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The schottische is a partnered country dance, that apparently originated in Bohemia. It was popular in Victorian era ballrooms as a part of the Bohemian folk-dance craze and left its traces in folk music of countries such as Argentina ("chotis" and "chamamé"), Finland ("jenkka"), France, Italy, Norway ("reinlender (no)"), Portugal and Brazil (xote, Chotiça (pt)), Spain (chotis), Sweden, Denmark ("schottis"), and the United States, among other nations. The schottische is considered by The Oxford Companion to Music to be a kind of slower polka, with continental-European origin.
The schottische basic step is made up of two sidesteps to the left and right, followed by a turn in four steps. In some countries, the sidesteps and turn are replaced by Strathspey hopping steps.
Schottisches danced in Europe (in the context of a bal folk), where they originated, are different from how they are danced in the United States. The European (or Continental) version (often called "skoteesh"), is typically danced to faster music and is quite restrained in its movements. The American version is often large and open, with the first part expressed equally as promenades, individual or led twirls or similar moves, and the second part most often expressed as a close pivot. It seems to be mostly referred to as a "shodish".
In Bohemia, the dance was also known as the "Polka Tremblante".
In Brazil, the xote has largely developed in the north-eastern area, specially the Sertão, where it has created variations such as baião and arrasta-pé, which are usually grouped in the forró denomination. All of these rhythms are typically danced in pairs, being xote the slower and simpler style of dancing, in which the couple alternate left-left-hop-right-right-hop steps.
The "schottish Espagnole" or Spanish Schottische, also known as the "Seven Step" gained popularity in France in the early 1900s.
Germans refer to the dance as a Schottisch, which means Scottish.
A dozen of variations are known, for one or more couples, some free, some in fixed choreographies, and the original name became "sciortis" in Tuscany, "sciotzè" in southern Italy, "sòtis" in Romagna.
In Norway, the dance is called a "reinlender". The name may suggest the idea of an origin in the area of the Rhine – meaning that it could be from Germany or Bohemia. The name was known as "Rheinländer (de)" in Bavaria.
In Portugal, a form of schottische called xoutiça or xote has become heavily standardized for folklore displays. The pairs in groups of four, six or eight, form a circle and dance embraced all together. The circle starts to rotate until a moment when the pairs pass, this is, the pairs that are opposite each other switch places crossing each other in the centre of the circle. They continue to pass successively two by two, all the pairs. After everybody made their pass, they continue to dance by rotating in circle. Further along in the dance, all the pairs will join in the center of the circle to beat the center of the circle with their feet, and continue to dance rotating the circle in the initial position, always for the right side. Bear in mind that all the moves are made always by the pair and never by one of its elements separately, because in the schottiche you can never switch pair.
The Highland Schottische is a combination of the common schottische and the old reel.
It has two main forms in 2/4 beat, one being more popular than the other. Both versions are similar in starting line-up to the Gay Gordons and has a polka feel to it. Typical tunes for a Highland Schottische would included "Brochan Lom and “Laddie With the Plaidie”.
In the more popular ceilidh version, the man stands on the left, the woman on the right. They join with left hands joined low in front and with the man’s right arm over the woman’s right shoulder and hands joined above it. The man points his left foot forward, toe to the floor and slightly to the left, whilst the woman does the same with her right foot. On the first two main beats, each partner raises onto their toes and performs a Highland step, bringing back the heel of extended foot against the calf of the other (inside) leg, whilst hopping on the other foot. They then trot forward 4 steps to the beat, pivot quickly so that the man is on the right and woman on the left, both facing the opposite direction of travel. Their right hands are now joined low forward and left hands above the woman’s left shoulder. They perform the same Highland steps as before but now on the opposite foot, before trotting forward 4 steps again. They then face each other with the man on the inside of the circle of travel, the man’s hands on the woman’s waist and woman’s hands on the man’s shoulders (alternatively, the partners adopt the waltz position for their arms and hands). They now trot sideways 3 steps to the left (man left/right/left; woman right/left/right), then hop on the same foot as the third step, then trot sideways right (man right/left/right; woman left/right/left) and hop. For the last four bars, the pair spin round as they progress, hopping twice on each foot and finally once on the last bar (man left/left, right/right, left/left, right). They then re-form with hands joined front and back, man on left as before. The dance, when performed at ceilidhs, usually has a jolly, light-footed, spirited feel and is often accompanied by vocal yelps, woos and hooches from the male partners. The hopping spin toward the end of the routine is often done with great gusto. It often causes the pleated backs of the men's kilts to fly up and outward, sometimes with humorous results.
