Feisty Women

Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland is delighted to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in traditional dance as part of the 10th anniversary of Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival running 3–9 June 2023 at Edinburgh Central Library.
We curated two unique events as part of the festival programme, entitled Feisty Trad Dance Artists of Ukraine  and Trad Dance Pioneers Past and Present. This is our first collaboration with the festival which in turn is a collaboration between Bonnie Fechters – Edinburgh’s own women’s group, Glasgow Women’s Library and City of Edinburgh Libraries. Every year the festival aims to highlight the important social contribution of women, especially those based in Scotland. This year the theme is feisty women. These are women, past and present, who have faced a challenge and risen to it.
Feisty Trad Dance Artists of Ukraine
5 June 2pm Edinburgh Central Library
Free Book now via Eventbrite here

For the first of our festival contributions to Harpies, Fechters and Quines, join us on  to meet two truly feisty women – Oksana Saiapina and Anastasiia Boiko, both originally from Ukraine but now settling in Edinburgh. Enjoy a set of Ukrainian folk dance duets, including  Hoptsa Dritsa, a dance full of humour and cheek, as well as Hutsulska, a dance based on a folk tune with Scottish motifs. Selected and performed by Oksana and Anastasiia, these trad dances of Ukraine culminate into Soul Flower – a choreographed dance, set to live music with lyrics by Diane Golde and composition by Kostyantyn Meladze. See the duo perform Soul Flower to the accompaniment of the Ukrainian Community Choir Oberig led by Karina Cherviakova, creating collaborative magic on stage.

Oksana and Anastasiia are both fresh from their debut at Scotland’s Pomegranates festival of international traditional dance 28-30 April 2023. Acclaimed as ‘stepping into tiny time capsules, Pomegranates was ‘where each culture’s traditions, passion and personality spread like wildfire, leaving a lasting impression’. Our Pomegranates festival was also where Oksana and Anastasia met, taught and performed for the first time together. Watch them teach at Pomegranates workshops.
After sowing the Pomegranates seeds and sequins this spring, we caught up with the two dance artists and Oberig choir leader. First  up, Oksana Saiapina said:
I am a teacher of Ukrainian folk dances. I fled Ukraine in the summer 2022 and settled in Edinburgh where I now teach. Back home, I worked for more than 15 years in a dance studio with children aged 3 to 15 years. The group under my leadership took part in international festivals winning many high-level competition awards. I am delighted to perform as part of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival, so soon after my debut at Pomegranates.”
Anastasiia Boiko said:
“I have been dancing since I was three years old, including ballroom, Ukrainian, folk, modern, historical folk dances…This year I will graduate from Serge Lyfar Kyiv Municipal Academy of Dance in Ukraine. Currently, I am based in Edinburgh and teach Ukrainian dances for children at the Ukrainian Community Centre (AUGB Edinburgh). I am really looking forward to my festival participation at the Harpies, Fechters and Quines, following the great start at Pomegranates”

Karina Cherviakova, professional singer and conductor, said:

“We are honoured to support the two dancers Oksana and Anastasiia with members of Oberig Choir at Harpies, Fechters and Quines festival. This is our first collaboration with Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and we are already planning our next. Although our choir was reinvented under the new name of Oberig (meaning ‘talisman’ in Ukrainian) in November 2022, it was established by Ukrainian emigrants who came to Edinburgh after the Second World War. Some of the founding members are still performing with us and we remain open for new members.”

Trad Dance Pioneers Past and Present 
7 June 1pm Edinburgh Central Library
Free. Book now via Eventbrite HERE
For the second of our festival contributions joins us for the launch of our new Trad Dance Cast episode produced especially for the 10th anniversary of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines festival. This podcast episode is dedicated to the pioneering dance artists from Scotland and beyond since 1805 till today, including Margaret Belford, Patricia Ballantyne, Ysobel Stewart, Jean Milligan, Natasha Khamjani and Kerry Fletcher.


Join us for an afternoon of trad dance performances and chat hosted by Trad Dance Cast podcast presenter Eleanor Sinclair, a trad dance artist and activist herself. Meet and hear from Margaret Belford, the legendary co-founder of Edinburgh International Dance Club. Enjoy a set of traditional dances taught by Margaret and handed over to the new generations of dancers. See them performed by Ziyun Li, Bingyu Shen and Shurong Su in traditional costumes handcrafted by Margaret. Join us to celebrate the role of women as tradition keepers and dance innovators in our contemporary world.


