Scottish dancing in Doha

Richard Henderson on the Scottish country dancing lessons in Doha

Scottish dancing in Doha
Scottish dancing in Doha Image #2

So, what is it exactly?
There are different types of Scottish Dancing, but the type I focus on is called Scottish Country Dancing. It is performed in sets of four or more couples and is heavily choreographed. We tend to favour jigs and reels, which are danced at a lively tempo, but occasionally dance strathspeys, which are more noble and sedate.

How did this get started in Doha?
It was started back in the 1970s by a fellow Scot, Capt. John Bell, who ran it for many years until he retired four years ago. We’ve always held the classes at DESS, who have been very good to us over the years. He also held classes in Saudi Arabia as a way of relaxing, keeping fit and having fun.

How’d you get involved?
I saw an advert five years ago and decided to come along. I’ve danced in ceilidhs and weddings in Scotland many times but this was something completely new. I was terrible to start with but with concentration and practice I began to get better. I took over the running of the club four years ago and have introduced a lot of new dances to keep our repertoire fresh.

How hard is this? And by that we mean, are we going to fall on our faces?
I like the mental aspect of learning new dances; like cracking a code to see how it works. One of our more difficult dances, Bratach Bana, is a typical example; it has a few unique moves and it’s easy to conclude that the dance is completely random. But during the last move it resolves itself and you think to yourself ‘It works! How did that happen?’

No, seriously: how hard is this?

It takes a bit of practice to become familiar with the various moves, but with concentration and practice you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Some of the dances are more complicated and these take a bit longer to perfect, but we have plenty of easy dances to start with and regular dancers soon progress.

So why do this?
Not only does it give your brain a good work out, it’s good for keeping in shape, especially the lower legs. The regular dancers are very friendly and accommodating so it’s good socially. I also find it takes my mind away from pressures of work.
Is this the only kind of Scottish dancing?
There are other forms of Scottish dancing, such as Highland dancing (solo dancing, often around swords) and ceilidh dancing (mostly in single couples dancing round the room) but Scottish Countery dancing depends mostly on teamwork.
Do we have to be Scottish to come along?
Anyone who wants to take part is welcome to join in. I explain all our dances before hand and these are walked through slowly before doing it for real. We’ve had people from all over the world taking part, including Hungary, Germany, Iran, India, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Algeria, Korea, Colombia, Jamaica, Brazil, France and South Africa. In fact last year a group of managers from a Chinese bank in Doha came along wanting to learn a dance that they were to perform at their AGM. With the help of a couple of experienced dancers, we helped them through one of our simple dances and I prepared some notes for them to follow in their spare time. They returned the following week and danced perfectly, as they did at their AGM to a standing ovation!

Scottish Country Dancing lessons are held every Monday night at Doha English Speaking School from 7pm-9pm. QR10 per person.

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