FINDING A SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE
DANCE DESCRIPTIONS &
MINI CRIBS &
DIAGRAMS, OH MY!
A BEGINNER'S GUIDE
FINDING A DANCE
(descriptions, mini-cribs, diagrams, videos)
So, a dance or ball is coming up and you'd like to be ready. Or you've just learned a fun dance in a class and don't want to forget it. You've heard talk of dance descriptions, mini-cribs, diagrams, online resources, etc ... . Well, you may be wondering where to start.
Most social dances and balls will provide a preview list of dances on a program, often with an accompanying "cheat sheet" or "crib notes" in the form of Scottish Country Dance Mini Cribs (an abridged English description) or Dance Diagrams (a pictorial "hieroglyph" notation).
These different formats may or may not be sufficient for you, depending on your experience level and learning style.
More experienced dancers or dancers generally already familiar with a dance may prefer the Dance Diagrams format for its visual and compact nature.
There are several places to hunt down a dance and find it in different formats. Following are some of the most well-known online sources for finding lots of Scottish Country Dances plus other useful information.
Many of the special functions and features are duplicated amongst these wonderful sites. Try browsing them all!
Also known as My Strathspey, this database contains an extensive dance database, formations, devisor info, publications, music info, minicribs, videos, and Pillings diagrams, and tools for curating and creating dance programs and crib sheets
Over 5000 catalogued dances from A - Z along with mini cribs, videos and Pillings diagrams. Also, a comprehensive dictionary of dance terms.
A resource for sharing Scottish Country Dances This site is intended to be a blog for testing and receiving feedback on Scottish Country Dances.
Prolific devisor John Drewry - a collection, courtesy of RSCDS Leeds, some leaflet dance descriptions
A collection of minicribs that you can generate using a downloadable program - for PC users with some Mac support
Archived dances and diagrams from past editions of the F.L. Pillings publication
Need a dance suggestion for an upcoming holiday or Burns Night? Visit Scottish Country Dance of the Day!
A curated set of specially collected dances from the 1960's/70's that were not officially published - permission from devisors to display online.
So you're looking for a particular dance description or video of a dance, either for reference or to learn and practice for an upcoming dance or ball program?
Dances can be found online in the following formats:
Dance Description - detailed English description of the dance, often with explicit configuration notes, dance history, etc ... . Many dance descriptions are published in books, booklets, while others are only distributed locally. Dance descriptions are not generally catalogued in the online databases, and generally are obtained from original (published) sources.
Maxi/mini-cribs - an abridged version of the former, often with some short-hand notation, "1's" meaning first couple, etc ... . These descriptions are often catalogued in online databases, along with their corresponding Dance Diagram and example videos.
Dance Diagrams - a hieroglyph-like pictorial representation of the steps figures of a dance in a music bar format, often used as the "crib notes" or "cheat sheets" for dance programs. Using a notation already in existence, a collection of dance diagrams published in 1955 by F.L. Pillings, helped popularize the notation. Since then, diagrams for thousands of dances have been contributed to the central repositories by successors of F.L. Pillings and by many other dedicated community members over the years. Scroll down for a reference legend showing much of the standard notation.
Videos - for seeing the dance performed - either live or animations
Here are the following differing formats for the same dance - "Neidpath Castle."
(Note: this description also contains configuration hints, using Dance Diagram notation)
(click to visit this description on the Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary)
STILL CAN'T LOCATE A DANCE?
Can't find a dance in the Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the Scottish Country Dancing Database? Try the other repositories in the ONLINE RESOURCES above.
Still can't locate it?
If the dance is listed in the Scottish Country Dance Database but there is no current dance description, use any of the following to search further:
the email contact information (if any)
devisor name (or RSCDS branch information)
dance title or publication book title as hints as to the origin of the dances.
Try google search with the dance title and "Scottish Country Dance" as a search term. Some devisors have made special repositories online for their dances.
Try appealing to individuals. If you can identify the dance devisor, try contacting them through the contact information in the online databases or querying their home branch or dance organization at their respective websites or social media hubs.
Use the power of crowdsourcing by asking a Scottish Dance Teacher via the Scottish Dance Teachers facebook group.
For published dances, locate the publication in one of the larger Online Bookstores for Scottish Country Dances.
Notes to ponder:
Although many refer to all dance diagrams as "Pillings' Diagrams," this is not strictly correct as the diagrammatic notation was already in existence when F. L. Pillings published a popular collection of diagrammed dances in 1955. Many thousands of diagrams have been since created by devoted supporters of the dance community. Please note the correct attribution for any published diagrams.
When reading a diagram, note that it is drawn with respect to the men's side, or the man's point of view as he stands in the set. The "top" of the dance is at the left-hand side.
Men are represented by the round circle, ladies by the square!