A variation, popular in Argyll in the 1920s and 30’s, was more of a peacock dance for the man. For the period of the Gay Gordons stance, the partners do not move forward at all, then pivot and move back. Instead, the woman stays in one position, performing the Highland toe-steps with the right foot for four bars, while hopping. The man meanwhile performs two Highland toe-steps with the left foot while hopping. He then moves across behind the woman on his toes for four steps, so that he is now on her right. He then performs two Highland toe-steps with the right foot then moves back behind the woman to her left side again, whilst she performs her toe steps with the left foot while remaining on the same spot. Back on the left, he then faces the woman and they perform the second (polka) half of the routine as per the popular version described above.
A simplified ceilidh variation of the popular version does not required the Gay Gordons method of holding hands in the first half of the routine. Instead, the man holds the woman with his right arm across the small of the woman's back and she does the same to the man with her left arm. The toe-steps are performed as usual and they pivot and turn, whereupon the man puts his left arm across the small of the woman's back and she uses her right arm. The rest of the routine is as per the popular version.
In Madrid, the chotis, chotís or schotís is considered the most typical dance of the city since the 19th century and it is danced in all the traditional festivals. Some of the tunes, as "Madrid, Madrid, Madrid", by the Mexican composer Agustín Lara become very well known in all Spain. The authors of the zarzuelas created a host of new chotis and strengthened their popularity.
In Sweden, the dance is known as a "schottis". The name may suggest an origin in the area of Scotland. This is interesting because the Norwegian word used for the same dance is "reinlender", which seems to indicate an origin from the Rhine region.
The schottische came to the USA from Europe and there are countless variations of the dance. After 1848, a number of old ballroom variants of schottische were danced in California. The "Five-Step Schottische" and a Highland Schottische with modifications were included on lists of ballroom dances of the period. Four of the variants had quite striking similarities with the second half of each dance described as turning with two-step. This is similar to the old "Glide Polka" (step-close-step, with no hop) or the galop (glide,change,glide). In Texas alone there have been schottische-like dances with names such as Drunk, Blue Bonnett, MgGinty, and Douglas. Schottische variations include a straight leg kick, a kick-hop and a standing hop. Both include the traditional hop that is part of the schottische.
In the southern United States at the start of the 20th century the schottische was combined with ragtime; the most popular "ragtime schottische" of the era was "Any Rags" by Thomas S. Allen in 1902. In New Orleans, Buddy Bolden's band and other proto-jazz groups were known for playing hot schottisches. It is also danced as a Western promenade dance in Country and Western dance venues, often after the Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Literary and cultural references
In William Faulkner's 1936 novel Absalom, Absalom!, the ill-bred Thomas Sutpen is compared to a man who taught himself the schottische: Sutpen learned his manners the same way — in private — and executes them awkwardly.
In 1949, Robert Russell Bennett completed his work for concert band Suite of Old American Dances. The second movement, entitled "Schottische", follows the American adaption of the Schottische, musically, in style and rhythm.
- Vallely, F. (1999). The Companion to Traditional Irish Music. New York University Press: New York, pp. 187–188, 330
- Dances of Early California Days. Lucile K. Czarnoski. 1950. Pacific Books. p. 121
- The Official Guide to Country Dance Steps. by Tony Leisner. 1980. Quality Books, Inc. p. 78. ISBN 0-89009-331-8
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Schottische.|
- Schottische within traditional dances of the County of Nice (France)
- How to Dance the Schottische including a short history
- Description and Pictures from the 1939 book "Cowboy Dances" by Lloyd Shaw
- Beadle's Dime Ball-Room Companion and Guide to Dancing. New York, Beadle and Company 1839, on-line copy at Library of Congress