— Author's note —
I have written this document for those who, for lack of a teacher available, want to learn Highland sword dance on their own. It is written in French to allow a better appropriation to those who do not master the English language sufficiently.
The non-mastery of the English language does not, however, exclude the use of English words characteristic of this dance and for which there is not always such a good French equivalent.
The words do not show everything, I supported my writings with video links by picking from those, royalty-free, online at the time of writing. While these videos are illustrative, they do not claim to represent technical perfection.
Important: dance steps being a succession of movements to move from one position to another, it is necessary, as a prerequisite, to know the positions and movements. They are given in paragraphs 2 and 3 of this document so that they can be referred to at any time.
A word of advice: it would be excessive to seek technical perfection at all costs. However, the attention of dancers must be focused on the need to turn the knees outwards, to dance on the soles of the feet and to have a suitable arm position. The perfect technical mastery of Highland dances is difficult to acquire, especially the rhythm of the dance of the swords where the Basque steps are more "cut" and less "cast" as they can be in the reel. Dance must remain a moment of pleasure, we must not be discouraged by seeking excessive immediate precision. But, the fact remains that having a good technique can, rightly, make us proud.
1. La Sword dance.
Note: Take the time to read, at the very end of this document, the history of the dance of the swords. This is the preamble to his learning.
Sword dance exists in 3 durations called 2&1, 3&1 and 2&2. The first number gives the number of steps danced slowly (2 or 3) and the second the number of steps danced quickly (1 or 2). Those who start by learning the 2&1 (shorter, it requires less endurance).
The tempo of the slow step should be in the range of 104 to 116 beats per minute.
The tempo of the quick step should be in the range of 120 to 144 beats per minute.
In general, beginners are more comfortable in the high range of tempo while experienced dancers prefer the low range that allows them to show their technique.
Note: the music for the dance of the swords is a 4/4, so it contains 4 beats per bar.
Between the two tempos, the dancer must clap his hands to announce the change of rhythm. He loses 5 points in competition if he fails to do so.
For Sword dance, there are a dozen different steps if we count the variants. When it comes to learning a 2&1 sword, you have to remember 3 steps among the 12 existing.
The choice proposed here is the one that a panel of qualified teachers has deemed to be most suitable for beginners:
- 1st Step (obligatorily in 1st it is the one where we turn to the turn of the swords):
Addressing the Swords (référencé comme 1 er step de la sword dance)
- 2nd Step (between the swords, the slow step):
Pointing Step (referenced as the 4th step of the sword dance)
- 3rd Step (between the swords the fast step):
Crossing and Pointing Quick- Step (référencé comme 8e step de la Sword dance)
For the rest, we will use the following notation conventions: RF ("Right foot" for "right foot") and LF ("Left foot" for "left foot").
Names written in red refer to positions (see explanations in §2) and those in blue to movements (see explanations given in §3).
1.2 How to position swords
We cross 2 swords. We first place the so-called "left hand" (the sword is placed horizontally in relation to the starting position of the dancer); Its handle faces the '4' location (see diagrams below). Then we pose vertically on top, the sword called "right hand" with the hilt facing the dancer in his starting position (in '1' on the diagrams below). There is no rule as to the length of swords, but they must be crossed in their center over the total length of their blade (excluding the hilt and guard). You can cross a sword with its sheath. The main thing is to offer the same stations to dancers when they are competing.
Note: when the dancer dances above the swords, his head may be slightly tilted to allow him to see them and he must occupy the center of the squares when he is in or when he enters them.
1.3 Salvation (bow)
Before dancing, it is worth greeting. There are 3 ways to do it, we will retain the simplest:
Bar 1 and 2: stand in 1st position facing the sword at location 1 (see diagram above).
Bar 3 and 4: Greet (tilt the bust looking ahead counting '1, 2, 3') then raise the bust (count '4, 5, 6') and on the countdown '7' stand on the sole of the 2 feet and hold the position on the countdown '8'.
1.4 Addressing the Swords = S'adresser aux épées
It is the step that allows you to go around the swords.
Bar 1: No basque with the RF to location 1a (count '1& 2'); then No Basque with the LF to the 1d location (count '3 & 4').