In the meantime, do check our first episode entitled To Begin the Dance Once More which features interviews with five trad dance artists, including film director Marlene Millar and curators Iliyana Nedkova and Wendy Timmons.

If Pomegranates festival demonstrated there’s more to traditional dance forms than meets the eye, we believe that our contribution to Harpies, Fechters and Quines festival will transcend the differences between cultures and genders and embrace the commonalities shared through the joyful explosion of folkloric echoes in our contemporary world.

Harpies, Fechters and Quines festival programme at Edinburgh Central Library runs 3-9 June 2023. See the festival Eventbrite page for details of all events taking place. These are free events for adults aged 18+ years. 


Images of Pomegranates festival workshops featuring Oksana Saiapina and Anastasiia Boiko. Images courtesy of Wangxiu Cheng and Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. 


Thisles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion


Once upon a time Edinburgh was struck by an awful pandemic and all theatres laid empty. Alexis and Ariana dreamed of dancing together on the stage. But they had to wait for their dream to come true until the theatres opened their doors for the first time since lockdown. The two dancers from the lands of thistles and sunflowers were finally reunited. Surrounded by dreamy landscapes and accompanied by a piper, they danced together for an in-person, socially-distanced audience.

See a dance segment from the launch of this initial Thistles and Sunflowers duet as part of the Thistles, Sunflowers and Dreamscapes an Edinburgh Fringe Festival solo exhibition by Diana Savova.

Building on their first momentous encounter in the hot, face-masked summer of 2021, Scottish Highland dancer Alexis Street and Bulgarian folk dancer Ariana Stoyanova developed and choreographed their initial pandemic duet into a fusion show which marked the finale of the Thistles and Sunflowers inaugural festival weekend on 29 May 2022 – an integral part of the Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

Find out more about the origins of Thistles and Sunflowers duet by tuning into these two interviews with Alexis and Ariana, lliyana Nedkova and Wendy Timmons


A year later, the Pomegranates Festival opening night on 28 April 2023 enabled Alexis and Ariana to revive, present and perform their extended version of the Thistles and Sunflowers show as a series of newly choreographed solos, duets and ensemble pieces drawing on the parallels between Scottish and Bulgarian folk dance traditions, regional variations and stories with live music accompaniment by Tsvetelina Likova (harp) and Robert Burns (bagpipe).

See the edited highlights of the Thistles and Sunflowers show as part of the Pomegranates Triple Bill and read the four-star review by WJQuins of The Quinntessential Review.



“A fitting choice to close the opening night of the Pomegranates Festival 2023, the result is an ambiable, gently choreographed international dance battle. No shade is thrown, only affection. Moreover, it’s fascinating to see how the music, and dance of two cultures shaped by the bagpipes both resemble, and diverge from, each other. The Highland tradition, built on precision and agility contrasted with the complex footwork and subtly rhythmic Bulgarian discipline certainly attracts one’s attentions shoe-wards. Of course in the end dance is a common language, and so Stoyanova & Street’s choreography ultimately sees the assembled dancers settle into a series of interwoven progressions. Paired with their ‘opposite’ numbers and dancing to a blended rhythm, the result is an uplifting and merrily synergistic finale!”
**** The Quinntessential Review

Dancers: Ariana Stoyanova, Alexis Street, Desislava Davidkova, Vesela Pandezova, Callie, Laris and Abbie
Musicians: Robert Burns and Tsvetelina Likova

Choreographers: Ariana Stoyanova and Alexis Street
Composer/Arranger: Tsvetelina Likova
Curators/Producers: Wendy Timmons, Iliyana Nedkova, Daniela Dimova-Yaneva and Eleanor Sinclair
Videographer: Barrie Barretto
Stage lights and sound: Roddy Simpson
Curatorial support: Daniel Abercrombie, Wangxiu Cheng, Ziqing Yin and Yan Hong

Co-commissioned and produced by the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland in partnership with the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. The world premiere at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on 29 May 2022 was one of the highlights of Thistles and Sunflowers Festival as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. The dance fusion was revived, performed and recorded on 28 April 2023 as part of the Triple Bill at the Pomegranates Festival of International Traditional Dance. Initial research funding was provided as part of Thistles and Sunflowers Festival by Tasgadh Fund for Traditional Arts devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.



