Music to dance to: 2

Time signatures

Scottish Country Dancing has three quicktime time signatures: for all normal social dancing you’ll do a reel 4/4 or 2/4 or a jig 6/8. There is also 9/8 which is sometimes used in classes to torture the students, and for e.g. Strip the Willow and you dance with running step. This dance mostly is done with skip change nowadays.

Here is a dance you probably have not heard of: Papa Stour sword dance At around six minutes they use running step. This is a very old Shetland dance. At the beginning they are using Shetland Back Step which is harder than it looks.

And here is another example of running step

Jigs and reels

We use jigs and reels. A jig has uneven timing and you can recognise this by saying `jiggety jig” to it. If you clap you should do clap…(clap,clap).. with the second and third claps closer. This should be reflected in your steps if you listen.

A reel has four even beats (mostly, you really need to be a musician to separate 2/4 and 4/4) and you should be able to say ‘Invercargill’ to it.

Below is a link to music with jigs and reels. Your goal is to decide which is which.

Listen to these here and see if you can get them right

It is not that important that you can distinguish them, but you should listen with your body, which should reflect the rhythm. Try doing skip change to each (see the reel and jig tunes I suggested in Music to dance to: 1) and see if you can feel the difference.

Scottish Country Dancing is all about teamwork. It is tricky if you can’t count to the music  and hence project where you should be in some specified number of bars, and a wee bit disconcerting if you are dancing with someone who is ‘up’ when you are ‘down’.

Try to do skip change in your hall/living room and try to fit in differing numbers of steps. 8, 16 etc and see if you can do, and still keep the steps the same length.

Here is some lovely music from two of the modern Masters of Scottish Country Dancing music, Muriel Johnstone and Ian Robertson.

Rod Downey
2 April 2020

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