Bar 2: Make a 3/4 turn to the right with 2 steps of Basque, the 1st with the RF to the corner A, the 2nd with the LF in the corner A without moving (count '5 & 6, 7&, 8').
Bar 3: No basque with the RF going slightly beyond 2 (count '1 & 2'); move slightly to the left, assemble at location 2 with the RF in 5th position (count '3'); disassembles on the LF by performing a High Cut with the RF (count '4&').
Bar 4: run 4 High Cuts in location 2, with a spring RF, LF, RF, LF (count '5& 6& 7& 8&').
BRAS : in 1st position in bars 1 to 3, change to 3rd position on the count '4' in bar 3; 3rd position in bar 4.
1.5 Pointing Step = No scoring
It is the slow step above the swords.
Bar 1: No Basque inside square A to D with RF (count '1 & 2') then No Basque in square D to A with LF (count '3 & 4').
Bar 2: spring point with the RF in A, and LF in 2nd position in D (count '5'); Gee-up
RF, point LF in 5th position (count '6'); Hop RF, point LF in 4th position in B
(count '7'); RF hop, by bringing the LF back to point it in (count '8').
Bar 3: spring point with LF in D, and RF in 2nd position in A (count '1'); Gee-up
LF, point RF in 5th position (count '2'); Hop LF, point RF in 4th position in C (count '3'); Hop LF, by bringing the RF back to point it in 5th position (count '4').
Bar 4: spring point with the RF in A, and LF in 2nd position in D (count '5'); making a quarter turn to the left, Hop RF, point LF in 5th position (count '6'); Spring point with the LF in A, and the RF in 2nd position in B (count '7'); hop LF, by bringing the RF back to point it in 5th position (count '8').
BRA: in 1st position in bar 1 then pass it in bar 2, then change arms to count '1' in bar 4 or, alternatively, 2nd position, to count '7'.
1.6 Crossing and Pointing Quick-Step = Croisement et pointage Quick-Step
This is the fast step above the swords.
Note: the angle of the turns given for each Open PDB or Spring Point in this step is approximate.
Bar 1: No Basque inside square A to D with RF (count '1 & 2') then No Basque in square D to A with LF (count '3 & 4').
Bar 2: with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Open PDB with the RF in A, and LF in 4th position in C (count '5 & 6'); with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Open PDB with the LF in A, and RF in 2nd position in B (count '7 & 8').
Bar 3: with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Open PDB with the RF in B, and LF in 4th position in D (count '1 & 2'); with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Open PDB with the LF in B, and RF in 2nd position in C (count '3& 4').
Bar 4: with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Spring point with the RF in C, and LF in 4th position in A (count '5'); with 3/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the LF in A, and RF in 4th intermediate position in C (count '6'); with 1/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the RF in A, and LF in 4th intermediate position in D (count '7'); with 1/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the LF in D, and RF in 2nd position in A (count '8').
BRAS: in 1st position in bar 1; in 3rd position in bars 2 and 3; in 1st position in bar 4.
Bars 5 and 6: repeat bars 2 and 3 (count: '1& 2, 3& 4, 5& 6, 7& 8').
Bar 7: with 1/8th of a lap on the left, Open PDB with the RF in C, and LF in 4th position in A (count '1 & 2'); with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Open PDB with LF in C, and RF in 2nd position in D (count '3& 4').
Bar 8: with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Spring point with the RF in D, and LF in 4th position in B (count '5'); with 3/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the LF in B, and RF in 4th intermediate position in D (count '6'); with 1/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the RF in B, and LF in 4th intermediate position in A (count '7'); with 1/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the LF in A, and RF in 2nd position in B (count '8').
BRAS : in 3rd position in bars 5, 6 and 7; in 1st position in bar 8.
Bars 9 to 12: as with bars 5 to 8, but starting above the second sword and ending above the third sword.
Bars 13 to 15: As with bars 9, 10 and 11, but starting above the third sword and ending above the second sword.
Bar 16: with 1/8th of a turn on the left, Spring point with the RF in B, and LF in 4th
position in D (count '5'); with 3/8th of a turn on the right, Spring point with the LF in D, and RF in 4th intermediate position in B (count '6'); moving back to 1d, Spring with the RF, quickly putting the LF in 3rd aerial position (count '7'); perform a Back-step springing with the LF by finishing from the front in 1D (count '8').
