Dance to the sound of the Highlands

You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy Scottish Country Dancing and on Wednesday, Sept. 14 you may just find your foot tapping to the irresistible rhythms of the music if you attend the Oceanside Scottish Country Dancers open house.

You don’t need a drop of Celtic blood to enjoy Scottish music and dance.

You don’t need a drop of Celtic blood to enjoy Scottish music and dance.

You don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy Scottish Country Dancing and on Wednesday, Sept. 14 you may just find your foot tapping to the irresistible rhythms of the music if you attend the Oceanside Scottish Country Dancers open house.

Beginners and experienced dancers are encouraged to join the fun annual event from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Community Hall.

Dorothy Young who is president of the dance club is inviting people to bring some soft soled shoes and have a good time.

She said Scottish Country Dancing is enjoyed the world over, from Japan to New Zealand and its steps and movements strike a chord in the hearts of young and old alike.

A Scottish country dance is a form of social dance involving groups of mixed couples of dancers tracing progressive patterns according to a predetermined choreography. While the dance is steeped in tradition with its roots in the courtly dances of the Renaissance, most modern day participants are not Scottish, just lovers of dance.

“It’s a great way to get a bit of exercise, both physical and mental, but most importantly it is about having lots of fun and meeting new friends,” said Young.

Dance instructor Rita Gibson concurs.

“It is energetic dancing. You get a good cardiovascular workout and a very good workout for your brain as well,” Gibson said.

“We do a lot of laughing,” said Gibson “usually when you mess up.” And Young wholeheartedly agrees saying, “You laugh or you cry and we choose to laugh.”

Young and Gibson explain that you are switching partners and counting all the time.

“You may lose your partner in the beginning and find him at the end. It is a progressive dance.  Everybody is moving all the time, up and down the set, you are continually moving, said Young.

Gibson said some dances have their own music and for other dances they choose the music but it has to fit the dance.

She added there are over 10,000 dances in existence and a lot of them have been around for centuries.

“Some have been handed down by word of mouth. The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) was started in 1923 to promote the dance as the Scottish do it so the old dances wouldn’t be lost,” said Gibson.

If you like to dance and want to give it a try you can come alone or with a partner to learn some jigs, reels and strathspeys.

Jigs and reels are in quick time while the strathspey is more slow and graceful.

Members of the club will lead you through some easy Scottish country dances but if you are unsure there is no pressure to join in.

“If they want to try it they are welcome. We will do simple dances with wonderful music,” said Gibson who has been teaching the basic class for 10 years.

She adds they will also do two demos so they can observe what they can aspire to.

She said no partner is required so you certainly won’t be left sitting on the sidelines and no experience is necessary.

“It’s not regulated. That is why it is so much fun. You have a good time and try your best but if you flub it is not the end of the world.”  Gibson said.

In fact she said it’s hard not to dance to the music of the stirring reels and haunting strathspeys.

The traditional soft soled shoes required for the dance are called Ghillies but Young said all you really need to begin with are any soft soled shoes.

She said most dancers do eventually enjoy the thrill of dressing up in a kilt or ball gown for special occasions, particularly the men.

“It is hard to get men out to try it but once they do they are more enthusiastic than the women. It usually takes them about five years to get the bug, and then they want a kilt,” said Young.

Both dance enthusiasts agree a lot of the attraction has to do with the wonderful music and the social aspect of the dance.

“There are classes all over the Island. You just carry your shoes everywhere,” said Gibson.

The Oceanside Scottish Country Dancers Club was formed in 1984. The Club meets regularly for social classes on Wednesday evenings at the Qualicum Beach Community Centre. The beginner’s class starts at 6:30 p.m. followed by the advanced class at 8:10 p.m. For more information visit www.oceansidescd.net.

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