Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Foot Positions (As Used In Scottish Country Dancing)

Scottish Country Dancing is most distinctively differentiated from other derivatives of the traditional dances of Great Britain in the Footwork which is often described as being more balletic since the steps are significantly more complex than walking. It is also quite common to use the ballet terms for relative foot Positions.

In ballet, it is sometimes required for position 1 that the feet should be fully splayed out in line with heels touching, i.e., with the lines of the feet at 180° to each other as in this image.

Diagram, Ballet Dancer First Position
Ballet Dancer Standing with Feet in First Position.

However, Scottish Country Dancers never need the demanding, formal ballet Positions which are required of the professional or gifted amateur ballet dancer. For Scottish Country Dancing, the Foot positions required are much more modest: when standing, the feet should be splayed in the form of a V with heels touching; when moving, each foot should maintain the same angle of splay relative to the Dancer's Facing Direction.

The RSCDS recommends that the feet should be splayed at an angle of 90°, i.e., each foot 45° outward from the Dancer's Facing Direction. While this is fairly easy for the young and agile, it is unpractical for those coming to SCD later in life; for those whose joints are beginning to suffer from arthritic conditions, it will have become quite impracticable. A realistic solution is to recommend that Scottish Country Dancers keep their feet splayed at a minimum angle of 60°, which should be within the capacity of any dancer, retaining the RSCDS recommendation as an aspiration rather than a requirement. That having been said, any group of social dancers, especially when The set in which they wish to dance would otherwise be incomplete, will wholeheartedly welcome an experienced dancer who has become forced to walk rather than perform the correct Travelling Step as s/he would formerly have done.

Each numbered Foot position in ballet has an associated Position for the hands; this is in no way part of Scottish Country Dancing which has its own specific requirements (see Hand positions).


Foot Positions as Used in Scottish Country Dancing

There are five numbered Positions though the fourth of these has two variants; all represent the relative Positions in plan view at the end of a movement by one foot. Each Position may be qualified by the term "aerial" which means that the moved foot remains elevated: some need to be qualified by the term "front" or "rear" with the natural meaning for the moved foot relative to the stationary foot.

For all the succeeding diagrams, the angle of splay of the feet is shown as the more comfortable 60°. All are shown with the heels off the floor, as is the case whenever the Dancer is not simply Standing, waiting to move when required.

Foot Position 1

This foot position is used, but with the heels on the floor, while Standing; in the diagram, the heels are shown off the floor as is the case when about to move or at the completion of a movement.

Diagram, Feet First Position
Foot Position 1 as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Standing in Foot Position 1 (First Position) with heels off the floor, ready to move.


Foot Position 2

This foot position is used to define the end of a sideways movement as in beats 1 and 3 of the second bar of the Strathspey setting step and in beat 1 of Slip step to the left where, in each case, the left foot Finishes in second Position.

Diagram, Feet Second Position
Foot Position 2 as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Left Foot Moved to Second Position (from First Position).


Foot Position 3

This foot position is used to define the end of various movements: in beat 3 of the first bar of Skip change, beat 2 of the first bar of the Strathspey travelling step and beat 2 of the first bar of the Strathspey setting step, the left foot Finishes in third Position rear; in beat 2 of the first bar of Pas-de-basque, the left foot Finishes in third Position front.

Diagram, Feet Third Position
Foot Position 3 as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Left Foot Moved to Third Position Rear (from Fourth Position Rear).


Foot Position 4

This foot position is used to define the end of a forward or backward movement as in beats 1 and 3 of the second bar of the Strathspey travelling step and in beats 2 and 4 of the second bar of Skip change where, in each case, the left foot Finishes in fourth Position front.

Diagram, Feet Fourth Position
Foot Position 4 as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Left Foot Moved to Fourth Position Front (from Third Position Front).


Foot Position 4 Intermediate

This foot position is used to define the end of a diagonally forward or backward movement as in beat 4 of the first bar of Pas-de-basque where, the left foot Finishes in fourth Position intermediate front, aerial.

Diagram, Feet Fourth Intermediate Position
Foot Position 4 Intermediate as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Left Foot Moved to Fourth Position Front Aerial (from Third Position Front).


Foot Position 5

This foot position is occasionally used to define the end of a movement; in beat 4 of the first bar of the Strathspey setting step, the left foot Finishes in fifth Position rear, aerial.

Diagram, Feet Fifth Position
Foot Position 5 as Used in Scottish Country Dancing.
Left Foot Moved to Fifth Position Rear Aerial (from Second Position).


Dance Video Clip Which Demonstrates Foot Positions

First Position
Second Position
Third Position
Fourth Position
Fifth Position

Links To Pages Related To 'Footwork'

Footwork

Image Copyright Iruka (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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