Although it should properly be called Scottish Country Dancing, since 'reeling' describes only a subset of the most common dances, most people have come to know it through this title. The origins of the dances themselves are at best vague. The symbolism behind the movements is thought to hint at ancient druidic roots, with other influences coming from French and English court dancing. The form is thought to have been popularised during the 18th century when the Lairds of the North began to hold dances in their local halls.
The first large southern dance took place in London in 1849 when the then Duke of Atholl set up the famous Caledonian Ball, a charity event that has now grown into one of the most popular balls of its type, hosting around 1,000 guests and raising £45,000 last year alone.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the popularity of reeling saw a dramatic decline. However, over the last 80 years or so, thanks in part to the hard work of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, smaller Caledonian Societies (or Cal Socs) have been set up around the country, and can now be found in most major towns, cities, and universities.
Below are tutorials on some of the most common dances. With thanks to John Carver and London Reels for kindly giving their permission for us to reproduce their videos here.