Highland Dancing was once an athletic event. Many were solo dances of the Highland men and are so vigorous that one must be in top physical shape to perform them.
The oldest of the traditional dances of Scotland is the Highland Fling. This is believed to be a dance of victory in battle. The dancer performed with a Scottish shield, called a “Targe.” Since the Targe contained a sharp spike extending out of the center, the dancer had to be very careful in the execution of his steps.
This is also considered one of the National dances and the competitors wear the dress of the Royal Navy. It depicts the sailors in their daily lives on board ship.
The Sword Dance (Ghillie Callum) is thought to be the oldest of the Scottish dances. Sword and scabbard were placed on the ground in the form of a cross and if the dancer’s feet managed to avoid touching either one, it was believed the clan would be blessed with good fortune in the coming battle. If the sword or scabbard were disarranged, the prediction was defeat. In the modern dance, the top sword is in direct line front to back, with the hilt towards the dance. The slip in footwork, formerly interpreted as an evil omen, now provides one of the principal methods of eliminating contestants.
Seann Triubhas (pronounced Shawn Trues)
Many of the steps in this dance are intended to express the Scotsman’s displeasure for the old law which at one time forbade the wearing of kilts. Literally translated Seann Triubhas means “old trews,” or old trousers. The name is a derisive reference to the law enforced after the unsuccessful Rebellions of 1745 in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie when kilts, were forbidden. Many of the steps of the dance were intended to indicate the Scotsman’s efforts to “kick off the trews.”