BRAS : in 1st position in bar 16.
FINAL: Step to slot '1' with the RF and stick the LF to the RF in 1st position (flat) and salute.
2. Basic positions.
Note: for your general knowledge, all positions used in Highland dance including those that are not used for sword dancing are listed here.
General remarks and preliminary definitions
1. The body should be maintained with natural ease without stiffness or exaggerated effort.
2. The foot supporting the weight of the body is called "supporting foot". The other foot is called the "working foot". During the dance, it is always the sole of the support foot that is in contact with the ground.
3. The dancer should always strive to keep the support leg facing outwards at 45° from the steering line, and the work leg facing outwards at an angle of at least 45°, and in most cases 90° from the steering axis. These rotations of the knees outwards thus tend to make the apron of the kilt fall flat.
4. On all elevation movements, the dancer must fall back on time with some exceptions.
5. In an elevation movement, when the working foot must reach a precise position, it must arrive simultaneously with the moment when the support foot falls back to the ground, with some exceptions.
6. (a) all movements are based on the basic positions of the head, feet and arms.
(b) a basic movement is a combination, per movement, of two or more basic positions.
(c) A basic step is a combination of basic movements.
2.1 Foot positions
They are described and illustrated as close as possible to what they should be.
A close position is one where the feet are in contact with each other or when the working foot touches the support leg (except for the third crossed position).
An open position is one where the working foot is not in contact with the foot or support leg.
A ground position is one where both feet are in contact with the ground.
An aerial position is one where no foot is in contact with the ground. A rear position is where the working foot is behind the support leg.
There are five basic positions for the feet, respectively called first, second, third, fourth and fifth position. In addition to these, there are four derived positions: one, variation of the third, is called the third cross position; The other three variations of the fourth position are called fourth intermediate position, fourth opposite-fifth position, and mid-fourth position.
For a ground position the following terms are used to describe various methods of placement of the working foot.
(a) Toe (toe). When the working foot is in contact with the ground, without pressure, in an open position with the arched instep, or in a closed position with the vertical foot, it is said to be "pointed" or "placed" on the toe. When the working foot points in an open position, the knee of the working leg must remain straight except for the fourth opposite fifth position (see description).
(b) Half point. When the pulp of the first two or three toes are in contact with the ground, with the sole of the foot not laid, it is placed in "half-point". In half point on an open position, the instep of the working foot should be arched with the knee of the working leg slightly relaxed. In the closed position, the working foot should be held vertically as much as possible. When the working foot is placed in half-point, the weight of the body can temporarily rest on it; The main weight is then carried by the other foot, this to give the necessary momentum for any movement or slight elevation with the support foot during the half-point.
(c) Sole of the foot (ball). When the pulp of the toes and the sole of the foot are in contact with the ground with the arched instep, the foot is said to be placed on the plant. The knee of the working leg should, as much as possible, remain straight, but without tension in order to maintain freedom of movement. When the working foot is placed on the plant, the weight of the body is transferred to it.
(d) Heel (heel) When the heel is in contact with the ground, with the flat of the foot stretched and inclined upwards, the working foot is said to be placed on the heel. The heel is always placed without pressure, except for the 8th step of the Seann Triubhas for which the weight rests momentarily on it.
When the working foot is placed on the heel, in an open position (except for the 4th opposite 5th), the knee of the working leg is kept straight (straight).
Some positions have rear (rear) or aerial (aerial) equivalents.
In the rear position, the working foot is never placed in half-point or on the heel. In the open aerial position, the knee of the working leg remains straight and the working foot, well arched, is positioned at the required height relative to the support leg: normal (the toe in line with the mid-calf), or high (the toe in line with the center of the patella), or low (the toe in line with the ankle).
In the two closed aerial positions, the 3rd aerial position and its rear equivalent, the working foot is raised vertically to the required height (the heel in contact with the hollow of the knee of the support leg in the normal position or, for the 3rd aerial position only, the toe at the ankle of the support leg in a very low position).
Note: In all aerial positions (open or closed), if the level of elevation is not reported, the normal height must be taken into account.
The line of direction
It is an imaginary floor line starting from the front and going backwards and passing between the heels of the dancer when he stands in 1st position. The angles of the basic positions for the feet are measured from this line.