Words by Iliyana Nedkova. Images courtesy of Barrie Barretto, Anna Dobreva and Kaloyan Bukovski


The Last Leaf on Earth


What would happen if there was only one leaf left on our planet? What would be the fate of the last remaining leaf? How fragile is our life compared to the power of nature?

These are just some of the questions at the heart of Yuxi Jiang’s new choreography entitled The Last Leaf on Earth. Based on an ancient Chinese folk dance, it is devised for Scottish and Chinese performers with costumes designed by Natalia Zhang. The lead dancer is Jorja Follina and live music by Toraigh Watson. The Shadow dances are performed by Wangxiu Cheng, Yan Hong, Qing Ji, Ziyun Li, Yujiao Miao, Huting Shi, Qiaoqiao Xia, Ziwei Yang, Ziqing Yin, Qianru Lin, Zingyuan Ma, Qinyuan Wang and Ziuan Li.


How did Yuxi embark on this journey of exploring the delicate balance between chaos and order, blending contemporary expression with traditional dance culture?

Well, we believe that the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland has contributed along the way.

Firstly, by casting Yuxi in the role of the climate refugee Bride, named after the daughter of Beira, Scotland’s old mother deity. Bride starred in our two new climate change choreographies for the stage and screen, entitled To Begin the Dance Once More and Dances with Ouds and Fiddles. Launched as part of our Pomegranates Premieres night, they both creatively reenact the mother and daughter origin stories of our planet Earth. The female creation myths visibly inscribed in the water cycles dominating the landscape around us – from the floodplains of the Nile in Egypt to the sea lochs of Scotland.

Catch the edited recording of the world premiere of Dances with Ouds and Fiddles and keep an eye for To Begin the Dance Once More on a film festival near you.

Secondly, alongside our festival partners at Hidden Door, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland co-commissioned The New Leaf on Earth. As part of the new choreographic process, we enabled Yuxi to start her research by reviving Wish Upon a Falling Star – an award-winning solo based on Chinese folk dance which she performed for the first time in Scotland as part of our Pomegranates Triple Bill. It provided not only a powerful start to our Pomegranates festival weekend but also a “fascinating opening to the night” of the triple bill receiving the four-star critical acclaim of WJ Quinn at The Quinntessential Review, who went on to say:

Yuxi Jiang is a spry, and capable dancer, her choreography dynamic and eye-catching. There’s more than a little theatre to this performance, a sense of a character on a journey. Indeed she made full use of the compact stage in the Netherbow Theatre, as she progressed to a whirling, sweeping conclusion. It will be truly fascinating to see how this work contributes to the larger show being developed.

Likewise, we are looking forward to seeing how Yuxi’s choreography will take roots in the dark forest environment of the Hidden Door Festival. How would we feel at witnessing the last leaf falling and what could we do to restore our fragile connection with the natural world?


The Last Leaf on Earth runs on a loop 31 May – 4 June 2023 daily at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm at the Hidden Door festival hub known as the Complex on Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh as part of their performance strand called Environments, set in a series of ex-office building spaces transformed into mountains, wastelands, forests and gardens, as well as the sea bed and the centre of the Earth. Further details on the Hidden Door Festival website here



Pomegranates Workshops and Promenade

Review by Inesa Vėlavičiūtė

A tribute to UNESCO’s International Dance Day and as part of Edinburgh’s Tradfest, the Pomegranates festival  premiered in 2022, celebrating traditional dances from around the world and explored their connections to contemporary hip-hop. Curated by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, a varied and inspiring programme was put together for the festival’s second edition this year, opening the festival weekend on 28 April 2023 with a dozen of thrilling dance workshops at St. Leonard’s Dance Studio, the University of Edinburgh. For those unable to attend in person, the livestream access worldwide enabled more happy feet to join in the fun.

