The Blue Fascinator - Tim Cockburn

There are general rules of conduct (with regional variations) for Scottish Country Dancing.  Whether at a local dance or attending a first ball, here are some general common sense rules, and typical polite behavior you can expect to see on the dance floor.

The following has been collected from the best practices listings from various Scottish Country Dance websites.  Thank you!


  • General Social Dancing Rules

    • Enjoy yourself!  

    • Arrive on time whenever possible

    • Friendliness and good fellowship are part of the good manners which Scottish Country Dancing promotes.  A pleasant smile, a friendly word, general mixing, and good spirits ensure a successful evening.

  • "May I Have This Dance?"

    • An invitation to dance may be extended by either a man or a woman. It should be worded in a clear and friendly way. A friendly hand may be extended to the partner.  

    • Lead or join hands with your partner to move to the dance floor.

    • Do not line up partners for all of the dances ahead of time.  Dance with a variety of partners throughout the event.

  • Joining the Set

    • Follow the instructions of the master of ceremonies who may redirect couples to complete sets.​​​
    • Don't pass up a set in need of a couple to join another one (or leave a set once you have joined it). 
    • Stay in lines and places while sets are forming, as it is hard to count couples if everyone is moving about. The first couple in a set traditionally counts off the number of couples lined up in order to verify that there are enough couples for all sets.  In a ball, the couple may walk the length of the set line, counting off couples to help verify.
    • Do not form new sets until the next dance is announced. This allows for a better exchange of partners and distribution of ability in sets, which is so important for a sociable evening.

    • ​Always join a set at the bottom, but avoid walking through the set to get there or to another set.

  • The Dance Briefing

    • Listen quietly during all instructions. If you have any questions, ask the instructor or master of ceremonies in an informal situation.  Avoid asking the other dancers. The question may also be of interest to others or can be disruptive.

  • After the Dance:

    • At the end of every dance, you should thank your partner (and potentially other members of the set) and clear the floor.  It is polite to walk or lead your partner off the dance floor.  

  • Partnering:

    • Be sure to ask a variety of partners to dance. Remember especially:

      • the person you came with

      • dancers frequently sitting out

      • women often dancing as men, or men often dancing as women

      • beginning dancers and visitors who need encouragement

      • the party MCs and class teachers, as a way of showing your appreciation for the evenings they have planned for your enjoyment

  • Dance Preparation

    • Notes, cribs, and "cheat sheets" should be studied off the floor if possible. Sociability on the dance floor should be prioritized.

    • At a party where notes have been circulated in advance, it is most courteous not to join in a set if one does not know the dance well, especially if it is a more difficult one. 

  • Post Dance:​

    • Dance programs are often be followed by:

      • Petronella Dance (a vigorous dance for the young or young at heart)

      • A waltz or other regional folk dance

      • Refreshments



For special events, although all of the above generally holds true, there may be special customs or regional expectations.  In some cases, dances may not be briefed.  In others, even walk throughs for difficult dances may be performed.   Here are some good guides for ball etiquette with special information sections on dress and other items.  Always be prepared for regional variations.

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