1re position (1st position)
The heels are joined, with the weight of the body equally distributed on each of the feet, turned outwards to form an angle of 90° (each foot being 45° from the steering line). The dancer can stand with both feet flat on the floor (1) or on the soles of the feet (2).
2e position (2nd position)
The work leg is stretched to the side at 90° from the steering line, toe and heel of the working foot are in line with those of the support foot (4). The working foot can be placed on the toe (3), half-point, on the sole or on the heel.
2nd aerial position
The working leg is extended to the side as for the 2nd position, but raised to the required level: low (5), normal (6), or high (7).
3e position (3rd position)
The working foot that can rest on the toes (9), or half-point, on the sole (8), or on the heel, touches the hollow of the support foot (inner arc). The support foot is always turned outwards at 90° from the steering line.
Note: When the weight of the body is equally distributed on the soles of both feet, the sole of the front foot is placed directly against the instep of the back foot, with both feet equally turned outwards at no less than 45° from the steering line.
3rd aerial position
The knee of the working leg should be very open to the back, and the outer side of the working leg should be placed in contact with the front of the support leg. In normal elevation, the heel should be slightly below the patella of the support leg (10); In low elevation, the toe is at ankle level and in very low elevation the foot is just above the ground.
3rd rear position
When placed on the toes, the hollow of the working foot touches the heel of the support foot. The working foot is turned outwards at 90° from the steering line.
When placed on the soles of the feet, the weight is evenly distributed on each.
The sole of the front foot is placed directly on the instep of the foot back, each foot is also rotated 45° from the steering line.
3rd rear aerial position
The working foot is placed behind the support leg at the same height as for the 3rd aerial position. At normal elevation, the inner edge of the working foot is in contact with the calf of the support leg (14). The knee of the support leg should be held well back. The working foot should not be visible from the front (13).
3e position croisée (3rd crossed position)
The working leg is crossed in front of the support leg, with the half-point or sole of the working foot placed close to the outer part of the instep of the support foot.
4e position (4th position)
The working leg is extended forward with both heels in line with the steering line. The working foot, which can only be placed on the toe or half-point, is turned outwards at 45° from the steering line (16).
4th aerial position
The working leg is stretched forward as for the 4th position, but raised at normal height (17).
4th rear position
As for the 4th position, but with the working foot back and placed on the plant or flat.
Mi 4e position (Mid 4th position)
The working leg, stretched forward, halfway between the 4th position and the 4th intermediate position, is placed on the toe.
Mi 4e position aérienne (Mid 4th aerial position)
Stretched forward as for the mid 4th position in low elevation.
4th intermediate position
The working leg is stretched diagonally externally at 45° from the steering line. The working foot is placed on the toe (18), half-point or on the plant.
4th intermediate aerial position
The working leg is stretched diagonally externally at 45° from the steering line. The working foot is placed on the toe (18), half-point or on the plant.
4th Intermediate Aerial Position
The working leg is stretched as for the 4th intermediate position, but raised to the required level (19) low or normal.
4th intermediate rear position
Same as the 4th intermediate position, but with the working leg stretched backwards. The working foot, here, can only rest on the plant (20).
4th Intermediate Rear Aerial Position
Same as the 4th rear position, but with the working leg raised to the normal level (21).
4e opposée 5e position (4th opposite 5th position)
The working leg is stretched forward, but with the toe of the working foot in line with the support foot. The knee of the working leg should be slightly relaxed. The working foot can be placed on the toe (22) in half-point or on the heel (in the latter case, the heel must be in line with the toe joint of the support foot).
4th opposite 5th rear position
This is the position of the rear foot when the front foot is placed in 4th opposite 5th position.
5e position (5th position)
The working foot is in contact with the joint of the big toe of the support foot. It can be placed on the toe (23) in half-point, on the sole or heel, and is turned outwards at 90° from the steering line.
Note: When body weight is equally distributed on the soles of the feet, the sole of the front foot is placed directly on the toes of the back foot, each foot also being turned outwards at least 45° from the steering line.
5th rear position
This is the position of the back foot when placed on the sole and the front foot is in 5th position.
2.2 Arm positions
The position of the fingers
In all positions of the arms, except the first, the fingers are delicately grouped and the thumb is in contact with the first joint of the middle finger.
