Today, the term ‘Scottish Country Dance’ embraces the social dances of Scotland that have evolved from many traditions and are danced throughout the world by Scots and non-Scots alike.
The RSCDS has always stressed the importance of the social nature of the dance form but it is equally concerned with upholding the standards of correct dancing technique. It is this unique blend of wonderful music, disciplined dancing, intricate floor patterns and sociability that appeals to so many people throughout the world.
Scottish Country Dancing is the distinctively Scottish form of the country dance and it is derived mainly from the English style of the 17th Century: "longways for as many as will" dances which often used Scottish tunes.
Following the appearance of the country dance in Scotland in the early 18th Century, it underwent changes and adopted some of the characteristics of other dance forms such as Scotch Reels, Quadrilles and Waltzes, but perhaps the most notable change from the English style was the importance attached to precise footwork, an emphasis which had not been seen, in social dancing since the days of the Regency Quadrilles and which is still upheld by the RSCDS.
Scotland, of course, had other traditions of dance and here the country dances incorporated features from older Strathspeys, Reels, rants and Jigs. The result was a style of dance with which the whole of Scottish society could feel comfortable; the elegance and courtesy of the ‘country dance’ and the energy and step precision of the old ‘reels’.
While country dances died out in England, they continued to flourish in Scotland. The dancing masters, who travelled extensively throughout Europe, were often skilled musicians and helped to widen the repertoire to include newer, fashionable dances such as quadrilles and polkas.