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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Highland Fling
Highland Fling Dancer   Highland Fling

(This page deals with the origins and Highland fling background.)
                The Highland Fling was created sometime during the 1700s in the Scottish Highlands (Scotland.) It is considered a war dance as the dancers were originally military men. The dance is tailored after the Ghillie Challum Sword Dance after victory. It was originally danced by males on a Targe (small round Shield with a center spike) which is said to be why the dancers dance in place to celebrate their victories after battle. To dance a Reel was at one time believed to be one of the signs of witchcraft (aka: 'reill.) This reel is declared by some to be of Celtic origin, and possibly indigenous to Britain, but it was the Danish and Scottish National dance nevertheless.

        Later the dance would also be used to pick the best males who portrayed the best dancer and the most stamina as the Kings Guards. There is also a nice little folklore legend about a boy hunting a deer and upon returning home, retelling the story thru dance, the arms raised above the head epresent antlers which became known as the Highland reel.

Although called the Highland Fling it is also a reel and the Scots dance their reels for the reel's sake; rather than a simple excuse for a social gathering, or a means for a flirtation.

         The Scot arrives on the dance floor as he would on the drill square, and he dances until he is tired out, rarely looking at his lady partner (if he has one), and in fact caring not at all with whom he dances. The Highland Fling is usually performed by three or four persons to the duple rhythm music of the Strathspey.

        The Strathspey derives its name from the valley of the Spey, it is closely allied to the reel, but it is slower, yet it calls for more exertion, and abounds in quick motions. The term "Fling" expresses the kick which characterizes the step. When a horse kicks by merely raising one leg and striking with it, he is said, in grooms parlance to "fling like a cow." This is what the Highland dancer does; he dances on each leg alternately, and flings the other one in front and behind.

        The figure of the reel is perhaps one of the most beautiful that can be exhibited. A line of beauty, and the general air of the dance should indicate gaiety and good will. It is a gliding dance, usually performed by two couples, and its movements differ slightly according to locality, the principal point, which is the same in all, being the circular form. When performed by two couples it is called a foursome reel; When by three couples, a six some reel, the difference being in the music, with a corresponding difference in the steps and revolutions. In competition, this dance is done with either four or six steps, depending upon the dancer's ability.

        In America, there are dance groups of the Highland Fling, step dancers, cloggers etcetera but most folks incorrectly consider it as a part of the Square or Barn Dance family whether actually danced today or not.

 

Birth Place

Creation Date

Creator

Dance Type

Scotland 1700s n/a Country Dance

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Ballets / Stage

n/a My One and Only (1949) 1893 - Kirmess Opera House (Ohio)*
        1944 - A Highland Fling
                 
                 
                 
                 

Publications

     

Television

1937 - Treasure Chest of Dances       1943 - National Barn Dance
$ Ryan's Mammoth Collection: 1050 Reels, Flings, Jigs etc.     1949 - "ABC Barn Dance"
      1947 - Hollywood Barn Dance
Vol. 20 No. 9 - Majesty Magazine       Muppet Show # 520

Night Clubs

Theaters

Locations

n/a Plymouth Theatre (1944) Edinburgh
        England
            France
            Ireland
            Scotland
            Speyside
            Wales

Video Clips (pop-up)

Related Films

Various related Historic Music Titles

Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1894 - Highland Dance Movie 42d Highland Regiment (hf = Highland Fling)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1896 - Chirgwin Plays a Scotch Reel Belles Edinboro' (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1897 - Country Dance, A Bonnie Banks Of Ayr
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1897 - Highland Fling, by the Gordon Highlanders Bonnie Lass O' Bon-Accord
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Highland Cross Sword Dance Bonnie Lass O' Fyvie
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Highland Fling (I) The Cameron Highlanders
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Highland Fling (II) Caber Feidh: The Deer's Antlers (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Highland Reel Cropie's Strathspey (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Scotch Reel Domino Highland Fling (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1929 - Barn Dance, The First Flirtation Fling (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1936 - Highland Fling Fling Dang Reel
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1938 - Arkansas Traveler, The Forest Flower (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1943 - National Barn Dance Gille-Callum
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1/5/1944 - Pathe Newsreel - "Scott's Dancing" (Sword) Here Awa' (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 9/4/1947 Pathe Newsreel: Clans Gather At Cowal Games Highland Fling (hf)
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1949 - The Barkleys of Broadway [DVD] (Astaire / Rogers) Highland Mary Did The Highland Fling - Billy Murray 1908 (Clip)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1957 - New Adventures of Charlie Chan #4 Highland Skip (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1986 - Lord of the Dance/Destroyer of Illusion Highland Whiskey (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1993 - Lord of the Dance Lord Moira's Highland Fling
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1997 - Amazing Grace: A Real Highland Fling [DVD] Marquis Of Huntly's, the (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1997 - Lord of the Dance Marquis Of Huntly's Snuff Mill (hf)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 2001 - Lord of the Dance Marquis Of Huntly's (Strathspey)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. Lovejoy: Highland Fling' Mugby Jim's Highland Fling
    My Bonnie Laddie (hf)
    My One and Only (1949) (hf)
    Old Highland Fling, The (hf)
    Pig Town Fling (hf)
    Pride Of The Stage Fling
    Reel o' Tulloch (hf)
    Scottisch American Highland Fling
Video Clips (pop-up)