Both hands rest on the hips, their backs facing forward. The fists are oriented facing the body with straight wrists. The elbows point directly to the side (25).
One arm is placed in 1st position while the other is raised to the side with the wrist slightly curved and the hand slightly above and in front of the head line, palms facing inward (26, 27).
Note: In this position, the raised arm is always opposite the working leg except for the push on the Pivot Turn.
Both arms are placed in 2nd position. The palms, facing inward, face each other (28).
It is a more closed form of the 3rd position where the hands almost touch each other (29).
The arms are gently curved in front of the body with the hands almost touch-touch and the little fingers very close to the kilt.
Note: When arms are raised or lowered, elbows should move as little as possible and no part of the arm or hand should obscure the dancer's face.
There are exceptions for the Seann Triubhas (dance of the old trousers) where, in the 4th bar of the introduction, the hands pass in front of the face when the arms rise from the 5th position, and in the first and second steps when the arms are rounded from the 1st or 5th position.
2.3 Head positions
All positions of the head are described in relation to those of the body.
The head faces and the eyes look straight ahead (30).
The head is turned diagonally to the right (31) or left (32) with the chin slightly raised. When the arms are in second position, the head is turned opposite the raised arm unless otherwise stated.
3. Basic movements.
Note: for your general knowledge, almost all the movements used in Highland dance including those that are not used for sword dancing are listed here.
The feet and head are in the first position and the arms along the body or in the first position. We salute by gently tilting the body forward and then returning to the initial position (33, 34, 35). If the arms had been left along the body, they must pass in first position on the 1st time count following the salute, unless otherwise stipulated.
Note: the depth of inclination of salvation should not be exaggerated, and the manner of counting it varies according to the dances.
Hop (bounce – small jump)
The elevation movement begins on the sole of one foot and ends with the reception on the sole of the same foot.
Spring (jump with change of foot)
Like the Hop but with a reception made on the sole of the other foot.
Step (weight transfer)
Transfer of weight from one foot to the sole of the other foot. Can be performed with or without displacement and, if specified as such, the heel can be lowered to finish flat foot.
The elevation movement begins on the sole of one foot and ends with simultaneous reception on the soles of both feet in 3rd or 5th position.
It is an elevation movement that begins in a closed position with the weight of the body equally distributed on the flat or soles of the feet, and ends with a reception on the sole of one foot, the other being placed or raised in a specific position.
There is no displacement on this movement, and, unless stipulated, there is no extension, during the elevation, of the foot on which the dancer is receiving.
The elevation movement begins with the weight of the body on the soles of the feet in the 5th position and ends with a simultaneous reception on the two soles of feet in the 5th position after alternating (the front one passing behind and vice versa). 36, 37, 38.
During elevation, there is no extension to the 2nd aerial position. This movement can also be performed using the 3rd position.
Leap (jump gap)
The elevation movement begins on the soles of both feet in 5th position. It is followed by an extension of both legs outwards in 2nd position, and concluded by a simultaneous reception on both soles of feet in 5th position with or without foot change (39, 40, 41).
On the extension, during elevation, both legs should be stretched straight.
Outwards: the half-tip of the working foot slightly touches the ground in its progression from the 3rd very low aerial position to the 3rd in an open aerial position, or from a rear position from the 1st position to the 4th aerial position.
When an external brush is executed in conjunction with a spring or hop, the working foot touches the ground almost simultaneously with the reception.
Inwards: the half-tip of the working foot slightly touches the ground as it progresses from an open aerial position to a closed position (see Shuffle) or the 3rd low aerial position (see Hop-Brush-Beat-Beat).
A shake is always performed in conjunction with a hop.
(a) For the Seann Triubhas: the working foot is gradually stretched via at least two subsidiary movements called "shaking" from the 3rd or 5th position to the 2nd high air position. The shakes come from the knee and are controlled by the thigh. They must begin when the knee of the support leg is flexed in view of the hop, simultaneously with the reception from which, the working foot reaches its climax.
Example count: "and and a 1".
