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The History of Highland Dance

The History of Highland Dance

Highland dance has a rich history that has been spread across the world as Scottish people immigrated around the globe. There is nothing that better captures the essence of Scottish culture than the performance of Highland dancing during a celebration.

The first-ever recorded instance of Highland dancing, a type of war dancing in its infancy, was in 1285 during the second marriage of Alexander III to Yolande de Dreux. The dances recorded were intricate and choreographed, which indicates that they existed much earlier than their first recorded date. Another instance of Highland dancing in history is the record from 1573, at Stockholm Castle in Sweden, where Scottish mercenaries performed a sword dance for the King of Sweden, John III.

While most Highland dancers nowadays are women and girls, Highland dance traditionally was used as a way for kings and clan chiefs to choose their men at arms. Due to the strength and stamina required to perform Highland dancing, and the discipline needed in learning it, it was considered a good judge of a dancer's abilities.

The majesty of Highland dance was almost lost at one point in time. In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, the government in London set out to purge the Highlands of the clan system as it was considered rebellious. The mere act of wearing a kilt or carrying a weapon was deemed a penal offence, and the law was diligently enforced. Once the act was repealed in 1785, there was a lost enthusiasm for the garb and props that had been made illegal and were needed to perform a Highland dance. It was not until the Victorian era in the 1800s that Highland culture was revived, due in part to Queen Victoria's love for Scotland and Scottish culture and heritage.

During the Victorian era the modern Highland games, along with modern Highland dancing, formed. To make judging the skills of Highland dancers easier, the set amount of dances that could be performed for judgment were shrunk until only four remained until 1986. These dances included The Seann Triubhas, The Highland Fling, The Sword Dance, and The Reel of Tulloch. That does not mean there are not many other Highland dance routines and after 1986 many dances were added back into the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.

When performing Highland dancing, there is a specific attire worn. Men will wear a Balmoral, a traditional Scottish hat, as well as a doublet. Men also do wear kilts with matching tartan hose, though they can wear tartan trews (pants) when performing The Seann Truibhas, which is a dance created when kilts had been banned in Scotland and the dance is about how much Scottish men hated having their kilts taken away. Women Highland dancers wear tartan kilts, tartan hose, velvet jackets, and a white blouse underneath. Both genders wear highland dance shoes to perform the dances.

At Tartantown we have all of the clothes and accessories that you need for Highland dancing. Our kilts, kilties, jackets, vests, shoes, and more (even swords) will serve you well at any Highland dance competition. Browse our online store today.