The most frequent dances on dance programmes


(as at 31 May 2018)

My name is Campbell Tyler, I have been a member of the International Branch for some eight years and have been interested in which dances appear most often on programmes for over 10 years. I decided to start capturing dance programmes into an MS-Access database in 2008 and now have 2 250 programmes contained therein.

I have only been able to do this through the support of all those people around the world who have provided the programmes that make up this database. I have now received programmes from 489 (up from 463 last time) clubs and branches world-wide. It has been suggested that I just access websites and take programmes from there but this involves such a lot of dead ends and wasted web-surfing that it is really not viable. I build my database by 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. 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 organising 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!

Of the 2250 programmes on the database 476 are from Scotland itself, 587 from the rest of the UK, 342 from the USA, 212 from Europe, 212 from Australia, 188 from Canada, 140 from New Zealand, 78 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. 
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.

2523 (up from 2384) dances have featured in these 2250 programmes, of which 1026 appear only once (40.6%). The most frequent dances (Pelorus Jack, The Montgomeries' Rant and Mairi's Wedding) appear on almost every fifth programme.

NB: This compilation includes a new list 16, showing dances from beginner friendly programmes only.

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 and I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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 160 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 75 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 160 most frequent strathpeys in programmes
  14. Dances that appear most often in the specific positions on the programme 1
  15. Most frequent dances by weighting 2
  16. Most frequent dances from Beginner Events 3


List 14 was created so that programme compilers could look for 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 The Montgomeries' Rant and “after the break” it is Pelorus Jack, while Shiftin' Bobbins is the most frequent “extra”.
List 15 is an alternative to List 1 and tries to counteract the sheer bulk of programmes in List 1 dating from early on which tends to work against dances that have only been published recently. 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 2017.
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 6 in this list is 54% higher up than its position in the Top 500 (13) 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 5 which might indicate that it has hit its ceiling.
Another example is Flora’s Fancy (93), a new entrant this time in List 15, having been 389 last time, and currently being only 306 in the Top 500. Clearly a new dance to be watched and added to programmes. (Miss Eleanor and Glastonbury Tor are similar.)
At the other end of the scale the bottom 7 have exited the top 100 and seem to be slowly losing popularity, although Wind on Loch Fyne is still 56 on the Top 500. Remember the Top 500 list treats each programme equally and doesn’t exclude programmes from 2008 to 2010. Of course, some of the differences are not nearly so easy to explain, but I put that down to “statistical noise” and hope you won't ask!
List 16 is a new list, in its infancy, and shows which dances appear on programmes of events that seem to be geared towards new dancers. I have 51 events which I have concluded are beginner friendly (mainly due to “Nice and Easy” or similar words in the event name), but thought to put it in for now and hopefully this will encourage people to contribute programmes from such events. Some of the dances that appear in this list are not what one would classify as easy, but beginner dances often include dances that will attract more experienced dancers to make up the numbers.
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