Highland Dance

According to some authorities, Highland dances are derived from the ritual mime dances of the Picts.

There are four principal dances, each with its own colourful set of associations.  The Sean Triubhas (Old Trews) is meant to portray a Highlander shaking off his English trousers in disgust during the period when the wearing of the kilt was outlawed.

The Reel of Tulloch is said to have been created by accident by the villagers of Tulloch in Inverness-shire.  One Sunday morning when the weather was particularly cold, they were waiting outside the church for the minister to arrive.  He was delayed, and, in order to keep warm, the congregation started to clap their hands and stamp their feet.  This eventually developed into the frantic dance that is performed today.

Probably the most famous of the Highland dances is the Highland Fling.  According to one story, it was created in 1792 to honour Jean, Duchess of Gordon, for the part she played in raising the Gordon Highlanders.  Also it has been said that the dance originated when a shepherd boy tried to mimic the graceful movements of a stag’s antlers with his arms. 

According to legend, the Sword Dance was invented by Malcolm Canmore (eventually Malcolm III), after his victory over Macbeth at either the battle of Dunsinane in 1054 or at Lumphanan in 1057.  After the conflict, Malcolm is said to have placed two swords on the ground, to form the sign of the cross, and then danced for joy in between the blades.  Clansmen were said to have repeated his feat prior to other encounters, as a form of war dance.  If they managed to complete the dance without touching the blades, this was seen as a good omen for the coming battle.