It's great exercise; it's mentally challenging; it's done in the company of friendly, interesting people; and most of all, it's fun. Take a look at the pictures in our gallery; notice how everyone is smiling?
Scottish Country Dancing is a modern version of eighteenth century European social dancing. If you've ever seen a Virginia Reel, you'll have the basic idea.
Three or four couples stand in opposing lines; the first couple dances a pattern with the couples next to them; then they drop to the bottom of the line and the next couple begins the pattern again. Generally each couple repeats the pattern twice, so the dance is repeated 8 times, with every couple dancing each position twice.
There are many variations, of course. There are fast dances, jigs and reels, and strathspeys which are slower and more elegant. You can see short videos of Scottish Country Dancers in action here.
No. The Highland Fling is danced by a single dancer for competition; Scottish Country Dance is social dancing. You do it for fun, not to compete, although many clubs have demonstration teams.
There are hundreds of different dances; some are very old, traditional dances, others have been devised more recently. The RSCDS publishes and distributes new and old dances in a standardized format. Some of our own local members have had their dances published by the RSCDS.
The usual saying is 'from 8 to 80'; but our octogenarian dancers would probably take exception to that. And while we don't have many very young dancers, some members do bring their children along, and quite a few people had their first exposure to Scottish Country Dancing in their Scottish grade school.
No. Couples are certainly welcome, but it's customary to change partners for each dance, so coming alone is no problem. Everyone dances. This also means that beginners are usually paired with more experienced partners, which is very helpful.
No. You'll meet a lot of Scots here, though.
The weekly classes and social dances are mostly well under $10; larger dances and balls, which usually include a meal, run about $40. For exact figures, go to the Classes or the Events pages.
The annual fee to join the NJ Branch is $45. This includes branch membership, membership in the parent RSCDS organization, and the dancer's insurance policy. Membership dues support teacher training, dancer education, dance publications, and all the organizational activities that keep Scottish Country dancing a pleasure to participate in.
When it seemed as if this style of dancing was dying out after the first World War, two Scottish ladies, Miss Milligan and Mrs. Stewart, started the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS). Today the organization, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the parent for RSCDS affiliated groups all over the world.
Immediate benefits include the quarterly magazine, the Annual Dance Book, and the right to apply for the RSCDS Summer School at St. Andrews, Scotland, and the TAC School in Canada.
In the larger sense, all of us who do Scottish Country Dancing benefit from RSCDS activities. The Society publishes new dances and keeps the old ones from being forgotten; runs teacher training and certification programs all over the world; and provides dancer education programs, including the Winter and Summer Schools in Scotland, which several of our members have attended. They also provide information and training for musicians and publish a great deal of dance music.
The Society is responsible for the standardization which means you can join a group anywhere in the world and recognize the dances and techniques. In fact, you can find a group to join by using the RSCDS 'Branch and Group Finder' page on the RSCDS website.
The RSCDS Website itself is a valuable source of information on all facets of Scottish Country Dancing; it includes a UTube channel; information, documents, and videos about dances, technique, dance music, and teacher certification. It also provides publicity aids for local affiliates. There is a shop selling dance and music books and CDs and dance related items. The society also publishes a magazine on Scottish dancing which members recieve quarterly. And of course, they're on Facebook.
We were all beginners once, so you'll find us very helpful.
At Hightstown, Fanwood, and Cherry Hill beginners are incorporated into the regular class and usually you can just come on the regular class night and be included, although it might not be a bad idea to doublecheck with the class contact person first.
At Ho-Ho-Kus we are running a beginners class in conjunction with a local continuing education program; the class meets once a week beginning in September so we cannot accept new beginners in the middle of the year. Watch the class page on the website for new sign up dates, or call Ken Saunders at 201-934-3914 for information.
If you have already learned the basics at school or in another group, feel free to just show up. All our groups do talk throughs and then walk throughs before each dance, so you don't have to have anything memorized.
At classes women are enouraged to wear a skirt and men the kilt (they say it changes the way you move!) but you don't have to. Slacks are fine for both sexes; you should be comfortable and able to move easily.
People dress up more for the big dances: the dance floors at the NY Branch sponsored Westchester Ball or the Jeannie Carmichael Ball at West Point are an impressive sight.
The classic Scottish dancing shoe is the ghillie, but ballet slippers or any soft, flexible shoe will do. You want to be able to get up on the balls of your feet. Don't stay away because you haven't got the right shoes, though - sneakers will do in a pinch.
One of the pleasures of Scottish Country Dancing is the wonderful music; it's hard to resist jumping up to dance while you listen to a lively jig or reel. We often dance to live music; the basic dance band is a keyboard and a fiddle, and other instruments may join in. A piper plays for the Grand March at the beginning of larger dances, but isn't part of the normal dance band.
The evening starts with a few minutes of stretching and perhaps a little practice on a particular step. Then 3 or 4 dances are taught and danced over the next hour; if there's a beginner's class, they separate and learn one dance in detail.
Everyone comes back together for refreshments, conversation, and announcements; in the last half hour the whole group finishes with a few more dances, one of which is the one the beginners learned.
Most groups have "end of series" parties after every 10 classes; there's also a holiday party in December and "Burns Night" in January near the date of Robert Burn's birth (January 25).
Parties are similar to the regular classes except that less time is spent teaching and there's usually live music and more food. The Burns Night celebration includes a ceremonial reading of Rabbie Burn's "Address to the Haggis", followed by refreshments including haggis, neeps, and tatties.
The New Jersey Branch sponsors several events every year. The scenic Alpine Boat Basin Picnic and Dance is held outdoors in September, in a pavilion in the Palisades Interstate Park along the Hudson River. In the early spring is the Rerr Terr, a dinner and evening dance in Ho-Ho-Kus. The Cherry Hill group holds the Cherry Hill Jubilee tea dance in alternate years in Cinnaminson, near Philadelphia.
Our sister RSCDS branch in New York City sponsors the Jeannie Carmichael Ball, held at West Point, NY in November; the Westchester Ball, in Larchmont in June; and the Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) party in Elmsford, NY. Events sponsored by groups in Connecticut and Pennsylvania are also attended by many NJ dancers.
All these events will be listed on our Events page, with links to the registration forms and other information.
Our teachers are local members who have been trained and certified by the RSCDS.
There are RSCDS branches in NY, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; our Links page will connect you to their websites for dates and schedules. The NY and NJ branches share many members and are always welcome at each other's classes and events.
In fact, there are RSCDS groups everywhere in the world. Check the RSCDS 'Branch and Group Finder' page to find a group wherever you happen to be.
A You Tube search for 'Scottish Country Dancing' will find many videos; or check out the pictures in our own Photo Gallery.
The Alpine Boat Basin Dance is held outside in September in the Palisades Interstate Park; feel free to stop by and watch us. The date and time will be found on our Events page.
For details about the NJ Branch, look on our Contact Us page for phone numbers to call. The Links page has websites of other local groups; the RSCDS website has a lot of general and historical information.