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Red River 200: A Resource for Teachers



in Manitoba

Lord Selkirk’s





The Story of Scottish Country Dancing

The following is gratefully acknowledged to Dance Scottish, A Resource for Teaching Scottish Dancing in Schools (Christine M. Wallace and Margaret Zadworny, 2001)

Today the term “Scottish Country Dance” embraces the social, usually progressive, dances of Scotland ( not to be confused with Highland dancing) which have evolved from many traditions and are danced throughout the world with much pleasure by Scots and non-Scots alike. The figure dances of the countryside, many set to Scottish or Irish tunes, became very popular in the16th century and were called country dances. Scotland, of course had its own older traditions of dance, and north of the border, these country dances incorporated features from older reels, rants and jigs etc.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Country Dances appearing on programmes had dwindled, although they were still popular at dances. After the Great War of 1914-18 in which a generation almost lost its men folk, the syncopated rhythms of jazz and ragtime swept the country and the Scottish Country Dance all but disappeared.

After the war, Mrs Ysobel Stewart of Fasnacloich from a distinguished family in Appin, Argyll, and Miss Jean Milligan, a teacher of physical education at Jordanhill Teachers' Training College wished to restore the old social dances of Scotland and their music. A meeting was held in Glasgow in November 1923 and the Scottish Country Dance Society was formed. The title “Royal” was conferred upon the Society in 1951.

Since 1923, many old printed books and manuscripts collections have been searched for dances and their tunes, as well as researching dances that were passed down by word of mouth, for many Scots of old were averse to writing them down. Dance instructions have been interpreted and sometimes adapted for modern use. The revival of Scottish Country dancing has been so successful, that hundreds of new dances have been composed with new formations and new tunes while still retaining the essential characteristics of the traditional Country Dance.

Since those early days the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) has evolved into a world-wide organization with approximately 23,000 members through a network of 170 Branches and over 500 (other) affiliated groups.

The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) has always stressed that Country Dancing is a social activity, giving plenty of opportunities for fun and friendship, but is equally concerned with upholding high standards of technique. The RSCDS does not examine pupils, but future teachers go through a vigorous, strict training spread over 3-4 years.

It is this unique blend of wonderful music, disciplined dancing, intricate floor patterns and sociability that appeals today to so many people throughout the world.

Royal Scottish Country Dance Society
Winnipeg Branch, Manitoba

Dances (MP3 format)




1. A Highland Welcome



In twos, round room

2. The Merry Reapers



Longwise set

3. Rabbie's Reel



Longwise set

4. Selkirk Settlement



Longwise set

5. The Dashing White Sergeant



In threes, round room

Dance Instructions are here (PDF format)

This selection of dances for children was compiled to celebrate the 2012 Bicentennial of the Red River Selkirk Settlement. They will be presented in workshops at the Social Sciences and Phys Ed MTS SAGE Conferences, October 2011. These dances can be presented to groups of children or adults by qualified dance teachers on request to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Winnipeg Branch.

Dances numbered 1, 2, 3, and 5 come from, or are recommended in Dance Scottish, a Resource for Teaching Scottish Dancing in Schools (2001), published by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Edinburgh, Scotland. Dance number 4 was devised in honour of the Bicentennial by Christine M. Wallace of the RSCDS Winnipeg Branch. This selection of dances is devised of figures which may have been danced during the time of the Selkirk Settlers. The Dashing White Sergeant originated in the 1800s.

The music for Dances 1, 2, 3 and 5 is provided by permission of Dance Scottish (ibid). The music for dance 4 is from the CD Six Times Through, track #1: "A Selection of Reels", by kind permission of the musician, Muriel Johnstone. It can be purchased through the RSCDS Winnipeg Branch.

In those early days, a dance or social gathering would have been held in a barn, or in a croft kitchen, with music provided by a fiddler or, on occasion, the bagpipes. In the present day, music for dancing is provided by one or more of a pianist, accordionist and / or fiddler. Many of the Scottish Dance Bands include a double base player and a drummer. Classes for dancing and social events are usually held in local halls, church halls or Community Centers - preferably with wooden floors.

NOTE: Both the music and the dances in this publication are covered by copyright protection. Extracts may be copied for personal and educational purposes only, provided that the source is fully acknowledged. Commercial copying, hiring and lending are prohibited. Dance Scottish is endorsed by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Page revised: 7 December 2011

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Website created by the Committee for the Bicentenary of the Red River Selkirk Settlement 2012.