Gie it a birl

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It’s not often I agree with Tory MSP Mary Scanlon, but I’m right with her in her campaign to have country dancing (or ceilidh dancing as it’s popularly known) taught in all schools.

Recent research showed that 60-something women who did ceilidh dancing remained physically and mentally youthful into their 70s noticeably more than those who were equally active but undertook different forms of regular exercise, such as jogging, swimming or going to the gym. 

Ceilidh dancing provides an effective workout (I have this on the word of a sport-loving young German dripping with perspiration after his first Schottische). It exercises all parts: arms, legs, balance (as in when birling at speed), and spatial awareness (moving fast to whatever part of the set you have to be in next).

Ceilidh dancing can be “posh” and formal (as practised by the Royal Country Dance Association) or it can be informal and liberating (as practised everywhere else). The best description I have heard recently is “structured abandon”. Including it in the PE curriculum would tick another box in the requirement to teach more Scottish culture in schools. It’s a no-brainer! Let’s get them stripping that willow.


Circus Drive


TORY MSP Mary Scanlon’s proposed campaign to introduce (more correctly re-introduce) Scottish country dancing into all schools (your report, 1 February) is very welcome. However, the impression she gives that Scottish country dancing is somehow elitist is quite misleading.

Scottish country dancing is enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Here in East Lothian, we have weekly classes and monthly dances with live bands throughout the winter months. This scenario is replicated in many places throughout Scotland and further afield. Ms Scanlon would be made very welcome, or perhaps she should walk along Princes Street, Edinburgh, on a Monday evening during June and July and see ordinary people dancing in front of the Ross Bandstand in the gardens.

Recent research has shown that Scottish country dancing is one of the best ways of keeping fit, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, in recent years, it has been perceived as old-fashioned, something that older people do. The fact that it is not taught in school means that many people have no knowledge of the basic steps. It is more difficult for an older person to learn these, so Ms Scanlon’s initiative might not only promote physical and mental well-being, but also ensure that Scotland’s tradition of dance is kept alive.

Sheila M Chambers

Park Road

Port Seton, East Lothian