A Beginner’s Guide to Scottish Reeling

Growing up in Wales, I was exposed to country dancing throughout school. It was a deadly serious affair involving terrible, terrible outfits, no alcohol and lots of practicing with the intention of winning at one of the Eisteddfods. I never went near  it for fear of the die hards who did it. However, Scotland had a different idea and made their national dancing something that is done with the lubrication of alcohol, the promise of a midnight breakfast and the chance to crack out the family tiara. If you’ve never done it, here are some things to bear in mind…

  1. In any given reeling party there is a strong chance that there will be at most two Scottish people. And they won’t have Scottish accents.
  2. Setting with a ten year old dragged along by his mother, or an eighty- year -old in a dodgy kilt is awkward.
  3. The first time you attempt Inverness Country Dance (the “running one”) it is best not to dance with an old Officer Training Corps chum named “Dirty Bertie” as he will crash you in to someone.
  4. Never, ever wear heels to reel. At the dance you will see an elderly woman reeling perfectly ins stilettos, but do not attempt it yourself.
  5. Your dress must swirl. As such it should not be so short that when you spin everyone can see that you are wearing last season Agent Provocateur.
  6. If you are flat chested and put your dance card down your front to “keep it safe” it will work its way out down your dress and it will appear that you gave birth to a card during Dashing White Sergeant.
RAC Caledonian Society ball, photograph by James Cole

RAC Caledonian Society ball, photograph by James Cole

7. Your tiara will impale you when someone accidentally knocks in to you.

8. No matter how beautifully you make your hair it will be a messy, sweaty rat’s nest by 1am.

9. Midnight breakfast- kedgeree at the Royal callie, bacon rolls elsewhere is always more welcome than you expect.

10. Never make full use of the pre- dancing dinner. No one wants to spin through the Duke of Perth on a full stomach and half a bottle of wine.

11. Kilts are generally long and heavy so unless a chap stands on his head (not a dance move that appears in any reel I’ve ever done) or you act very inappropriately you won’t be able to answer that one about underwear.

12. Take care with tying your sash lest it appear that you are trying to pass yourself off as Grand Chieftainess Morag of Clan Mcdougall-Campbell-Scott (as you can tell I made that name up).

13. Over-enthusiastic spinning will result in someone crashing into a chair/table/old person/mantel piece/the floor.

14. The eightsome is a great opportunity for novice reelers to show off their skills in alternative genres e.g. break dancing.

15. The eightsome is also a great opportunity to make lots of naughty jokes.

16. Reeling is really good exercise. You will feel it the morning after.

With Miss Amanda Briscoe at the Royal Caledonian Ball 2015

With Miss Amanda Briscoe at the Royal Caledonian Ball 2015

17. Never ask a man to dance. They need to do the hard work.

2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Scottish Reeling

  1. These are spot on, but I think you missed one. Never attempt a Foursome even if you think you know what you are doing as they were devised to flummox even the brightest of reelers. Sixteensomes, on the other hand, are hilarious.

Comments are closed.