Keeping the energy high throughout the day and an appetite for cross-cultural engagement, the participants found themselves in a rhythmic wonderland of 12 vibrant folk dances and melodies spanning almost all continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Wrapped in superb live music by the resident trad musicians Jon Bews (fiddle), Bernie Hewitt (accordion) and Nemo Ganguli (drums), the workshops invited dance practitioners and enthusiasts to embark on a rich movement journey, the unique aspects of which were captured on paper by the charcoal sketch virtuoso Gabriel Schmitz.

Led by over 30 local and international dance artists and choreographers based in Scotland, the event offered an opportunity to learn and appreciate their dances’ diverse cultural backgrounds as well as the historical, geographical and religious contexts they exist in. The introductions also reviewed how these affected the development of each dance and their evolving place within modern societies. After all, just as one would not understand a foreign language simply because it is human speech, one should not expect to understand foreign dance without some “translation”.

The explained and demonstrated basic dance steps and patterns gave the attendees a well-crafted gateway to experiencing each dance’s rhythmic qualities. Playing with the principles of movement, the participants explored many forms of folk dance art, including solo, couple and group routines, drawing parallels between the kinetic language of each, the stories they told and the social interactions they encompassed. The line-up showcased throughout the day included the following:

Old Time dances, Scotland with Pia Walker and Bernie Hewitt (accordion)


Rapper Sword Dance, Northern England with Kev Kev Theaker, Trina McKendrick, Neil Dawson, Tom Dight, Dot Lawrenson and Grace Emery (violin) of Mons Meg Rapper, Edinburgh


Ukrainian folk dance with Oksana Saiapina and Anastasiia Boiko



Romanian folk dance with Colin Mclennan and Bernie Hewitt (accordion)



Pizzica Pizzica dance, Southern Italy with Lara Russo and Michela Furin (also tambourine) of Italian Folk Connections, Edinburgh


Mongolian Chopstick dance with Yifeng Zhu


Romani Gypsy dance, Poland with Sonia Michalewicz (also vocals), Malwina Siwak, Kasia Siwak and Blanka Michalewicz of Romane Cierhenia, Glasgow


Indian Classical Bharatnatyam dance with Oxana Banshikova and Sahana Lakshmi Venkatesh (vocals) of Cosmic Dance, Edinburgh



The Bon dance, Japan with Heather Rikic and Junko Inaba




Yankadi dance, Zambia with Chinyanta Kabaso and Nemo Ganguli (drums)


Costa Rican traditional dance with Marianella Desanti of DansEd, the University of Edinburgh



Hip hop with Congolese roots with Kemono L Riot and Nemo Ganguli (drums)

Maintaining a focus on the interplay and subtleties of the expertly processed movements and the organic synchronicity based on rhythmic stepping, the Rapper Sword dance and dances from Ukraine and Romania dazzled with their technique of the intricate footwork and the breath-taking vigour of the dancer’s body at work. Other energetic dances with stylised footwork and infectious energy included Yankadi dance from Zambia, Romani Gypsy and Costa Rican traditional dances. Explosive, playful and sensual, they delivered a stream of intensely expressive sensations, deepening the body and mind’s ability to tune into micro-moments of wild harmony, the ebb and flow of the movements. Though choreographed, they felt spontaneous at the same time.

The Southern Italian tarantella also appeared to be part-improvised and free from rigidity, allowing imperfection to be part of the dance. Given the freedom of movement to respond to the beat, the participants took part in a healing and euphoric ritual of dancing in and within a circle. A real firecracker of the day, the workshop was complete with tambourine percussion and frenzied clapping.

The partner/couple dancing and partner exchange also featured in the Old Time Scottish, Ukrainian folk and Costa Rican traditional dances. The remarkable preservation of an ancient cultural and spiritual way of life was also revealed in the hypnotic Indian classical dance, delivering cathartic storytelling through movement and its symbolism. The slowly unfolding dramatic narrative spoke to humanity’s intrinsic need to bond with nature and the gods. The mystical beauty of this one-woman dance had a meditative quality to it, with the soothing and exhilarating sounds of the ankle bells and compelling singing enhancing the experience.

Another relatively slow dance with its elegant, dreamlike movements and balletic grace took the participants to the Mongolian steppes. The intriguing dance prop of the four red chopsticks tied together with a flag brought out the detail in the dance figures, so subtle yet so impactful. The workshop leader also encouraged everyone to be creative with how they used and interacted with the space when moving around. The Bon dance, popular within seasonal dance festivals and celebrations in Japan, was also performed unhurriedly, at a steady pace. It got people in sync, moving to the rhythm in perfect unison, sharing joy and bonding through a collective experience.

