What is Scottish Country Dancing?

What is Scottish Country Dancing and why would you want to do it?

Scottish Country Dancing (SCD, for short) is a modern form of the country dancing popular in England and Scotland in the 18 century. It involves groups of six to ten people in a set, dancing to the driving strains of reels, jigs and strathspeys played on the fiddle, accordion, flute, piano, drums, etc (no bagpipes mostly). The dance often combines solo figures for the “first couple” in the set with movements for all the dancers, although there is considerable variation – there are over 14,000 different dances catalogued, or which maybe 1500 or so are of lasting and non-local importance. Although a number of these dances derive from old manuscripts and printed dance collections from the 18th and 19the centuries, most have been invented in the fairly recent past.

SCD is a very social form of dancing, not only because you get to dance with seven or so people at once- smiles and eye contact are almost mandatory. It is enjoyed by many thousands of people both in Canada and across the globe. There’s probably a set lining up, somewhere around the world, every minute of the day. There are workshops, balls and social dances being held in places all over the world. It is nice to be able to travel and join a SCD group for a night nearly everywhere you go.

You don’t need to be Scottish to join in nor do you need to bring a partner or be able to dance – all you need is to take pleasure in dancing and in meeting and mixing with other people.

Take a look at the video below to get an idea of what SCD is like.

Not only is SCD fun – it could be key to keeping fit in old age, a leading university has said. Participants in a study who took part in dancing were found to have better levels of fitness than people who did other exercises, according to researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

Another study funded by the National Institute of Aging, published in 2003 in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a significantly reduced risk of dementia in older adults who danced frequently. The study looked at almost 500 people aged 75 years and older, tracking their activities and incidence of dementia over five years. It showed a surprisingly strong correlation between dancing and reduction in dementia. Dancing was the only physical activity that reduced dementia: golfing, tennis, swimming, bicycling, walking and housework did not.

Why does dancing help maintain the brain? The principle of neuroplasticity hypothesizes that we continue to rewire synapses in the brain with continuous activity. This is literally a “use it or lose it” phenomenon. When we are dancing we are using our cerebral cortex and hippocampus, which are critical to dancing. These areas of the brain are remarkably plastic and they rewire themselves based upon their use. Researchers hypothesize that perhaps this greater cognitive reserve and increased complexity of neuronal synapses keep dementia at bay.

For more information on the Winnipeg branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society and for class information, visit their webpage at www.rscdswinnipeg.ca .

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