Taken from the 40th annual commemorative program.
The Sword Dance
The Sword Dance is reckoned by many to be the oldest of Scottish dances, performed centuries ago on the eve of battles as a means of relieving tension, exhibiting self-control and to seek an omen for the forthcoming battle. Sword and scabbard were placed on the ground in the form of a cross and if the dancer’s feet managed to avoid touching either one, it was believed he would be blessed with good fortune in the coming battle.
However if the sword or scabbard were disarranged, the prediction was defeat.
The great Malcolm Canmore is the supposed originator of the modern sword dance, or Ghille Callum. At a battle in 1054, he fought and slew one of MacBeth’s chiefs near Dunsinane. Taking his opponent’s sword, he formed a cross by arranging his sword over the sword of the dead chief and triumphantly danced over the symbol.
The Seann Triubhas
Many of the steps in this dance are intended to express the Scotsman’s displeasure for an old law which at one time forbade the wearing of the kilt. Literally translated, Seann Triubhas means “old trews.” The name is derisive reference to the law enforced after the unsuccessful Rebellion of 1745 in support of “Bonnie Prince Charlie”when kilt, bagpipes and other Highland traditional trappings were forbidden.
The trews, or trousers, of the 18th Century was a tightfitting article of dress worn by English gentlemen and were very properly despised by the fiery Scottish clansmen.
Many of the steps of the dance are intended to indicate the Scotsman’s efforts to kick off the trews. Various flicks of the fingers and quick turns of the wrists demonstrate his abhorrence of the attire and his longing for the freedom of the kilt. In faster tempo, the dancer demonstrates freedom and ease of movement when not wearing the trews.
The Highland Fling
The Highland Fling must be danced on the same spot throughout the complete variety of complicated steps because, it is said, the original dance was performed on the warrior’s shield. The Fling is often described as the basic dance of all Highland Dancing, demanding excellent poise and control on the part of the dancer. This is the only dance in which the tempo of the music is not varied.
The body remains erect throughout the vigorous and spirited dance, with a marked opposition of arms and legs in the various movements. The style is noted for the delicate toe-dancing and outward rotation of the knees. In general the form is such that each step pattern is begin on one side and repeated on the opposite, with the “fling” serving as a break between steps.