(as at 31 May 2017, when I had captured 2000 programmes)  

These lists have been compiled from a database of dance programmes that are submitted to me by contributors from all over the world.  I have been recording programmes from events held since 1 January 2008 and there are now 2000 programmes on the database.  There are 423 from Scotland itself,         510 from the rest of the UK, 287 from the USA, 211 from Europe, 199 from Australia, 159 from Canada, 128 from New Zealand, 68 from South Africa, and 15 from Japan. 

The programmes are classified by country, province (or state, county or whatever is appropriate to the country) and town.  The date of the event, which club or branch organised it and the approximate number of dancers is also recorded.  Each dance can have the following information recorded on it (although this work is still in progress) – its category (reel, strathspey, jig, medley, hornpipe, other), its type (number of bars, repetitions, couples, shape), the devisor, and in which collection it is published.  

For each event the dances that were featured on the programme are recorded, as well as which one was First, which one was Last, which was Before a break (if a break is indicated), which was After a break and finally which were down as Extras.

This is an appropriate point at which to thank those people around the world who have provided the programmes that make up this database.  I have now received programmes from 463 (up from 439 last time) clubs and branches world-wide since I started collecting programmes in 2008.  It has been suggested that I just access websites and take programmes from there.  This involves such a lot of dead ends and wasted web-surfing that it is really not viable.  Getting emails from people who are prepared to take the time to send me the programme of the dance they have just attended or ones in their area is how I build my database.  However, the innovation of being able to compile lists on the Strathspey Server provides a convenient way to inform me of programmes in your area.  Just give me the number of the list and a few extra items (the club organizing it, its location, the date of the dance and if possible the approximate number attending).   There are some digests that give the programmes for a particular area and these too are useful.  Special mention must be made of Canada, which has a particularly dedicated group of people sending me programmes.  Thank you!

2384 (up from 2232) dances have featured in these 2000 programmes, of which 982 appear only once (41.2%). The most frequent dance (Montgomeries Rant) appears on almost every fifth programme.  


Please feel free to write to me to suggest additions, to ask questions, to point out errors, to provide programmes, or just to say hello.  My email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I live in Cape Town, South Africa.  I have been a member of the International Branch for seven years now.

The lists you will find on the site currently are:

  1. The 500 most frequent dances in all the programmes recorded (note that where the dances have the same frequency, then they are listed alphabetically, apart from the first 100 where, if there is an equal number of frequencies then the dance that reached that frequency first is listed first).  This is a pretty stable list these days, with the top 6 dances way out on their own and unchanged in order.    
  2. The 200 most frequent dances in programmes from Scotland (the note above does not apply to this or other lists, where alphabetical order is used to split tied entries)
  3. The 200 most frequent dances in programmes from Great Britain excluding Scotland
  4. The 150 most frequent dances in programmes from the USA
  5. The 100 most frequent dances in programmes from Australia
  6. The 100 most frequent dances in programmes from Europe (excluding Great Britain )
  7. The 50 most frequent dances in programmes from Canada
  8. The 50 most frequent dances in programmes from New Zealand
  9. The 30 most frequent dances in programmes from South Africa
  10. The regional variation of the dances that appear in the top 10 of at least one region
  11. The 200 most frequent reels in programmes
  12. The 185 most frequent jigs in programmes
  13. The 170 most frequent strathpeys in programmes
  14. Dances that appear most often in the specific positions on the programme$
  15. Most frequent dances by weighting*

$ List 14 was created in response to a request that the information be recorded so that programme compilers could have a resource to suggest appropriate dances for key positions in the programme.  The one position that has come up with the most interesting result is the last dance on the programme.  Astonishingly, THREE dances between them occupy this position on over a quarter of the programmes I have received.  So every fourth programme has one of Mairi’s Wedding (top with 196 occurrences), Deil AmangTheTailors (174) and Reel of the Royal Scots (158)as the last dance of the evening.  Add Reel of the 51st, Montgomeries Rant and Irish Rover to that and we are up to 40%.  Hooper’s Jig with 90 occurrences stands out at the top of the list of dances chosen to start off programmes.  The “before the break” dance of choice is Montgomeries Rant and “after the break” it is Pelorus Jack, while Shiftin Bobbins is the most frequent “extra”.

*List 15 is compiled to counteract the “deadweight” nature of the sheer bulk of programmes dating from early on which tends to work against more recent dances that have only appeared in the last few years in List 1.  So List 15 is compiled taking into account the date of the programme and the number of dancers attending.  Dances appearing on a recent programme with many dancers attending score higher than dances appearing on an old programme with fewer dancers.  In this list programmes from 2008 to 2010 are excluded and those from 2011 have only 10% of the weighting of those from 2016. (I have still to catch up on 2017 programmes, coming shortly!)

*In List 15 I have shown the relative rankings of the dances in brackets where they appeared twelve months before.   I have also added columns showing the rank of the dance in the Top 500 (List 1) and the % difference between the two rankings.  Taking all these columns together one can get a fairly good idea of whether dances are gaining or losing popularity, and which have stabilised.

So for instance Scott Meikle at 5 in this list is 69% higher up than its position in the Top 500 (16) which shows that it is a fairly recent addition and will move up the Top 500 further over time.  But its previous rank in this List 15 was 4 which might indicate that it has hit its ceiling.

Another example is Gaelforce Wind  (95), a new entrant this time in List 15, having been 148 last time, and being only 281 in the Top 500.  Clearly a new dance to be watched and added to programmes.  (Compleat Gardener is similar.)

At the other end of the scale Gothenburg’s Welcome (87) and St Andrew’s Fair (88) seem to be slowly losing popularity, having dropped from 70 and 78 respectively, although on the Top 500 they sit at 64 and 65.  Remember the Top 500 list treats each programme equally and doesn’t exclude programmes from 2008 to 2010.

Does anyone think that the numbers suggest Mairi’s Wedding is finally losing popularity, even if slightly?  (Perhaps if they sorted out passing left and right shoulders it would recover???)

Of course some of the differences are not nearly so easy to explain, but I put that down to “statistical noise” and hope you wont ask!

Additional information