There has been a widely accepted story that the kicking or sweeping movements of the legs in the first step represented the attempt of the dancer to shake off the 'despicable' trews, but D.G. MacLennan writes in Traditional Highland and Scottish Dances that 'this first step has nothing to do with the idea of kicking off the trews, but...is new to the dance and was composed by myself'. The Seann Triubhas, then, is simply about a pair of old trews which may or may not have been a subject of distaste or fun to the wearer, and may or may not have something to do with the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Trews were anciently associated with the Celts. Martin Martin described trews as common men's wear throughout the Hebrides in his 1695 "Description of the Western Islands of Scotland." Tartan trews were part of the Highland wardrobe for chieftains and gentlemen whilst on horseback (the large Highland ponies) from the early 17th century onward. Some Seann Triubhas steps seem to have originated from hard shoe dancing, and the dance was taught to be performed in regular shoes with heels by dancing masters in the 19th century. In her Memoirs of a Highland Lady, Elizabeth Grant recounted that in 1805 she 'danced my Shean Trews...in a new pair of yellow (!) slippers bought at Perth'.
In the late 18th century, the dance was performed to a fiddle tune called 'Seann Triubhas Uilleachan' (Gaelic for 'Willie's old trousers'), previously and more scurrilously called 'The De'il Stick the Minister'. When the dance began to be incorporated into Highland Dance competitions, which were usually played for by pipers, the tune was changed to 'Whistle O'er the Lave o't', which could be played on the bagpipe and is the tune commonly used for the dance today.
In contemporary competitive Highland Dance, after dancing three to four steps, the dancer will clap, which signals the piper to speed up the music. The final, or 'Quick Time' steps look similar to the Highland Fling, and Quick Time steps currently described in the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) textbook are steps that used to be danced in the Fling. Other steps have been published by G. Douglas Taylor, William Cameron, D.G. MacLennan, and Tom and Joan Flett.
A version of a Seann Triubhas in a percussive dance style was remembered and danced by Margaret Gillis in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and those steps were written down in 1957 by Frank Rhodes. These steps were to be danced to the tune 'Whistle O'er the Lave o't', though the same steps were said to be danced to the 'Irish Washerwoman' jig on St. Patrick's Night. An anonymous manuscript dating to 1826 describes both Irish and Scottish Seann Triubhas (spelled 'Shauntreuse' in the manuscript) steps, but tunes for these dances are not specified.
The Seann Triubhas is now danced at most Highland Dance competitions around the world. Dancers usually start dancing it in the Beginner category at competitions, and continue to dance it up to Premier. This dance is also common in most Highland and Theory exams. Dancers wear the standard kilt outfit to perform this dance, though it historically had been performed in tartan trews as well.
List of Steps
This dance is usually done with either...
- 4 steps (3 slow steps and 1 quick step) 3&1
- 6 steps (4 slow steps and 2 quick steps) 4&2
The first step must always be done to start the dance, but the rest of the steps are up to the dancer to choose. (At the higher levels 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 are at.)
Music - Whistle ower the Lave o't'
Slow Steps Tempo - 94-104 beats to the minute
First Step: Brushing
First Step Alternative Second Step: Side Travel
Third Step: Diagonal Travel
Third Alternative Fourth Step: Backward Travel
Fourth Alternative Fifth Step: Travelling Balance
Alternative method of counting Sixth Step: Leap and Highcut
Seventh Step: Entrechat and Highcut Eighth Step: Leap and Shedding Ninth Step: Leap and Entrechat Tenth Step: Highcut in Front and Balance
Alternative Tenth Step Eleventh Step: Side Heel-and-Toe
Twelfth Step: Double Highcutting
Quick Steps Tempo - 112-124 beats to the minute
Thirteenth Step: Shedding with Back-Step
Fourteenth Step: Toe-and-Heel and Rock
Fifteenth Step: Pointing and Back-Stepping
Sixteenth Step: Heel-and-Toe and Shedding
Seventeenth Step: Heel-and-Toe, Shedding, and Back-Stepping
Eighteenth Step: Back-Stepping
Finish Method 1: One Leap Finish Method 2: Two Leaps Finish Method 3: Two Highland Fling turns Entrechat Endings: Method 1: One Entrechat Method 2: 2 Entrechats Method 3: Leap then Entrechat Method 4: Entrechat then Leap Method 5: Leap, Entrechat, Leap Method 6: Leap, Entrechat, Leap, Entrechat
- MacLennan, DG (1952). Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances. Edinburgh: T&A Constable. p. 27.
- Emmerson, George S. (1995). A Handbook of Traditional Scottish Dance. Galt House Publications. p. 54. ISBN 0969065361.
- email@example.com, Undiscovered Scotland. "A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland by Martin Martin on Undiscovered Scotland: 9. Description of the Isle of Sky". www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Scottish Cultural Press. p. 36. ISBN 1898218455.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Cultural Press. pp. 35–38. ISBN 1898218455.
- Taylor, G Douglas (1929). Some Traditional Scottish Dances. London: Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. pp. 36–44.
- Cameron, William (1951). Highland Dances of Scotland. Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals, Ltd. pp. 30–38.
- MacLennan, DG (1952). Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances. Edinburgh: T&A Constable. pp. 49–51.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Cultural Press. pp. 138–141. ISBN 1898218455.
- Flett, JF and TM (1996). Traditional Step-Dancing in Scotland. Scottish Cultural Press. pp. 201–203. ISBN 1898218455.
- Extraordinary Dance Book T B. 1826: an anonymous manuscript in facsimile. Pendragon Press. 2000. pp. 71–75. ISBN 0945193327.
- MacLennan, DG (1952). Highland and Traditional Scottish Dances. Edinburgh: T&A Constable. p. 26.
- Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (2008). Highland Dancing, 7th edition. Lindsay Publications. pp. 40–47. ISBN 1898169365.
- SOBHD 2015 Championship Steps 
- Silent film footage of the Seann Triubhas, Highland Fling, and Sword Dance from 1915
- Descriptions of distinctive Seann Triubhas steps taught by Pipe Major Peter Quinn