of Culloden Mor.
WILT THOU GO TO BARRACKS JOHNNIE - A dance more athletic and Highland in flavor than the Lilt. Said to have been used in military recruitment campaigns to promote enthusiasm joining the military. Music: "Braes O’ Mar".
IRISH JIG - (Scottish parody of a non-existent "traditional" Irish dance). A popular comedic dance, with lots of fun steps with humorous names such as Donnybrook, cross and clip-heels, step-triple shuffle and "Di’el on the run". Enjoyable to dance once inhibitions have been overcome.
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