Casting A New Vision For Step Dance Education in Scotland

Day of Conversation & Professional Development

Perth Theatre | Sunday 24 February 2019


This gathering of step dance educators was hosted by First Footing artist-in-residence Nic Gareiss, the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland, Fèisean nan Gàidheal and the University of Edinburgh’s Moray House School of Education. It was attended by delegates from Aberdeen, Perth, Dunfermline, Edinburgh, Pathhead, Glasgow, Islay, Fort William and Skye – a rare opportunity to come together and cast a new vision for sustainability, preservation, creativity and community-building for traditional dance in Scotland.

The day included participatory step dance masterclasses with Nic Gareiss, a seminar on safe and healthy dance teaching practice delivered by Wendy Timmons, Director of the MSc in Dance Science and Education at the University of Edinburgh (see link below), step dance teaching feedback sessions (in which three teachers taught short 10-minute classes and received constructive feedback from their peers), an interview with Halifax-based step dancer Harvey Beaton via Skype, and facilitated group discussions around support and sustainability with Michelle Brady, Dance Network Co-ordinator for the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and Nicola Simpson, Senior Development Officer for Fèisean nan Gàidheal.



The Vision

Delegates were given a set of post-it notes and asked to write down their vision for the future of step dance in Scotland. This exercise informed group discussions and helped produce an overview that all delegates had contributed to.

This note represents all comments posted.


Support & Resources

  • Assistance with setting-up a community group.
  • Help with hall costs.
  • Umbrella organisation offering information and advice on child protection, insurance, data protection etc.
  • A listing of step dance groups / where it is being taught, so we can signpost if we get enquiries from people outside our own area.
  • Online forum, or way to maintain contact with other step dance teachers.
  • Information on foot exercises and appropriate warm-ups.
  • Online resources.
  • Subsidised opportunities to work with musicians equitably in both performance and teaching.
  • Access to archival material to source new repertoire.


Promote Participation

  • Promote the dance form as one for any age, ability or experience.
  • Forget performance, encourage participation.
  • Encouraging young dancers who’ve learnt through the fèisean to continue.
  • Make it less energetic for older adults (>50) to begin with.
  • Step dance workshops in schools.
  • How to overcome lack of connection; outright rejection and avoidance of own culture.
  • How to compete with social media. You can’t dance by text!


National Exposure

  • Advocate for step and traditional dance to be viewed on the same platform as contemporary etc… part of national initiatives.
  • Increased exposure of step dance for children and adults through more performance opportunities.
  • Dance should be better represented at festivals such as Celtic Connections.
  • Increased exposure of dance through main stream media equitable to traditional music, e.g. Na Trads.
  • Raised profile of step dancing so more people want to learn e.g. appearing on TV.


Connection with Music(ians)

  • Encourage live music, song and dance.
  • More classes for musicians to learn to play for dancing.
  • Traditional bands encouraging dance.
  • Encourage more musicians to gain experience of playing for dance.
  • More opportunity for young players to learn (with dancers).


Social Context

  • Social context for step dance.
  • An outlet/context beyond the classroom.
  • Dedicated space in music sessions – with an appropriate floor for dancing!
  • Step dance sessions.


Step Swaps

  • Step exchange meetings.
  • More opportunities for students to get together and share across Scotland.
  • Step swaps.



  • Taught creatively.
  • Creativity in the dance form.



  • Accreditation
  • Would be great to see an HNC in traditional dance, e.g. running alongside the traditional music course at UHI in Uist.



Critical mass?

Where does step dance sit? In the dance world? In the trad world? Straddles both?

Are there other successful models, e.g. Ireland?