Some Instructions for running a Scottish Country Dance


Decide, in advance, who is going to be the MC for the night, don’t throw anyone a “curve ball” and land it on them 10 minutes before the start of the Dance. If you’re going to have more than one person (see note below), agree who’s going to cover which section of the programme. Then tell the band about this.

  • Having one MC makes it clear to the band and the people at the Dance who’s in control; BUT it is likely that whoever MC’s might not get much dancing done ! If the MC is always the first couple in the middle line they may well be able to MC and dance.
  • Having more than one MC give the people doing it a chance to dance and enjoy themselves; BUT it can cause confusion over who’s in charge and with timing the dance (eg. is there time to repeat a dance). As long as you all know who’s doing what, and you’ve told the band. It’s probably a good idea to have a rota of at most 2 or 3 people for the whole night and split each half of that dance into about equal sections. That way the people doing the work get a chance to go and do some dancing (It is very difficult to go and ask someone to dance if you’re standing at the front announcing the programme, one way round this is to ask them and then announce the next dance to the rest of the folk.).

At the start of the evening remember to ask the 1st man in each line to count the sets in the line. Call out the number of couples required to make up sets in each line as they form up (this sounds really obvious I know but I want to make sure I’ve covered everything). If you’re really short of couples see if there are any singles you can make into couples before making people dance as a 3 couple set. Also remember that two ladies dancing together asked each other to dance and may not want to dance with spare men available.

If any (i.e. NEW) dances are going to need calling/walking through prepare these in advance, you may wish to ask one of your class teachers to call, in which case you should give them some warning and ask them beforehand.

Tell people what the arrangements for supper are, if they are not obvious, preferably do this before the last dance of the first half. Keep an eye on how long the supper takes and if people start getting restless (& start stiffening up) restart the dance. Have an idea of the time you’re going to allow for an interval, but remember to be flexible if things are taking longer than expected, people won’t want to start dancing again immediately after eating ! One solution may be for the MC to eat last and when they are finished restarts the dance.

Work out your “Thanks” in advance. It makes sure you don’t forget anyone, write the list down if that’s going to help you to remember. It’s probably a good idea to do thanks in reverse order of importance; an example list could include,

  • Treasurer for sorting out tickets etc.
  • Those who help setup & decorate the hall.
  • Whoever donated the raffle prizes (you could do this when you draw the raffle)
  • Caller and the other MC’s (if appropriate).
  • Catering Officer and anyone else who helped them.
  • People for coming, (mention where they came from if you’ve got people who have travelled some distance eg. from Aberdeen or Edinburgh etc.)
  • Whoever devised the programme.
  • THE BAND, for the Music.


Try not to overrun, but conversely try not to finish early; people have paid to have an evenings dancing. If the programme is planned well you should have time to repeat dances if people want them. Though be prepared to say NO when time is running short, even if everyone in the hall wants to and it’s going to make you unpopular; you don’t want to have to pay extra hire fees for overrunning. (This depends on how accommodating the hall owners are about you being late out). Thus it is important not to start repeating dances too early in the evening, to ensure that you have time to repeat danced later on in the programme; i.e. the last few. It might be a good idea to have a few `Extras’ available, i.e. listed on the programme, to slip in if time allows. Be sure to announce the inclusion of the `extra’ at least one dance in advance, so that people don’t get up with the person they asked for the dance you’re putting the extra in before. Remember to include time for an encore of the last dance and a polka, or whatever you’re ending the dance with; this can take more time than you might at first think.

The Band

One of the most important things is to talk and listen to the band! that way they know what`s going on and so do you.

  • Introduce yourself (i.e. as the President) and the other MC’s if there are any.
  • Tell the about how you’ve going to do things; i.e. who’s going to MC what section of the programme.
  • Check that they’ll play a short (8 or 16 bar) intro to each dance; then you announce the dance (eg. “Would you like to take your partners for the reel Mairi’s Wedding”; If there is something unusual say so eg. “would you take your partners and make square sets for The Eightsome Reel” or ” would you make up 5 couple sets for the reel Polharrow Burn”)
  • Check that they’ll play a “polka” or whatever you want to end the dance with at the very end; this is normally a “polka” (strictly speaking it’s not a polka it’s a `speeded up’ polka so make sure that the band are clear on what you want and mean) or `Auld Langs Ayne’.
  • Politely emphasise that you (the MC) will decide if a dance will be repeated, that way you can keep control of the time. Even if you just indicate the repeat by holding up a finger. (i.e. once each or once and to the bottom of the set).
  • Find out who the are, names and details, (write it down if needs be) and introduce the members of the band.
  • If you want to use one of their microphones to do the MCing with make sure they know in advance eg. let them know as the are setting up.
  • Make sure they are adequately “watered” during the dance.
  • Ensure prompt payment at the end of the dance so they can clear away and get home as soon as they wish; they often have further to travel than some of the dancers.

This document was written by Ian Thompson, with suggestions from Marion Peutherer (nee Garrett), Peter Hastings and Andrew Turnbull.