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Scottish and Irish Dance

Scottish and Irish Dance

The San Antonio Highland Games features a variety of both Scottish and Irish Dance performances, with some opportunities for crowd participation.

Scottish Highland Dance

Highland Dancing is a long tradition and an integral part of any highland games because it is both an art and a sport that provides young people with the opportunity to build self-confidence, discipline, perseverance and athletic ability. Throughout history clansmen used Highland Dance as a form of physical training for their fighting men. It is said that Kings and Chiefs of Scotland used the dancing as a way of choosing men because it not only tested them on strength, but also stamina, agility and accuracy. This tradition continued on in modern times with Highland Regiments to keep the troops in shape and ready for battle. Originally, only men were allowed to do these dances until the early 1900’s, when women began slowly learning and competing in Highland Dance. Today the number of females participating in Highland Dancing outnumber those of male dancers. The San Antonio Highland Games offers both a Highland dance competition, as well as Highland Dance performances.

The traditional Highland dances include The Highland Fling, The Sword Dance, Seann Truibhas (pronounced ‘Shawn Trewes’), Reel of Tulloch, the Irish Jig, and the Sailor's Hornpipe, among others.

Scottish Country Dance

Scottish country dancing is a social dance which shares elements with ballroom formation dance. Dance tempos vary from lively jigs, hornpipes and reels, to the elegant, slower strathspeys. According to the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, "Participants are grouped into sets, typically of 3, 4 or 5 couples arranged either in two lines (men facing women) or in a square, and work together to dance a sequence of formations. This will leave them in a new order, and the dance is repeated enough times to bring them back to their starting positions, with everyone dancing each position in turn." Scottish Country Dance is performed at the San Antonio Highland Games and each performance typically includes a set where audience members are encouraged to join in the fun on stage.

Irish Dance

Irish dance includes a variety of traditional dance forms which can be segregated into social dance and performance dance.

One type of Irish social dance, céilí dance, can be performed by as few as two people, but may be expanded to accommodate an unlimited number of couples. Céilí dances are sometimes "called", where the upcoming steps are announced, and are typically performed to music which utilizes traditional Irish instrumentation.

Another Irish social dance, set dancing, is danced in square sets of four couples. These dances are comprised of a number of parts which are frequently repeated throughout the set. Each part of the set dance is danced to a music tempo, mostly reels, jigs, polkas, hornpipes and slides.

Performance Irish dance is traditionally recognized as Irish step dancing where the dancers maintain a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. Popularized by the show Riverdance, the step dancers can use "soft shoes" or "hard shoes". Irish dance performed at the San Antonio Highland Games includes both group dances as well as solo performances and is always a crowd favorite.
If your Scottish or Irish Dance group is interested in performing at the festival, please contact us at PerformanceDance@sahga.org.
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