CD's

The Bee's Wing Hornpipe
Video Clip not available at this time $ Amazing Grace: Real Highland Fling CD The Earl Of Errol (hf)
Video Clip not available at this time $ Celtic Crossover CD The Music O' Spey (hf)
Video Clip not available at this time $ Fire on the Mountains: 1927-50s CD The Rakish Highlander Reel
Video Clip not available at this time $ Highland Pipes & Drums CD The Spey In Spate
Video Clip not available at this time $ King of the Highland Pipers CD Tibbie Inglis' Fancy Fling
Video Clip not available at this time $ Pipes & Drums of Scotland CD Tullochgorum (hf)
    Village Bells Highland Fling

Other Related Dances of the time...

Argyll Broadswords Earl of Errol Old Paul Jones Six some Reel
Arkansas Traveler Flowers of Edinburgh Old Zip Coon Square Dances
Barn Dances Foursome Reel Papa Stour Sword Dance Seann Truibhas (Old Trousers)
Blue Bonnets Ghillie Challum Sword Dance Pas de Basques Shepherd's Crook
Buck and Wing Gigue (see Jig) Pigeon Wing Step Dance
Can Can Hielan' Laddie Reel and Half Tulloch Strathspey
Cape Breton Step Dance Highland Reel Reels (Scottish) Sword Dance
Clog Hornpipe Rinceadhfada (Rinkey) Victory Dance
Come Ashore Husking Dance Ring Dance Virginia Essence
Contre Dance Jolly Tar Schottische Virginia Reel
Country Dances Marquis Of Huntly's HF Scots Lassie Dance Waltz
Deeside Lilt Miss Forbes Scottish Lilt witches' dance or 'reill
  Morris / Moresca Dance Seann Truibhas, the War Dances
       

Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Subscriptions

Astaire & Rogers Jilly McKirdy (1950s) $ News Of The Highlands (newspaper)
Barbara McKirdy (1960s) Leslie Temple* (1893) $ Highland Echo (Mag)
Francis Peacock (d.1807) Miss McKirdy (1950s) $ Southern Highlands News
Gordon Highlanders (1898) Rebecca Young* (1893)  
J.D. Platt Jr.* (1893)    
Jefferson Crane* (1893)    
     

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
The Highland Fling and how to teach it Grant, Horatio 1892 Electric City Press
Stage and Fancy Dancing Notts, F.C. 1896 Ohio
       

Vintage Musicians etc.

Vintage Bands

Vintage Singers

Poets / Writers

Ira Gerswhin Victor Marching Band* Dinah Shore n/a
Kamarinskaia*     Tony Cuffe  
Karl Denver            
Neil Gow            

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Bag Pipe Corn Husking Harp Square Dance
Barn Dance Country Dance Huskin' Bee stanzas of Ossian
bodhran Fancy Dances Restoration Highland Gathering
Celtic Music Gigue Scotch snap Pipe Bands

The Basic Step:

Part One:
solo dance, start with left arm up and right hand on hip,
1) One hop on left foot while extending right toe (pointing or heel raised) to right... ]\.,
2) One hop on left again while bringing right foot back to left ankle, point right toe down.
3) One hop on left foot while extending right toe (pointing or heel raised) to right... ]\.,
4) One hop on left again while bringing right foot up an forward, pointing toe down.

Second Part:
is the same as above except alternate to other foot on count five, as well as alternating
to other arms (tight up) and (left) Hands. Change arm positions on first hop count 5, then six,
then seven, then eight (full Phrase).

The arm that is raised is curving towards (hand over) the head making a 'C-shape'.
Hand that is on the Hip have the fingers going towards the rear, thumb downward. Dancer can turn
or rotate while doing these step making a quarter turn each beat and hand/arm use is very important. The dance concludes with a bow, then an exit of the floor.

Other

  • Highland Fling Cocktail:
    1 1/2 ounces Scotch whisky,
    3/4 ounce sweet vermouth,
    2 dashes orange bitters,
    1/2 cup crushed ice,
    1 Olive.
    Combine all the ingredients except the olive in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
    Strain into a cocktail glass. Add the olive.
    Serves one.