The Tomintoul Games sees a variety of dances, each competed in age classes. Here is a brief description of each:
Highland Fling - One of the oldest solo highland dances and a favourite of the clansmen in bygone days. Although a lively dance it was always danced in limited space, with the warriors dancing on their upturned targes (shields). The steps imitate a stag cavorting on a hillside with the raised arms signifying the antlers.
Sword Dance or Ghillie Callum - This is probably the most spectacular of the highland dances being performed over crossed swords as a dance of war. It dates to the time of King Malcolm Canmore (1058–1093). Ghillie Callum was a Celtic prince who supposedly killed a chieftain of the Clan MacBeth then crossed his own sword over that of his enemy and danced triumphantly over them in the manner so well known today.
Seann Truibhas (pronounced ‘shawn trews’ and means old trousers) - This dance is supposed to date for the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when the Hanoverian Government banned the playing of pipes, the bearing of arms and the wearing of the kilt in the Highlands. The Highlanders resented wearing trousers and showed their displeasure in the kicking and shaking movements captured in this dance. The final, triumphant kick is a celebration of a return to wearing the beloved kilt.
Reel o’ Tulloch - This dance is for four. The dance reenacts the dance of cold Parishioners from Tulloch as they tried to keep warm while awaiting the minister. He was so appalled that they danced on the Sabbath that he cursed the villagers he saw none of whom lived beyond a year!
Flora MacDonald’s Fancy - Flora MacDonald was the girl who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape from Benbecula to Skye disguised as her maid ‘Betty Burke’ following the defeat of the Highland Army at Culloden in 1746. The dance was choreographed in her honour.
The Scottish Lilt - This light hearted jig celebrates Scottishness and is performed in unique 9/8 time.
The Sailor’s Hornpipe - This dance depicts the movements of sailors including pulling ropes, climbing the rigging and looking out to sea. A costume akin to a sailor’s uniform is worn by both male and female dancers.
The Irish Jig - This is an amusing dance recounting an Irishman giving a pair of leather britches to a washer-woman for cleaning. Because the trousers shrunk the movements of the male signify his discomfort and rage, while those of the washer-woman show her anger at having her professional skills questioned.