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 Further help if new to dancing

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If you are new to Scottish Dancing then this page will give you an idea of what it is like at one of our evenings.

Firstly, this is Scottish Country Dancing.  Don't confuse it with Highland Dancing.  This is less energetic!

Why come?  It is a fun way to spend an evening, dancing, good exercise (both physically and mentally) and socialising.  And a sense of achievement when you have picked up a dance.  If you have done English, or even ceilidh, dancing, many of the formations and movements will be similar, but Scottish can be a bit more challenging.

No previous experience of dancing is necessary.   We are a friendly group and will ensure you are looked after.  Many of our members have been dancing for many decades, but everyone was once a beginner in the distant past, and we have several new members who have joined in the past few months.  And you don't need to be Scottish!!

You can come on your own, or as a couple, or any other combination.  All dances are done with a partner, and in sets of varying numbers of couples.  But don't worry about a partner, there will be someone to dance with.  Indeed, while we do have some couples, most members do come on their own.  And it is usual to dance with different partners during the evening, even if you do come with someone.

Please bring softish flattish shoes for dancing in, not hard shoes.  Scottish dance shoes are normal, but there is no need to begin with, wait until you think you will wish to take it up, and we can provide information on where to buy them.  Trainers are alright to start with.  You don't need to own a kilt!  At our Saturday dances, most (but not all) men wear kilts, but NOT at the Monday classes.  Just wear (loose-ish) clothes which will be comfortable to dance in.  It is all informal.

Dances are divided into three main types: Reels, Jigs and Strathspeys.  Or, in simple terms, reels and jigs are faster dances, and strathspeys are slow ones.  We typically do two reels/jigs followed by one strathspey.  There are thousands of Scottish dances, some dating back hundreds of years, while many new ones are being composed all the time.  They vary in ease and complexity.  There are many standard movements, and dances generally comprise these movements in varying sequences, while more complex dances will often include an additional unusual movement.  So, as you pick up the basic movements and they become familiar, they will enable you to do many of the dances.

You will be with a partner, in a set of several couples.  There are numerous formations for sets, but long ways sets of 4 couples are the most common, with some dances for 3 or 5, or rarely 6 or 7, couples.  Some sets are four couple square rather than long ways, and occasionally other shapes.  Couples are numbered, 1, 2, 3 and 4 for a four couple set, and what you do varies for each position.  Usually one couple, normally number 1, is the main 'dancing couple' and will be doing more than the others, and after one or two turns will finish at the end of the set, and couple number 2 then becomes number 1 and the next dancing couple.  Four couple sets are danced 4 or 8 times, so each couple has one or two turns as the main couple.  It is conventional to then change partners for the next dance.

pdf symbol    Download our guide  giving detailed descriptions of formations and movements

Monday evening is usually split into two parts.  Firstly, the Technique Class from 7.15 to 8.00.  Then the General Class from 8.00 to 9.50.  Some evenings vary, (occasionally general dancing only) - check the Calendar page.  We currently have three teachers who take it turns to run the classes, and usually a different teacher for each of the two parts of the evening.

The Technique Class normally starts with some simple warming up dancing, and explaining and practising the basic Scottish steps, and with detail to style.  We then go through one dance, at a slow pace and broken down into sections practised one at a time.  This is particularly suitable for beginners, so, if you are new, it would help to arrive for 7.15 if possible.

In the General Class, we will typically do 6 to 8 dances during the evening.  Each dance is explained and walked through, and is then danced.  Many of the dances will be familiar to the regulars, and thus practised quickly, often for just one couple, but we will still ensure an adequate walk through if you are new or for anyone who does not know that dance.  Other dances can be completely new to everyone, so these will be done at a slower pace and with most or all couples having a walk through, and new dances will normally be repeated for a few weeks to give everyone the opportunity to learn and practise them.

There is a short interval during the General Class, with tea and coffee available.

If you come regularly, it will be easier to pick up the dances, and many of our members do come most Mondays, but some less frequently, and a few just occasionally.  So, if you join, you do not need to take on a commitment to come every time.


There are plenty of videos available to give you a better idea.  The Leeds RSCDS website contains a few simple dances and some more information for beginners.  Also have a look at the RSCDS YouTube section.  The dances may look complicated if you are not familiar with this type of dancing, but don't be put off, they are not so bad when you try them!

To get an idea of the individual movements used in dances, have a look at Lower Hutt SCD Club videos.  This group ran sessions specifically for beginners, and their videos are particularly useful.  Scroll to the foot of the page and click on "Instructional Videos"; there are 10 sets, each containing around 5 videos - that's around 50 videos in total, each one describing a specific movement.

And now ??

If you want any further information, then please phone or email, see the Contacts page.  But, otherwise, there is no need to arrange anything in advance - just turn up on a Monday from 7.15 and we will look forward to seeing you.  Remember that we do not meet every Monday, so check the Calendar first to ensure that you come the right week!

And your first Monday evening will be free of charge.