Spirit Of Scotland
Originally only men were allowed to do these dances. In the late 19th century a young girl (10 years old) named Jenny Douglas decided to enter a Highland dance competition. As this was not expressly forbidden, she was allowed to enter. It was a shock for everyone when the first female Highland Dancer took to the platforms to do battle with the men. She made so much of an impact on the scene, dressed exactly as the men, that shortly afterwards other ladies took up the idea and the seed was sown.
They adopted the look of a male soldier, with military dress and with their hair pulled up and off the neck in a high bun or a French braid. This also gave the dancer a clear view, allowing them to maintain the correct body alignment throughout the dance. Later during the World Wars, women began dancing more often desiring to preserve their rich culture and history, while the men were defending their homeland. Since then the number of females participating in the sport has increased until today in excess of 95% of all dancers are female.
In 1952, the Aboyne Games sponsored a more feminine costume for girls based on seventeenth and eighteenth century Highland dress for women as seen in portraits of Flora MacDonald. Ladies’ dances such as Flora MacDonald’s Fancy, the Scottish Lilt, and the Village Maid, were introduced to the repertoire as ‘national dances’, to offer hand movements where ladies would hold their skirts and, above all, more feminine dances using a softer, more balletic style rather than the more military style used by the earlier male dancers.