Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
alert-–-scottish-country-dancing-gets-a-very-modern-makeover-as-new-etiquette-guide-tells-dancers-‘no-means-no’-and-‘don’t-assume-your-partner’s-gender’Alert – Scottish country dancing gets a VERY modern makeover as new etiquette guide tells dancers ‘no means no’ and ‘don’t assume your partner’s gender’

For generations, Scots have birled their partners around the dance floor for The Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow.

But ceilidh dancing is to get a very modern makeover to tackle the issues of gender identity and consent.

An etiquette guide has been published by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) to create a ‘safe, comfortable and inclusive place to dance for all’.

In a move that may surprise the traditionalists, there will no longer be a defined men’s or women’s ‘side’.

Dancers will instead be encouraged to ‘explore dancing on both sides’ and have been warned not to make assumptions about which side an individual should dance on because of their perceived gender. 

Scottish country dancing guide aims to create a ‘safe, comfortable and inclusive place for all’

And to ensure consent between partners, the guidance reminds people that they can decline to dance if they want to.

‘If you don’t want to dance with someone, you can say “no, thank you” and you don’t need to explain,’ the official Etiquette Guide on the RSCDS website states.

‘You may then ask or say yes to someone else, if you want to, and you can stop dancing with anyone at any time.

‘If you ask someone to dance and they say no, respect the decision. No one is obliged to dance with you.’ Dancers have also been reminded to respect ‘personal boundaries and personal space’ and apologise if they bump into someone. 

They should also be sure to ‘seek prior agreement’ with a partner before adding extra birls or twirls.

The guide states that feedback should never be given on a partner’s dancing ability unless specifically requested and dancers should not point out mistakes.

Any sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist and racist language has also been strictly outlawed and dancers are reminded that any ‘inappropriate’ behaviour should be immediately reported to the event organiser.

Gary Coull, chair-elect of the RSCDS, said: ‘Scottish country dancing has always been inclusive and it’s one of the few forms of social dancing where you don’t need to turn up with a partner.

‘We are always keen to encourage new people to join us on the dance floor and experience the joy that Scottish country dancing brings us.

‘Therefore, we wanted to create some guidance to ensure it’s known that Scottish country dancing is for everyone and that it is a welcoming environment for all.

‘We want everyone to have a great time when they come dancing as well as make sure Scottish country dancing continues to be the inclusive, healthy, social activity it has always been.’

He added: ‘We welcome everybody regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, physical appearance or employment status.’

The RSCDS, which has more than 9,500 members, celebrates its centenary this year. It issued the protocol ahead of its 2023 Autumn Gathering next month, which will see ceilidh enthusiasts from across the globe – including Hawaii and New Zealand – travel to Glasgow, where the society was founded.

The three-day event at the Kelvin Hall runs from November 3 to 5.

In a bid to attract younger members, the society has offered under 35s a £10 discount on £85 weekend tickets.

It is not the first occasion on which the RSCDS has moved with the times. In 2015, people from across the world were invited to submit ‘imaginative, creative and progressive’ reels, jigs and Strathspeys to be considered for a new Scottish country dancing book aimed at young people.

The society has also compiled a manual of ‘approved’ moves and admitted it was ‘open-minded’ and looking to pop music and break-dancing for inspiration.

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