The most frequent dances on dance programmes


(as at 31 December 2019)

My name is Campbell Tyler. I have been a member of the International Branch for some nine years. I decided to start capturing dance programmes into an MS-Access database in 2008 and now have 2750 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 received programmes from 518 (up from 496 last time) clubs and branches world-wide, although some of them only once or twice

It has been suggested that I just access club and branch 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. 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!

Of the 2750 programmes on the database 536 are from Scotland itself, 628 from the rest of the UK, 486 from the USA, 228 from Europe, 269 from Australia, 291 from Canada, 172 from New Zealand, 102 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.

2850 (up from 2722) dances have featured in these 2750 programmes, of which 1159 appear only once (40.8%). The most frequent dances (The Montgomeries’ Rant, Pelorus Jack, Mairi's Wedding, Reel of the Royal Scots and De'il Amang the Tailors) each appears on almost every sixth 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.

NB — Apart from List 1, alphabetical order is used to split tied entries.

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). The Montgomeries' Rant and Pelorus Jack have again swapped top postions, whilst Joie de Vivre has re-entered the top 10, at the expense of Hooper's Jig. City of Belfast continues its impressive climb in the top 100. This is a slowly changing list because of the sheer number of programmes, which favours the longer-established dances. See List 15 for an alternative way of calculating the order.
  2. The 200 most frequent dances in programmes from Scotland
  3. The 250 most frequent dances in programmes from Great Britain excluding Scotland
  4. The 175 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 100 most frequent dances in programmes from Canada
  8. The 75 most frequent dances in programmes from New Zealand
  9. The 50 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.
    This shows how specific dances are ignored or super-popular in one region compared to the other regions.
  11. The 200 most frequent reels in programmes
  12. The 200 most frequent jigs in programmes
  13. The 175 most frequent strathpeys in programmes
  14. Dances that appear most often in the specific positions on the programme
    This 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 30% of the programmes I have received. So more than every fourth programme has one of Mairi’s Wedding (top with 291 occurrences), De'il Amang the Tailors (269) and Reel of the Royal Scots (254) as the last dance of the evening. Add Reel of the 51st and The Montgomeries' Rant to that and we are up to 40%. Hooper’s Jig with 118 occurrences stands out at the top of the list of dances chosen to start off programmes, although EH3 7AF is narrowing the gap. 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”
  15. Most frequent dances by weighting
    This 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 2014 are excluded and those from 2015 have only 20% of the weighting of those from 2019.

    There are a number of columns in List 15 that need explanation:

    • First is the weighted score of each dance.
    • Then comes the dance’s rank in the previous list of December 2018.
    • Then there is a percentage showing how much it has moved, with a positive percentage being a move up, and a negative percentage a move down.
    • I have also added columns showing the rank of the dance in the Top 500 (List 1) and the % difference between its List 15 and List 1 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 recent dances that are proving popular are A Capital Jig (24 in this list, 58 in the overall list), Miss Eleanor (34 and 186 respectively), Midsummer Common, Granville Market and The Kissing Bridge.

    Dances losing popularity can be measured in the opposite way, such as Ian Powrie’s Farewell to Auchterarder and Polharrow Burn, although they still feature well in the List 1.

    Right at the bottom one can see that Clutha, West’s Hornpipe and Black Mountain Reel are doomed to exit next year.

  16. Most frequent dances from Beginner Events
    This is the second appearance of List 16 and shows which dances appear on programmes of events that seem to be geared towards new dancers. I have 89 events which I have concluded are beginner friendly (mainly due to “Nice and Easy” or similar words in the event name). It is still in its infancy, as can be seen by the big leaps in order from its previous publication, but 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 events often include dances that will attract more experienced dancers to make up the numbers. These are also likely to drop out over time.
Web design by Chris Harris
© RSCDS International Branch 2018-2022
View our privacy statement