(b) For the Highland Fling: the movement is always preceded by a placement of the working foot in the 3rd or 5th position from where it is extended in the 4th intermediate aerial position via a single movement. Therefore, the real shake movement consists of two jerks, the first ending with the working foot in the 4th low intermediate position and the second with this foot arriving in the 4th aerial intermediate position (normal) simultaneously with the reception of the hop.
Examples of counts: (including initial placement of the working foot) '1 and [and] a 2' or '1 [and] and a 2'.
Prepare the movement by extending the working foot to the 2nd low aerial position, spring towards this side (42), bringing the new working foot from the 3rd to the 5th position by placing it in half-point (43), then tap (without exaggeration) the sole of the other foot in the 3rd position or 5th rear position. At the same time, quickly extend the front foot, if necessary, to chain the next movement.
Note 1: The same position, 3rd or 5th, must be used throughout the movement.
Note 2: When a turn, or portion of a turn, is performed using two Basque steps, there is no extension to complete the first Basque step, and the second is danced with little or no displacement.
Note 3: This movement can also be danced with another lateral movement, in which case the extension of the starting foot is along the required line of displacement, usually towards the 4th intermediate position. The count (2 steps of Basque):
Dance of the swords: 1& 2 3& 4
All other dances: 1 & 2 3 & 4
Open Pas de Basque (no Basque open)
As for the Pas de Basque, except that the front foot is placed in 4th opposite 5th position and that there is no extension at the finish.
This move, only used for sword dancing in the fast part, is performed using the 4th or 4th intermediate or 2nd position.
Spring, hop or disassemble and, simultaneously at the reception, place the working foot in the 3rd rear aerial position (44), then (working only from the knee joint) bring the working foot to the 2nd aerial position (45) and bring it back to the 3rd rear aerial position (46). During elevation the leg(s) are stretched towards 2nd aerial position. With some exceptions, there is no lateral movement during this movement.
Note 1: Danced in series, the High Cuts can be described as a succession of springs from the 3rd aerial position to the 3rd rear aerial position where a High Cut is performed each time and where, during each elevation, both feet are stretched towards the 2nd aerial position, with however a lighter extension for the foot from which each spring is started.
Note 2: Danced in series, High Cuts can be with or without extensions.
Note 3: In the dance of swords and the reel where series of tense High Cuts are danced, the High Cut which is performed in conjunction with a disassembly must be tense.
Note 4: When a series of High Cuts is performed without extensions, it is allowed to stretch a High Cut in conjunction with a disassemble.
The time count for 4 High Cuts:
(a) for a Strathspey: 1& 2& 3& 4& - in some well-stipulated cases a High Cut can be counted: 1 and [and]
(b) for a real: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & - in some well-stipulated cases a High Cut can be counted: 1 and [and]
High Cut in front
Identical to the High Cut, but the raised foot starts from the 4th intermediate air position (47) and is stretched towards the 4th intermediate air position.
Note: the High Cut in front is not danced in series, and in some cases well stipulated (6th or 9th step of the Seann Triubhas) the extensions are made towards the 2nd aerial position.
Balance (the pendulum)
Starts with the right foot in 4th intermediate aerial position, hips in front, right shoulder slightly advanced, arms in 3rd position and head in 2nd position. Spring to move the support foot to the 4th rear intermediate aerial position. We repeat the movement in the opposite direction to finish on the starting position. This movement occupies two beats of music.
Starts with the right foot in 4th intermediate aerial position, hips in front, right shoulder slightly advanced, arms in 3rd position and head in 2nd position. Bring the right foot inward to take three steps (RF, LF, RF) moving diagonally backwards at an angle of 45° to the steering line. The positions of the feet changing from the 5th position (49) to the 4th intermediate rear position
(50) and at the 5th position (51) by extending respectively the left foot to the 4th rear air intermediate position (simultaneously with the 3rd step) (count '1 & 2'). The above movement is then repeated in reverse, moving forward in the same diagonal to return to the starting point (48) (count '3 & 4').
This movement can also be performed on the other side with the opposite foot, always danced to the countdown '5 & 6, 7 & 8'.
Note: throughout the duration of the movement the upper part of the body must be straight.
The arms: they are kept inside in 4th position during the backward movement and then passed in 3rd position during the forward movement or, alternatively, during the rear movement they are circled downwards outwards on the sides in 5th position then, during the forward movement, they are circled outwards and high on the sides in 3rd position.