A perfect day’s finale – blurring the lines between contemporary hip-hop and its Congolese roots, the charismatic hip hop artist-in-residence Kemono L Riot inspired the dancers to enjoy the moment in the flow and fluidity of the dance. His sparkling energy created a communal dance party, thrumming with uplifting vitality and beaming smiles. He also fashioned a unique and visually stunning display of artistic expression by dipping into various dance traditions and fusing them with funky hip-hop rhythms and rhymes from the poet-in-residence Ian McMillan used throughout the promenade performance at the end of the festival. Showcasing an extravaganza of captivating dance steps and colourful costumes, all these phenomenal dancers came together on stage, inviting the audience to appreciate the diversity and beauty of their craft, as well as the friendship, connectivity and togetherness shared throughout the three days. Accompanied by the beats of a guest drummer Nemo Ganguli, the production’s execution was fantastic, creating collaborative magic on stage.

A joyful explosion of folkloric echoes in our contemporary world, the Pomegranates festival demonstrated there’s more to traditional dance forms than meets the eye. The workshops transcended the differences between cultures, embracing the commonalities shared through dance instead – from healing and religious rituals, through theatrical entertainment, to death ceremonies and ancestor worship. Engaging in these dances felt like stepping into tiny time capsules, where each culture’s traditions, passion and personality spread like wildfire, leaving a lasting impression.


Inesa Vėlavičiūtė is a translator, English Language tutor as well as visual theatre and puppetry critic. Currently, she is a Restorative Justice Development Officer at Community Justice Scotland.
Follow Inesa on Twitter @IVelaviciute

Images courtesy of Wangxiu Cheng, Ziqing Yin, Inesa Vėlavičiūtė and Yan Hong

Editorial support by Iliyana Nedkova



A Wee Guide to Intangible Cultural Heritage

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH for short)?
Simply put, you might know it as “tradition”. Essentially, it’s the stuff in our heads, our skills, our knowledge as communities and societies – very often that which is passed down through generations. It includes traditional songs, storytelling, dancing, customs and rituals, how we celebrate at different times of the year, and the things we craft from the environment around us – sometimes quite literally! Very often, these practices are expressed in local languages, such as Scots or Gaelic.

Sometimes these skills relate to buildings or making physical items, but it’s the traditional knowledge that is key. So while you might produce a basket, build a dry stane dyke or thatch a roof, it’s the skills and knowhow you have – which you probably learned from someone else in your community – that are the intangible bit.

Where does the concept of ICH come from?
You’ve probably heard about UNESCO World Heritage sites – those apply to the built environment: significant buildings or structures created by human hands that we want to look after, preserve and record for posterity. In Scotland that includes places like New Lanark, the Forth Bridge and the Old and New Towns in Edinburgh – all recognised by UNESCO.

In the 1970s, countries started to recognise that most international policy in this area was geared towards physical or tangible heritage. Who was looking after the folk songs, the dances, the stories and other cultural expressions of humanity? Famously, the government of Bolivia wrote a letter in 1973 outlining their concerns, highlighting what they saw as issues caused by globalisation and mass media relating to the exploitation of traditional cultures.

Part of the story goes back to a certain song called
El Cóndor Pasa, made famous by Simon & Garfunkel, but with a complex history amongst the traditional peoples of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. For more on that, see folklorist Valdimar Tr. Hasftein’s work here: Making Intangible Heritage (

Over the next 30 years, countries began to discuss frameworks for how to safeguard such intangible heritage. In 1989, UNESCO published its Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore, which paved the way for the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Just like built heritage, UNESCO has an international list of recognised ICH practices from around the world, including those at risk of being lost. Countries who sign up are asked to make their own ‘national’ lists of the ways of life and cultural expressions that are important to them.  

What else is it known as?
Some people would call it ethnology or public folklore, some might call it simply local traditions, or living culture. Folkways, folklife, the songs, stories, dances, customs, what we know about the environment where we live, our skills as craftspeople – they are all part of ICH.   

