What’s it all about?

What is it?

Scottish Country Dancing is a popular worldwide form of social dancing. See What Is Scottish Country Dancing, Anyway? for a very good description. The dances are danced in groups called sets, normally of three or four couples, and danced a number of times through so everyone has a turn at each position. There are both fast and slow dances and overall it is fun with a bit of grace. It is called 'Country' to distinguish it from Highland Dancing which is more for exhibition and has competitions.

There are a vast number of dances with new ones appearing every year, and, unlike line-dancing, they are not called whilst dancing. However at the club all dances are walked through beforehand so you can concentrate on learning how to do everything else first. This learning involves how to dance the various types of steps, and the names and shapes of the various types of formations. In fact you’re probably better off not trying to know too much to start with as it might all put you off, just let it grow on you as needed.

If you want to see it all in action here are some videos from the Washington D.C. Area. And here are more on YouTube.

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Why a ‘reel’ club?

A reel is one of the three main types of dance we do. Reels and jigs are fast dances and strathspeys are slower. Wikipedia has an article about reel dances. But why some clubs are called reel clubs is anybody’s guess I’m afraid.

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Why should I dance?

This quote from a study of heart patients, Waltzing Your Way to a Stronger Heart, says it all:

Part of the benefit may be that dancers had a partner and social companion rather than cycling or walking on a treadmill alone, doctors said. “This type of program is more effective,” Belardinelli said, “because it is fun”.

Why do it? - Because it is fun, it is social, and it is good exercise.

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Do I need to be Scottish?

Definitely not. English, Polish, Chinese or whatever come and give it a go. Actual genuine Scots also very welcome of course. Scottish Country Dancing is danced worldwide.

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Who does it?

Scottish Country Dancing seems to have a special appeal for engineers, accountants and suchlike professions. But there doesn't seem any overall thing one can say that would apply to most people, who do it – except they probably are not too worried about it being ‘uncool’!, they just want to have some fun. Have a look at our photos or some videos of Scottish country dancing on YouTube to see people enjoying themselves.

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What do I need?

ghillies For a taste of Scottish Country Dancing a pair of comfortable casual shoes is all that’s needed. Try to avoid trainers as they tend to have too strong a grip on the floor. You’ll soon want a pair of soft black dancing shoes (pumps) or some traditional Scottish Country Dancing shoes or ghillies. These can be got from most ballet or theatrical shops or via mail-order.

After that it all depends what you want to do, and it is best to wait till you’ve come a while and know what that is. Formal dress is not expected at the many informal dances arranged in the area around the year. On the other hand one can dress to the nines for the formal balls.

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Do I need to bring a partner?

No. Many people do not bring a partner, and if they do they are expected to dance with other people as well.

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What does it cost?

It is £3 for visitors, or £5 membership for the year and £2 a night. To encourage you to come back and get hooked your second night is free. Includes squash/tea/coffee and a biscuit.

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When do you meet?

We meet Thursday nights 8-10pm from September to May. See our Diary for details and for events in the area.

Some nights we have a teacher giving instruction, others are taken by a member. Both will talk and walk through the dances before they are danced. Beginners are always welcome and you'll be helped by the more experienced members.

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And where do you meet?

We meet at Bullbrook Community Centre, Bracknell, please see Map for directions.

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How can I contact you?

We’d love to hear from you, phone 0118 979 3024 or click e–mail:contact. Our contact page lists the committee.

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Do you have a children's class?

No, but St. John’s Scottish Country Dancing Club - Wokingham organise one on Saturday mornings in Crowthorne, see their Notice.

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Can you say more about the shoes?

Floors may sometimes be a bit slippery and some people find the dancing can be hard on the feet. Our hall at Bullbrook has a sprung floor but a day school or dance may be on a hard floor. It may be worthwhile therefore getting shoes fitted with shock protection.

Scottish Country dancers normally use shoes with right and left lasts rather than the straight lasts of Highland dancers, however straight lasts can be better if your foot is narrow or fairly flat. Ladies traditionally wear pumps but many wear the laced up ghillies instead, they are easier on the feet as they stay on better.

Shoes may be got locally from Dancia International in Crowthorne, look in the character or ballet shoes sections, or by mail-order. Mail order shops will typically give instructions about how to get the right size shoes and offer a returns service in case the shoes do not fit properly. St. Andrews Shoemakers offer various widths of shoes.

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What was that about dressing up to the nines?

Formal wear with kilts etc. is expected at the formal balls. Those going also need to learn up the dances because they are not recapped on such occasions. So there is an investment in time and money. There’s time enough to have a quick look at a crib between dances (and most people do) but you probably need to have at least tried them out with some coins on a table at home.

I wouldn’t advise going to a formal ball in the first year after starting Scottish Country Dancing, perhaps leave it two years unless you’ve been going to classes or a second club. They are good fun though and a real occasion. The Apprentices dances and Ceilidhs where the dances are all recapped or walked through are what you want when starting dancing. Also you don't need formal wear. In fact many people find they are much happier just going to informal occasions, they’re good fun and that’s the main thing.

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Any advice for a beginner going to their first dance?

The Apprentice Dances by Fleet are a good start, all the dances are walked through. It is well worth reading through cribs for the dances beforehand and trying to visualise the dances - that way it will be familiar when it comes up.

Try to get up quickly for a dance. The better dancers do and they’ll help you through. This is especially important if you have a partner who is also less experienced - a set may break down if there are too many inexperienced dancers in it. Try to dance most of the dances with more experienced partners, in particular any dances you are not very sure of.

And don’t worry. Everyone makes some mistake and nobody takes much notice. Aim to do what really good dancers do - they keep dancing and end up at the right point so nicely you think they did the right thing!

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What else do I need to know?

Bracknell Reel Club welcomes beginners at any time of the year. And that’s it really.

The Resources section in the links page references various sites with helpful hints and tips for Scottish Country Dancing.

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What is vegetarian Haggis like?

I used to think they were all herbivores anyway ;-) I've tried out vegetarian Haggis from Waitrose’s and I can confirm that it is very nice indeed. They have recipes for it on their website. See the Wikipedia entry on Haggis.

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And what are the words of Auld Lang Syne?

If you ever buy Pillings Scottish Country Dances in Diagrams (the little green book you might see people studying) it has a good version for singing at functions at the beginning. Other than that there are numerous versions on the web, including on this site at Auld Lang Syne.

Marucho’s Animation Gallery 1 shows a Pas de Basque in action!



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