Spring from the 3rd or 5th position to the 3rd rear position or vice versa, pointing the working foot at the reception. Rocks are usually used in series, and, in this case, the 1st rock can be performed starting from an open position. The back foot is always pointed in 1st.
Note: When the working foot is pointed during this movement, the toe slightly touches the ground.
Round the leg
The working foot changes from the 3rd rear air position (52) to the 3rd aerial position
(53) or vice versa. During movement, the working foot should stay as close as possible to the support leg with the working leg knee held well back.
Hop, Spring or Disassemble by pointing the working foot in 2nd position (count '1'); Hop by bringing the working foot in 3rd rear aerial position (count '2'); Hop by executing a round-the-leg by bringing the working foot 3rd aerial position (count '3'); Hop by performing a round-the-leg by bringing the working foot back to 3rd rear aerial position (count '4').
Note: The 2nd position of the arms is always used, the raised one being on the opposite side of the working foot.
Toe-and-Heel (orteil et talon)
Hop or Spring and, simultaneously with reception, point the working foot in the specified position, then Hop and, simultaneously with the reception, place the heel of the working foot in the same specified position. This movement occupies 2 beats of music.
Note 1: The toe and heel should touch the ground lightly and the working foot should be kept low enough.
Note 2: The position specified for this movement can be the 2nd, 3rd, 4th opposite 5th or 5th. The 90° external opening required for the working foot in 2nd position also applies to the other 3 positions.
Heel-and-Toe (talon et orteil)
Hop, by placing the heel of the working foot in 2nd position; Hop by pointing the working foot in 3rd or 5th position. This movement occupies 2 beats of music.
Starting with one foot in the 3rd aerial position, perform a round-the-leg to move to the 3rd rear aerial position, and, with a spring, slide the working foot down along the back side of the support leg by quickly bringing the other foot back to the 3rd aerial position. Repeat as many times as required. This movement can also be performed starting or ending in the 3rd rear aerial position. Each back-step occupies 1 beat of music.
Shuffle (not dragging/sweeping)
Starting with a foot in mid-4th low air position, Spring or Hop and, during elevation, stretch the original support foot towards mid-4th low air position. Then, almost simultaneously with the reception, sweep with the new working foot inwards on the half-point in the 3rd or 5th position and, immediately after, sweep the towards the mid-4th low aerial position.
Note 1: the inward sweep ends without the working foot losing contact with the ground and with the slightly relaxed instep to bring the ankle above the instep of the support foot, a position called 'over the buckle'.
Note 2: Scans are performed without lateral or forward displacement, but, where specified, a slight backward displacement may be used.
Example count for 4 scans:
(a) At the tempo of a Strathspey: 1& 2& 3& 4&
(b) At the tempo of a real: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &:
Spring and point the working foot in the open position, with both feet simultaneously touching the ground (54.55).
(a) Turning to the left: place the RF on the half tip in 3rd position, rotate to the left on the sole of the 2 feet without moving them (56) finishing in 3rd or 5th position with the LF in front.
(b) Turning to the right: as above, but starting with the LF and ending with the RF in front.
Note 1: The working foot must be stretched in the 4th intermediate aerial position before starting the rotating pivot.
Note 2: Before placing in the 3rd cross position, a small step back to the 4th rear intermediate position can be made. There is no extension to the 4th intermediate air position in this method.
Hop, by extending the working foot to the 4th intermediate aerial position (if it is not already placed in this position), then quickly run an inward sweep to reach the 3rd low aerial position (count '1 and [and]'); Place the working foot on the half-point in 3rd or 5th position and then gently beat the back foot placed in 3rd or 5th rear position (count 'a 2').
Note 1: simultaneously with the execution of the beat with the rear foot on the count '2', the working foot can be stretched towards the 4th intermediate aerial position or the 2nd aerial position depending on the starting position required for the next movement to be chained.
Note 2: The movement can also be executed on the count '5 and [and] a 6'.
Hop, by performing a Shake with the working foot in 4th intermediate aerial position
; Hop by carrying the working foot slightly back to perform another Shake with the foot positioning itself in 2nd aerial position then Spring to move the working foot which, if required, is promptly stretched to any open aerial position to continue on the next movement or finish with an assembly before a quick step or a leap.
