(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.
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.