Is this your First Dance?

[written by Dundee University Members in late 1990s taken from]

So, it’s your first proper Scottish country-dance and being a member of Dundee dance society you’ve either not been told a thing about it or you’ve regaled with horror stories of dances past. This is all it should be,however, since you have shown the dedication to wangle your way to thissite, we really ought to tell you what to expect…

A Few Points About Organisation

  • First and most importantly, tell the people organising transport that you are going! They will find a place in a car somehow!
  • Make sure you have enough money to pay for your ticket and probably some raffle tickets as well.
  • Cramped carTalk to the person who’s driving and workout where and when you are meeting etc. Most universities hold after dance parties (which can last all night!) so make sure you know whether your driver is planning to stay or not. If you are planning to stay remember to bring a sleeping bag, some grub and a carry out.

Remember to take your soft shoes/dancing pumps, as sore tootsies ain’t much fun.

The Dance Itself

Dances are fun, no matter what anyone else tells you. Footwork and grace do not matter as long as you (or your partner) have a vague idea of what to do.If someone is the set yells “right hands across” etc, just do as they say as they usually know what they are talking about. Anyway this is what we are supposed to be teaching you in class – so don’t worry about it!

We try to go over most of the dances on a programme in classes before the dance. Nobody ever remembers them, but what the heck, just have a go. Don’t be shy if a complete stranger come up and asks you for a dance that you have never heard of,just tell them and anybody else in the set, that you haven’t got a clue and most of the time they will help you through. Even “times served”dancers still get things wrong. Not everyone who says that they know what they are doing actually do, bit, if it all goes horribly wrong, it’s their fault for lying to you in the first place!!!

  • Dancers with Green BookMost dancers will give you a programme with dance instructions printed on them, so that you can have a go at learning the next dance before you try it. You will see many dancers clinging to their “Little Green Book” (contains dances in diagrammatic form) which at first sight resembles a ‘kitting pattern’, but after some getting uses to us a useful thing to have.

Dress Code

As far as dress is concerned, the lads have it easy – a kilt and shirt or trousers and shirt combination. A note of warning for those wearing a kilt, for some unknown reason, Dundee men have very little, read zero, kilt control,so clean underwear is essential!?! GeneralMan in Boxer shortsconsensus, in the form of a highly specific questionnaire, and obviously not alcohol fueled discussions, concluded that women seemed to prefer said underwear to be plain, and of the slightly fitted boxer variety. Unfortunately the menfolk somehow prefer to give the ladies an eyeful of wildly colourful and patterned versions – Where on earth do you find these things?

Ladies on the other hand are plagued with fraught decisions of aargh – which dress? How formal? Etc. So here are some helpful and possibly telephone bill reducing tips:-

  • Which Dress to wear?Dancing is a hit occupation so wearing something tight is not a good idea,especially if it stops you moving your legs, which isn’t a good idea when you are trying to dance.
  • Long skirts are more traditional (and hide most of the footwork), but many lasses do wear short skirts. However, do remember that you are going to be birling at speed – note kilt control.
  • Most people wear summer dresses (the lasses that is!) and some wear evening or ball dresses. However, as a simple rule, there is very little distinction and people wear whatever style of dress they like (including the lads! Just ask about those luscious white frocks!!!!)
  • If you’re still not sure, ask everyone else. Nobody ever wears what they say they will, but at least you’ll get a general idea of things worn in general.

If you are traveling by car, it’s a good idea to wear something else and change into your kilt and much discussed dress when you get there.


If we have forgotten anything – we’re sorry – but we are sure you’ll make it through your first dance. So all we have got to say is –