Note 1: the 2 shakes can be performed in the 2nd aerial position in which case there is no movement towards the back of the working foot during the shakes.
Note 2: The starting position of the working foot depends on its final position (tense or not).
Example count: '3 & 4' or '7 & 8'.
4.4 What equipment do I need to get started?
A non-slippery and elastic coating (offering bounce such as wood or ballet carpet...) is needed to preserve the bone structure and joints of the dancers during vertical movements. It is not recommended to dance on a concrete surface. In practice, many schools are satisfied with the multi-sport flooring that gymnasiums have.
Bar and ice
It is not essential, but nevertheless useful to help keep balance while you stall the position of the feet and legs and to see the position of your body.
This is what Scottish dance slippers are called. Always take them tight and tight and especially not too flexible and loose. They can be purchased online. Sellers include:
Note: To start ballet slippers (black color!) will do, but they will not replace the essential highland ghillies to buy from specialists of items for Highland dance (ban ballet dance sites that too often offer ghillies of poor quality).
You can start with rolled up scarves or flat, less intimidating pieces of wood. For the youngest, adhesive strips or chalk marks are used. It is necessary to ban what can slip (ribbons) or roll (rope) when walking on it. However, it is considered that the dancer must quickly "face" the swords to better jump and expose himself to the risk of stepping on them or moving them by bumping against them.
For the youngest, we use flat swords as in this image:
But the most widely used sword model (because it is versatile in that it is suitable for training, shows and competition) looks like this:
There are several sites where you can buy them. Let's mention one of the best known: toeandheel.com.
The pair costs about £35 TTC and you have to add £15 shipping or £50 (70 euros).
However, someone tooled and handyman can buy iron in a DIY surface and shape them (the cost of the raw material is about 12 euros for the pair of swords.
The dimensions (order of magnitude, because there is no precise standard) are:
Total length: 92cm – Blade width: 2.5 cm – Blade thickness and guard: 3 mm –
Rounded edge to edge of the guard 12 cm. Total weight: 1kg.
In the second photo, the broadsword, ceremonial sword used in championship and reserved for those who have "tamed" the dance of swords.
4.5 Accompanying music.
As an example, here is the bagpipe score of Ghillie Callum, the essential melody for the Highland Sword dance. The rhythm is in 4/4, so each bar counts for 4 beats:
BONUS - THE HISTORY of dance.
You learn a dance better when you are able to tell its story. It is part of the cultural heritage and helps the dancer to find inspiration in the practice of his art.
After defeating one of Macbeth's generals at the Battle of Dunsinane in 1054, Malcolm Canmore, future King of Scotland, to celebrate his victory and show all his dexterity, danced above his sword, which he had crossed on the ground with that of his opponent.
Since then, in addition to being an exercise to work agility and skill, this dance of exultation has become a dance of prophecy among warriors. Legend has it that they danced it to predict the outcome of the next day's battle. If the dancer did not touch the swords, he was assured of victory, otherwise he risked being defeated and killed.
The origins of the choreography remain obscure. It was not until the end of the 16th century that it was regularly practiced by men wishing to strengthen the power and agility of their legs. Showing off athletic prowess was very popular in the Highland community at the time.
It was first danced competitively in 1832.
Initially, the dancer revolves around the swords. It is said that he "addresses" the swords, as if they were alive, asking them for the right to dance above them by first correctly going around them without disturbing them. Then he dances between the blades and above. From that moment on, tradition says that he must no longer turn his back on the spikes, because only the madman would act like this.
Dancing requires tremendous dexterity not to touch or move swords. But, nowadays, if the dancer touches the sword, he will not be injured the next day, but disqualified immediately or only penalized with 5 points (the rule depends on the category to which the dancer belongs) if the sword is touched, but not moved.
The dancer rotates counterclockwise (called "widdershins" or the witch's path), but this dance would have been practiced clockwise until 1880 if we believe the description given in the "Club Book of the Real Highlander", in 1881.
The choice to dance counterclockwise would come from the fact that the sword being carried to the left, the solo dancer was less embarrassed by moving in this direction. However, by choosing the meaning of witches, we provoke the devil to face him and overcome it by succeeding in a flawless synonymous with luck to come.