The Scottish Country Dancer
Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Southwest Washington State Branch
Volume 27 #1
July/August 2010

Scottish and Square Dancers Are Friends

by Tom Halpenny

I am fascinated with the similarities and differences between Scottish Country Dance and Square Dance. I have enjoyed Scottish Country Dance for several years. I love the mental memory game, social, moderately aerobic, and musical attributes of the dance form. My wife Liza and I wanted to try something new, so we began learning Square Dance. We have loved learning this dance form that has similarities to Scottish Dance. We have found the dancing and the friendships in each group to be enriching, and we are interested in bringing together dancers from both groups. This introduction to Scottish Country Dance (SCD) and Square Dance (SD) will explore some similarities and differences for readers who are already familiar with one of the dance forms.

Scottish Country Dance and Square Dance both form a set of dancing couples who work as a team to travel geometric patterns in time with the music. A SCD dance has a predefined choreography of figures that are timed specifically to the music, selected from about 50 figures. The SCD teacher briefs or walks dancers through the figures so we can recall them long enough to perform the dance. The SD caller reveals the choreography real time and guides dancers through a sequence selected from about 100 moves at the Plus level. Dancers move through complex patterns and are magically returned to the home position.

SD footwork is a brisk rhythmic walk done to music of a variety of styles. SCD has both quick-time footwork (Skip Change and Pas de Basque for jig and reel) and slow-time footwork (for strathspey), all done to Celtic music.

There are several SD moves and SCD figures which are very similar, like: Promenade / Promenade, Forward & Back / Advance and Retire, Dosado / Back to Back, Right & Left Grand / Grand Chain.

During SD Square Thru, four dancers chain by alternate right and left hands around their four-dancer square, by the number of sides called. A Square Thru 4 is similar to the SCD Rights and Lefts, in which dancers travel four sides of the square and return to original positions. A difference is SD dancers end facing 270 degrees from the beginning, while SCD dancers end facing the original direction.

There are many figures / moves which are specific to each dance form. A sampling of SCD specific figures is: Lead Down the Middle and Up, Figure of Eight, Reel of Three, Allemande, Double Triangles, Poussette, Set and Link, The Knot, Rondel. A sampling of SD specific moves is: California Twirl, Box the Gnat, Flutterwheel, Spin the Top, Scoot Back, Teacup Chain, Ping Pong Circulate, Load the Boat, Relay the Deucey.

Following are links to videos of the dance forms:

Scottish Country Dance:
Square Dance:

If you are intrigued by a new dance experience that has similarities to your familiar dance form, perhaps you would like to spend a couple hours to try something new, take a lesson, and make some new friends. These websites will tell you how: Scottish Country Dance:; Square Dance:

How to Learn Scottish Dancing in 20 Hours
How to Learn Square Dancing in 20 Hours