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The Red Thistle Dancers Scottish Dancing and Music


If you're thinking about having a bagpiper at your event, consider adding some authentic Scottish dancing and music as well!  


Country Dancing, Highland Dancing, such as "The Fling" or "The Sword Dance" and live music are all options!  


Based in Palo Alto, California, The Red Thistle Dancers can even provide an easy audience participation portion of the program so that your guests can join in the fun!


Visit for more information or contact directly at

The Red Thistle Dancers - Scottish Country Dancing in Victorian Costume - Holiday Entertainment at Filoli Gardens, Woodside, California (2017)

Country Dance

Scottish country dance is the traditional dance of Scotland. It is based on ancient folk dances, mixed with elements of ballet, influences from the Royal court of France, and some overlap with Highland dancing. Scottish country dance was carried around the world by Scottish immigrants, and by Highland regiments. It remains popular world-wide,  in places as far away as Paris, Japan, and Moscow.


There is an extensive repertoire of dances, some over 300 years old,  many  newly (and cleverly) devised to incorporate intricate formations.  Dances include  lively jigs and reels and the distinctively Scottish, and very stately, Strathspey. 


There are dances for every occasion and theme.   "Mairi's Wedding, "The Reel of the 51st Division," "The Bees of MaggieKnockater," and "Roaring Jelly" are sure to delight both the dancers and audience.


Red Thistle Music became the official band of The Red Thistle Dancers in 2001.   Featuring the talents of Susan Worland-Bentley on fiddle, Michael Bentley on bodhran, vocals, and percussion, and Lyle Ramshaw on keyboard, the trio has played together for over 10 years, often in support of dance performances, but also in ceilidh and country dance settings, as well as music-only events and weddings.


All three members have been involved in the Scottish and Celtic musical tradition for many years here in the Bay Area, as well as touring throughout the United States and Europe. 


Red Thistle Music is frequently joined by guest musicians and singers for performances, including including Janet Kurnick on violin, and Calli Morrow on harp. 

Highland Dance

Highland Dancing, which requires the endurance of an athlete and the artistry of a dancer, is the traditional solo dancing of Scotland. Highland dancing is a competitive and technical dance form requiring technique, stamina, and strength, and is recognised as a sport by the Sport Council of Scotland.  The "Highland Fling," "Sword Dance," "Seann Triubhas," and, "Strathspey & Highland Reel" are some of the most well- known dances.


Scottish Highland dancing is one of the oldest forms of folk dance.  Modern ballet and square dance trace their roots back to the Highlands. In the eleventh or twelfth century, the Scottish Highland dances were highly athletic male celebratory dances of triumph or warrior dances performed over swords and spiked shield.  According to tradition, the kings and chiefs of Scotland used the Highland Games as a way of choosing the best men for their men at arms and highland dancing was one of the various ways men were tested for strength, stamina, accuracy, and agility. The Scottish military regiments used Highland dancing as one form of training to develop stamina and agility.  


The Sword Dances,   "Ghillie Callum" and "Lochaber" include dancing over two naked swords which are laid across each other on the floor, while the dancer moves nimbly around them.  Legend has it that on the eve of battle the highland chief would call out the clan’s best dancers, who would dance the sword dance. If the dancers successfully avoided touching either blade, then it was considered an omen that the next day's battle would be in the clan’s favour. 

Audience Participation

The Red Thistle Dancers can also provide an audience participation period, in which fun and easy dances will be taught and allow the audience to dance with our dancers!

For other Scottish Dance and Music Resources in the Bay Area, click here.

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