Highland Fling (form)

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HIGHLAND FLING. Flings are a category of Scottish tunes, though 'flings' also appear in Irish tradition primarily in the northern part of the island (see also note for "Highland"). The Scottish dance The Highland Fling is a solo dance (though there can be several individual dancers dancing it at one time) comprised of strathspey setting steps. Sometimes one or both hands are raised above the head during the dance, largely at whim of the dancers, and it is thought this convention came about for reasons of balance, though it has also been suggested that it may have derived from primitive sources and that the position imitates the horns of a stag (Flett & Flett, 1964). The "official tempo" for dancing a highland fling is 68 bpm. One "Highland Fling" was cited as having been played for dances in Orange County, New York, in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly), while another appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954.

Originally the term 'fling' or 'Highland fling' seems initially to have referred to a class of steps used in either duple-time hornpipe or reel time and sometimes in the group dance The Highland Reel. Elizabeth Grant, in her Memoires of a Highland Lady remembered taking dance classes in Kinrara on Speyside around 1804:

A dancing master taught us every variety of wonderful highland step...Lady Jane was very clever in the Gillie Callum and the Sean Trews, I a little behind her in the single an double fling, the shuffle, and hell-and-toe steps.


Additional notes





Recorded sources : - Edison 52395 (78 RPM), 1928, John Baltzell. {Baltzell was from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, the same town as minstrel Dan Emmett (d. 1904). Emmett returned to the town, poor, in 1888 and later taught Baltzell to play the fiddle}.




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