Why are we using such a fancy term?
Words like ‘folklore’ or their translations in other languages can often have a negative connotation for historical or political reasons; to avoid any misunderstandings, a more neutral term was decided upon. At TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland), we think because it is a recognised international convention, that we should continue to use the internationally agreed term, alongside our existing vocabulary on traditional arts and culture.  

How does UNESCO describe ICH?
UNESCO has identified 5 “domains” or categories of ICH.  

  • Oral traditions and expressions; including local languages as the mode of expression 
  • Performing Arts 
  • Social practices, rituals and customs 
  • Knowledge and practices relating to nature or the universe 
  • Traditional Craftsmanship 


Who decides what should be included as ICH?
Communities themselves decide on what they want to celebrate and safeguard as part of their local traditions. They can choose to put them on their national inventory and if they want to submit a particular practice to UNESCO for its world list of intangible cultural heritage. Ireland, for example, has its musical traditions of harping and uilleann piping inscribed on the world list, along with the traditional Gaelic sport of hurling.   

Who has signed up? What has Scotland / the UK done about it so far?
As of late 2022, 180 countries have ratified the UNESCO 2003 convention. Along with several majority anglophone countries, the UK has not yet signed up. However, in 2007 the Scottish Government indicated its desire to safeguard ICH in Scotland, and commissioned work to examine this.  

The most recent report on ICH in Scotland was commissioned by TRACS along with partners at Museums Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland; the report was published in 2021: Mapping Intangible Cultural Heritage Assets and Collections in Scotland – TRACS ( 

Although the UK hasn’t signed up yet, organisations can still apply for accreditation as advisers to UNESCO on ICH. In 2012, Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) became a registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) for ICH in Scotland. TRACS has recently submitted its own application.  

MGS hosts the site which will soon be enhanced to become a national inventory for ICH in Scotland. 

What are some examples of ICH in Scotland?
Oral traditions and expressions include: storytelling, bothy ballads, waulking songs, the Traveller languages Cant and Beurla Reagaird, the piping notation system called Canntaireachd 

Performing arts include: traditional music, song, dance, storytelling, clàrsach, piping traditions, Scottish stepdance, folk drama such as Galoshins 

Social practices, rituals, festive events include: First footing, the Burry Man of South Queensferry, Ba Games in the Borders and Orkney, town galas, guising, traditional foods, wedding ‘blackenings’ in fisher communities, Hogmanay, Beltane  

Knowledge & practices of nature & the universe include: superstitions of fisherfolk, plant lore, harvest traditions, weather predictions 

Traditional craftsmanship includes: instrument making, basket weaving, dry stane dyking, knitting traditions, boatbuilding, straw working, roof thatching

Some of the above is captured in online resources like Tobar an Dualchais. 

Why do we need to look after our ICH?
Organisations like TRACS think it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the kinds of local differences and distinctiveness that form part of our identities as individuals, families and communities. That means through our songs, stories, dances, customs and all the knowledge and practices that relate to where we live. Sometimes these practices are seen as everyday expressions or skills, “just something I do”, so they can often be taken for granted, and in time, become lost or forgotten. 

No matter where they started off, we believe that traditions are great tools for helping communities feel confident in themselves, better equipped to recognise local diversity and to positively engage with cultures from other parts of the world. 

What is TRACS’ role?
TRACS engages with ICH throughout its work with traditional arts, whether it be the Scottish International Storytelling Festival or the People’s Parish project, which helps local communities to tell the story of where they live. In 2023, TRACS has applied to UNESCO to become an accredited advisory organisation on ICH, with its vast expertise and networks in traditional arts, working with practitioners and communities.

TRACS’ work at policy level on Intangible Cultural Heritage ensures that traditional arts and crafts are kept on the agenda when it comes to government strategy and funding.  

TRACS and partners will form an ICH Advisory Group for Scotland, looking to formalise a national approach to ICH safeguarding but very much rooted in local communities.  

TRACS is co-hosting an ICH conference on 26 May 2023 at Birnam Arts Centre in Dunkeld. If you would like to attend and find out more about ICH, please book your ticket in advance (spaces are limited).

Eventbrite Tickets


Seeds and Sequins, Facts and Figures


Having sown the seeds and sequins of Pomegranates 2023 festival this spring – our second annual festival of international traditional dance, we are excited to share some of the facts and figures with you. We welcomed 74 artists to our stages, screens and dance floors – all from 30 diverse backgrounds, including Ukraine and Zambia.

