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A closer look at Scottish country dance

What do kilts, couples and Earl Grey tea have in common? They were all present last Thursday at the Lorna Sundberg International Center. A large house set deep into University Circle, the center hosts a variety of cultural programs that include everything from English language help programs to cooking lessons.

Though often grouped with its British counterpart as seen in “Pride and Prejudice” movies, Scottish country dancing is notably quicker — done on an 8-count with frequent quick triple-steps and turning — and it is more relaxed than its southern relative. The dance is done in sets of eight people, and couples switch partners frequently, with handshakes, curtsies and smiles frequently exchanged.

The center’s Scottish country dancing program was a wonderful experience, beginning with a five-minute introduction to Scottish dancing while attendees munched on cookies and sipped assorted British teas. We then learned three different dances of varying structure, difficulty and speed.

Unlike most traditional dances, Scottish country dancing still enjoys vibrant popularity in its native country; most weddings and other big celebrations still include Scottish country dancing. The “Ceilidh” (pronounced Kay-lee) is the most widely practiced today, but this particular dance was too complicated for us to truly comprehend in our brief introduction.

The night was true to its roots, providing a profoundly social experience most programs only claim to provide. The repeated partner exchanging with one’s group of eight created a strong group camaraderie, and the couple teaching the class made everyone feel at ease with regular lively banter.

Though the instructors, Celia and Bob Belton, were at times disorganized, their 20 years of Scottish country dance experience shone through, and the overall learning experience was positive and enjoyable.

The center hosts a variety of programs throughout the year — and have already put on a belly dancing workshop and a Chinese Jajiang Mien cooking program this semester. The events are typically free and open to students, though some may require prior registration to reserve a spot. Anyone who wants to share expertise is also welcome to host a program.

For those interested specifically in learning Scottish Country Dancing, dances led by the Beltons are held in the Parish Hall of Saint Paul’s Ivy every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Though the first visit is free, additional visits cost a fee.

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