Nine things you’ll only understand if you did Scottish country dancing at school


Creative commons image from Elgin County Archives

A post from our Project Manager @rosiehopes

There are so many wellbeing benefits to dancing: exercise, music, creativity, socialising. But if you did country dancing at school, it’s more likely that your memories look something like this.

# 1 They called it social dancing
Everyone in the history of Scotland has called it country dancing, or at a push, maybe ceilidh dancing, but for some inexplicable reason it was printed on your school timetable as “social dancing”. This is filed under “weird words that apply only in a school”.

#2  Choosing a partner was agonising
Is there anything more painful in early adolescence than hearing the phrase “ladies’ choice”? In American films, it seems like everyone wants a date for the prom, but in Scottish secondary schools, the idea that you’d willingly and publicly declare who you fancied was unthinkable.

#3  But if you didn’t choose, you might end up dancing with the teacher. Or a mop.
The only thing worse than being forced to dance with a classmate was enduring the humiliation of demonstrating the Highland Skittish with your gym teacher. Or stranger yet, being given a prop, like a hockey stick or a mop, to use as a makeshift partner.

#4 You’d hold each other’s sleeves to avoid skin contact
There’s nothing more guaranteed to give you feechs (the Scottish version of cooties) than skin-to-skin contact with the opposite sex. That’s why boys would pull their sleeves down over their hands and force you to dance a full St Bernard’s waltz holding only a cuff.

#5 … or have your hand squeezed so tightly it hurts
If the teachers caught on the to sleeve wheeze, you’d be forced to actually hold hands. The only way to prove that this DID NOT mean that you fancy each other was to hold on so tightly that you both ended up with Chinese burns on the back of your hand.

#6 There’s a special space in your memory reserved for the Gay Gordon’s
There are a lot of things you learned at school that might come in handy now, but you’ve forgotten them. You’ve no idea what a noble gas is, you can’t remember your maths teacher’s name, hell, you don’t even know where your keys are. But somehow, the steps for the Gay Gordon’s are branded into your mind. Ready- and, forward 2, 3, 3, back 2, 3, 4…

#7 The main aim of most dances was to burl someone off the ground
The one time that physical contact was okay, was to burl (spin) someone round with such force that their feet lifted off the ground. There was a crucial tipping point around third year, before which the girls towered over the boys and could lift them. After that, it was girls who were left holding on to their skirts to avoid a Marilyn Monroe moment.

#8 What worked in your gym shoes didn’t translate to your party shoes
Even if you could do a perfect paddy-ba in PE, it was a whole lot harder to execute in your new shoes at the school dance. This left you with an impossible choice: hobble through or face the prospect of a stiletto through your bare foot. Ouch.

#9 No matter how much you hated it, you’re first on the dancefloor now
It doesn’t matter how much you hated social dancing, how much you begged your mum for  a sick note, the minute you hear those first blasts of an accordion at a wedding, you hit the dancefloor, shouting instructions at guests who weren’t blessed to be born in Scotland.  It might not be cool, it might not be fashionable, but there’s nothing as fun as a ceilidh


2 Responses to Nine things you’ll only understand if you did Scottish country dancing at school

  1. Pete October 4, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

    We did country dancing at primary in Liverpool. It was 3 weeks football or netball (gender determined, no choice) and one week country dancing. But no one told us this was the set-up at first. So when I turned up for the first week at school with my kit and boots in my bag only to be told I was doing country dancing whilst my pals got to play football my 5 year old brain interpreted it as a deserved shaming. Had they decided I wasn’t really cut out for things boys should do? Had I been correctly found out for being a bit weird and shy and this was how things were going to be from now on?

  2. Steve October 24, 2022 at 8:42 am #

    We tried to get out of country dancing by forgetting trainers, but because of the polished floor had to dance in socks!

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