We premiered nine commissions, including a screen dance; two projects with eleven new poems to dance to; two new choreographies for the stage and one for the screen; one artist residency leading to 45m of new dance drawings of charcoal on paper; our first ever podcast episode with five interviewees and a series of new video documentaries – all to be made available on our festival newsfeed, alongside our top reviews, booklets and more: Enjoy browing below for more pomegranates seeds and sequins or





Images from the Pomegranetes 2023 world premiere of Dances with Ouds and Fiddles by Barrie Barretto featuring Yuxi Jiang, Fengyuyi Jiang and Tianru Xu


Call for Scots to get involved in inaugural Scottish Folk Day

The first ever Scottish Folk Day will take place on Saturday 23 September, celebrating the country’s vibrant and varied folk scene, and offering a networking platform for musicians and artists at all levels to showcase their talents.

The pilot project is calling for people of all backgrounds and abilities to stage live performances and workshops, giving folk fans across Scotland and Europe the opportunity to connect with a wider, like-minded community.

Organised by Scotland’s Traditional Music Forum (TMF), Scottish Folk Day is running in tandem with European Folk Day, held on the same date, which has been conceived and coordinated by the European Folk Network. 

Organisers are encouraging anyone interested in folk music, from young learners to stalwart professionals; school classes to established bands, to do something to mark the new annual event.

Whether it’s hosting an in-person performance or participation opportunity, or recording and sharing a musical performance or rendition online, all contributions are eagerly welcomed. Folk fans can use the hashtags #ScottishFolkDay and #EuropeanFolkDay to showcase the breadth of activity taking place across the continent. 

David Francis, Director at Traditional Music Forum, said: “Folk music is a huge part of Scotland’s culture and heritage, and is still prevalent in the lives of many Scots today. Scottish Folk Day is a means of celebrating that history, and keeping the tradition alive by connecting people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds who share one common interest.

“All of us at TMF are thrilled to be running the event in Scotland on behalf of the European Folk Network, and can’t wait to see how individuals, groups or indeed entire musical communities come together to help us celebrate on Saturday 23 September. Whatever your ability, whatever your style, we want to hear from you!”

The traditional arts are an essential element of European cultural identity and diversity, in which millions of people work, create and actively participate on a daily basis. However they enjoy significantly less recognition than other art forms such as classical music, jazz or contemporary dance. European Folk Day aims to change this by offering a collective voice to the pan-European community, and highlighting the importance of folk-traditions in the European cultural landscape. 

Araceli Tzigane, Spanish Board member of the European Folk Network said:European Folk Day is a major new project directly initiated by the 150 members of the European Folk Network from 30 European nations – including a significant number of leading Scottish organisations, such as the Traditional Music Forum, which was one of the five founding members of the network.  

“In Scotland, as in every European community, the traditional arts are essential foundations of cultural heritage and identity. Participation in the European Folk Day will be a shared celebration, joining communities across Europe to increase recognition of traditional arts in all their diverse forms.”  

Scottish Folk Day is running in partnership with European Folk Day, which will see musicians from across Europe take part in performances or workshops in their local area.

The European Folk Day pilot project is open to traditions of music from any community within Europe, whether historically indigenous or newly-migrant. The event aims to highlight the importance of each and every European musical community, whilst supporting continued resilience through networking and digital communication.

The event has been coordinated by members of the European Folk Network with co-funding from the European Union via the MusicAIRE programme.

For further information on how to get involved, visit:

📷 by Kevin McGlynn, featuring Katie McEwan (Oban High School Pipe Band) and Gary Innes (Mànran)


Vincent Hantam

Did you know that Vincent Hantam – the choreographer of two Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland new productions – our screen dance To Begin the Dance Once More and the related live performance for three dancers and two musicians Dances with Ouds and Fiddles – will join us in-person for the post-show discussion as part of our Pomegranates festival on 29 April 2023 to mark UNESCO’s International Dance Day. Watch the teaser below and join us in-person, too by booking your seat on a Pay What You Can basis.



