Why I love . . . Scottish country dancing

I’m not usually good with new people, but I can walk, alone, into a room of unknown Scottish country dancers in any country, and know I will be welcome

“Scottish country dancing can be a mental challenge as well as a physical activity, and research has proven it to be beneficial for mental wellbeing.” Photograph: iStock

“Scottish country dancing can be a mental challenge as well as a physical activity, and research has proven it to be beneficial for mental wellbeing.” Photograph: iStock

 

My parents met at Scottish country dance classes in the 1960s, and I first discovered it at school. Mum is now in her 80s and still dancing, and my aunt and uncle have recently – in their 70s – begun. It gives me great joy to dance with them, as well as with the friends of all ages I have made worldwide. I’m not usually good with new people, but I can walk, alone, into a room of unknown Scottish country dancers in any country, and know I will be welcome.

Like many activities, you need to learn the language (I have a friend who plays bridge, and I have no clue what he’s talking about!), but apart from that, there are very few requirements, just soft shoes, and comfortable clothes. Learning the steps helps, but even that isn’t vital at first.

Reels and jigs

Dances are in three tempi – reels and jigs will be familiar to Irish readers, but the strathspey is unique to Scotland. The Dublin SCD Club is lucky enough to have musicians – an accordionist and a fiddler – for class most weeks, as well as for our annual dance, ceilidhs, and any demonstrations we are asked to give.

Scottish country dancing can be a mental challenge as well as a physical activity, and research has proven it to be beneficial for mental wellbeing. There is always room for improvement and I enjoy being stimulated by different teachers. It is a living tradition and new dances are written every day. I have devised a few, but found it’s not as easy as it looks – the formations need to flow seamlessly from one to the next. A good dance doesn’t have to be difficult.

As the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society slogan says, dance Scottish for fun, for fitness and for friendship.

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