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Birnam Highland Games hold Highland Dancing Competitions which run throughout the day. Highland dancing is regarded as being one of the most sophisticated forms of national dancing in the world and whilst it is almost impossible for dance historians to separate fact from fiction when researching the more popular Scottish dances, the following explanations have gained great currency, probably because they are imaginative and picturesque stories.
The Highland Fling
This is the most famous of the solo Highland Dances, said to derive from the antics of a courting stag on a Scottish hillside. The raised arms imitate the stags's antlers. There are no travelling steps in the Fling, the whole dance being performed on one spot. The stag does not run after his women, he expects them to come to him.
Hullachan (Reel of Tulloch)
The Reel of Tulloch, or Hullachan, is reputed to have originated in the village of Tulloch, Perthshire. Where on a cold snowy morning, the minister was delayed and the congregation started swinging each other by the arm to keep themselves warm. Reels are danced by four people and the exact origin is obscure. The slow movement, the Strathspey, is thought by many to be a mourning dance following the path of the river "Strath" in the valley of the "Spey". The Highland Reel is a quick, livelier version of the Strathspey.
Several National Dances are performed in the kilt as they were originally men's dances. "Wilt Thou Go to the Barracks, Jonnie?" is said to be a dance depicting the strength, agility and determination which comes from a soldier's rigorous training.
This dance may have been performed as an invitation to a lassie to join a handsome lad for a stroll in the Highlands and perhaps for a picnic spread on his plaid.
This is a graceful dance, in Gaelic meaning "old trousers", which starts slowly and increases in temp on the final two steps. This dance recognised the repression after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when both Bagpipes and Kilt were banned. Any dancing had to be done in trousers and the slow tempo represents the disgust at having to do so whilst the shaking movements represent the shaking off of the trews and the quick steps are a display of pleasure when Scots were once more able to wear the Kilt.
Although not a Scottish dance, the Hornpipe has formed part of the Games tradition for a long time. It is performed in stylised Navy uniform and simulates the various jobs of pulling ropes, manning the yardarm and splicing the main brace which seamen had to perform in the days of sail.
Another popular import is the Jig, performed in a traditional green and red outfit. The dance is a portrayal of anger as the man has donned a pair of clean, leather breeches which have shrunk and so grip him uncomfortably. His resulting anger expressed at the washerwoman is returned in kind.
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