What is more, the former Scottish Ballet Principal Dancer and widely admired dance teacher at Dance Base, Scotland’s National Centre for Dance, will also perform on the night before as part of our Pomegranates Triple Bill on 28 April 2023 alongside Chinese, Bulgarian and Scottish dance artists and musicians.

Seize is this rare opportunity to see Vincent perform Steal Away and Pray – a solo dance choreographed by Jim Hastie, the late Artistic Director of Margaret Morris Movement International and a close friend of Margaret Morris, the dance pioneer who established Celtic Ballet in 1947, a forerunner of Scotland’s national dance company. See Vincent embody Jim’s choreography and the iconic natural, barefoot movement of Margaret Morris. The piece is set to the classic American Spiritual under the same title Steal Away and Pray dating back to 1860s.  Book now

The psychological and physical demands of Margaret Morris Movement are unlike any dance forms. My aim with Steal Away and Pray is to bring this historical and yet still practised movement with my own joy and diffidence for dance with the playfulness of just being natural.

Vincent Hantam

Ahead of Vincent’s live appearance as part of our Pomegranates festival weekend, tune in on Earth’s Day 22 April from 8:00 BST to hear our choreographer talk about his approach to devising for the screen and his experience as part of the creative team of To Begin the Dance Once More on Trad Dance Cast – our brand new podcast about traditional dance artists, ideas and trends from across Scotland and beyond.



Trad Dance Cast Launches on Earth Day 2023

Trad Dance Cast is a brand new podcast about traditional dance artists, ideas and trends from across Scotland and beyond. Produced by Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, Trad Dance Cast is hosted by Eleanor Sinclair, a trad dance artist, instructor and climate activist. 

The first episode is to be released on Earth Day 22 April 2023 inspired by the Mother Earth stories discussed by all five guests whilst shedding light on their involvement in the creative process of our new screen dance production To Begin the Dance Once More. Mother Earth Stories from Egypt and Scotland.

The conversation also explores how screen dance – an exciting and powerful genre of filmmaking predominantly employed in contemporary dance – could also bring world traditional dance to wider audiences and practitioners.


The studio guests for Trad Dance Cast inaugural episode are our screen dance curators and producers Wendy Timmons and Iliyana Nedkova, choreographer Vincent Hantam, storyteller extraordinaire Donald Smith and film director Marlene Millar.

Trad Dance Cast music theme Mason’s Apron Reel is by Scottish fiddle player, dance caller and theatre maker Mairi Campbell.

Trad Dance Cast was recorded and edited by sound engineer Jonathon Duncan through the in-kind support of our Pomegranates festival partner Edinburgh Tradfest. 

Trad Dance Cast visual identity features a portrait of our screen dance choreographer Vincent Hantam by the established Scottish photographer Barrie Spence.







  • THE STORY To Begin the Dance Once More highlights the plight for climate justice globally through the medium of dance. In the film we see climate refugees Isis, Beira and Bride, whose lineage stretches back to their namesakes, the Egyptian and Celtic goddesses of Earth navigate through a world of migration, displacement and uncertainty created by the global injustice of climate change. Read more


  • THE TEASER We launched To Begin the Dance Once More teaser on Global Day of Climate Action 12 November 2022 reaching out thousands of viewers on all our platforms. Ensure that you follow and subscribe to our Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland YouTube Channel. Watch To Begin the Dance Once More teaser here


  • THE PREMIERE Our screen dance production To Begin the Dance Once More is set to make its big screen debut, including a live dance performance entitled Dances with Ouds and Fiddles and a post-show Q&A with the creative team as part of our Pomegranates festival weekend celebrating international traditional dance on Saturday, 29 April 2023 7pm at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Book now. 


  • THE SCORE The new music we commissioned to underscore the choreography and cinematography of To Begin the Dance Once More is by the Scottish fiddle player and composer Jon Bews. To find out more about the creative process of scoring the film read Jon’s essay which was published by our friends at Traditional Music Forum Scotland.


  • THE POEM We launched our newly commissioned poem Beira and Bride by Donald Smith on #NationalPoetryDay 7 October 2022 as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories celebrating the bonds between traditional dance and poetry. Donald’s epic poem became the starting point for our new screen dance reimagining the mythological worlds inhabited by the Celtic and Egyptian mothers of Earth, including Beira and Bride. Read the poem now.