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The Highland Fling is a solo Highland dance that gained popularity in the early 19th century. The word 'Fling' means literally a movement in dancing. In John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, 1808, the Highland Fling was defined as 'one species of movement' in dancing, not as one particular movement. There is some speculation that the first solo Highland Fling dances simply showed off steps that individual dancers preferred in the Strathspey Reel, a social dance.
This dance is now performed at dance competitions and events around the world. One goal of dancers today is to stay in the same spot throughout the dance. The Highland Fling is danced at almost all competition levels, from primary to premier. It is also performed for Highland and theory examinations. Dancers wear the standard kilt outfit to perform this dance. It is in 4
A version of a Fling in a percussive dance style was remembered and danced by John Gillis in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and those steps were written down in 1957 by Frank Rhodes. Each step was preceded by a travelling step in a circular pathway danced to the first part of the tune Sterling Castle, while the individual Fling steps were danced to the second part of the tune.
List of steps
The dance can be done as a:
- Four-step dance. Usually danced by primary, beginner, and novice dancers at competitions.
- Six-step dance. Usually danced by intermediate and premier dancers at competitions.
- Eight-step dance. Very rarely done at Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) competitions, although it is still danced at some traditional Highland Games.
The first and last steps must always be danced in those places, but the rest of the steps are up to the dancer to choose. For championships, the SOBHD will release a different order of steps for each year to be danced in championship competitions. Dancers taking theory exams may also need to know all of these steps, as well as their order, depending on the level of exam they reach.
Music (Bagpipes) – "Monymusk" or any other suitable Strathspey tune.
Steps Tempo – 114* beats to the minute
- First Step: Shedding
- Second Step:Back-stepping
- Third Step: Toe-and-heel
- Fourth Step: Rocking
- Fifth Step: Second back-stepping
- Sixth Step: Cross-over
- Seventh Step: Shake and turn
- Eighth Step: Last shedding
These steps comprise the steps for the Highland Fling included in the SOBHD text book. There are many more steps in existence, some of which have been recorded in publications, for example, Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland, while some exist only in the memories of senior dancers .
The current (2008) tempo recommended by the SOBHD for the Highland Fling is 112-124 bpm. This has slowed considerably over the years – from 192 bpm one hundred years ago, 152 bpm in the 1960s and then 134 bpm in the 1980s.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Scottish Cultural Press. p. 29. ISBN 1898218455.
- Emmerson, George S. (1995). A Handbook of Traditional Scottish Dance. Galt House Publications. p. 50. ISBN 0969065361.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Scottish Cultural Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 1898218455.
- Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (2008). Highland Dancing, 7th edition. Lindsay Publications. pp. 31–34. ISBN 1898169365.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Scottish Cultural Press. pp. 109–125. ISBN 1898218455.
- SOBHD – 2015 Championship Steps
- Fling steps illustrated by C. MacIntyre North in the Book of the Club of True Highlanders, London, 1880
- D.R. MacKenzie's Illustrated Guide to the National Dances of Scotland; First Step
- The Highland Fling and How to Teach It, Prof. Grant, Buffalo, NY
- Silent film footage of the Seann Triubhas, Highland Fling, and Sword Dance from 1915
- Film Scotland's Dances shows a Highland Fling at a Braemar Gathering
The Highland Fling can also been seen in the 2002 film Nicholas Nickleby, performed by Alan Cumming.