San Jose School of Highland Dancing

Highland Dances

Highland dances are performed in kilt by both male and female dancers.

Quick links to the three styles of dances: Character, Highland and National.

Highland Fling

This is the oldest of the traditional dances of Scotland and is a dance of joy performed at the end of a victorious battle. It was danced by male warriors over a small round shield, called a Targe carried by the warriors into battle. Most Targes had a sharp spike of steel projecting from the centre, so dancers learned early to move with great skill and dexterity. The Highland Fling is danced on the spot. The dance is said to immitate the sight of a red deer stag prancing on the hillside; the grouped fingers and upheld arms representing the antlers.

Reels (Strathspey and Highland Reel, Strathspey and Half Tulloch, Strathspey, Highland Reel and Half Tulloch, Reel of Tulloch)

The reels are recreational dances. The reel O' Tulloch originates on a cold winter morning in the Tulloch Churchyard. When the minister is delayed and the congregation starts to swing each other by the arm to keep warm. The slow movement, the Strathspey, is said to be a mourning dance following the path of the river "Strath" in the valley of "Spey". The Highland Reel is quick and lively version of the Strathspey.

Seann Truibhas (old trousers)

Pronounced "shawn trews". This Gaelic phrase means "old trousers". The dance claims its' origins back to the rebellion of 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie challenged the might of England at Culloden, and lost. After the loss, the Highlanders were forbidden from wearing the kilt. It was considered an act of treason. This dance celebrates the Proscription Repeal restoring the right to the Scots to wear their kilts and play bagpipes. The first part of the dance depicts the defiant shaking and shedding of the hated trousers and once again wears the beloved kilt. The quick time part of this dance with light and merry steps recreates the Highlander's great joy when the ban is lifted.

Sword Dance (Gillie Callum)

The Sword dance is danced to the tune, Gillie Callum, dating back to the days of Malcolm Canmore (Shakespeare's MacBeth). The earliest references to the sword dance are from the nineteenth century, but it is likely much older. According to one story this was a victory dance by a Celtic Prince who fought a battle in 1054. In celebration of his victory, he crossed his bloody claymore (the two-handed broadsword) and the even bloodier head of his enemy. Another tale has it that warriors would cross their swords over their opponents before a battle. Together they danced over the swords. If a warrior touched the sword it was a bad omen and was thought to mean certain injury or death in battle.

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