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The Schottishe Dance with variations

  • Contents: The Swedish traditional dance Schottishe with variations
  • Description
     Dance Instruction: The Schottishe Dance with variations 
     Target Audience: Experienced dancers
  • Author:
  • Genre: Dance (Swedish ´Gammaldans`)
Schottische in Alvik/Sweden March 25, 2006


The Basics

The basic Schottishe dance contains the following footsteps:
Bar 1,2 = Schottishe steps forwards
Bar 3,4 = Snoa steps - two clock-wise turns

The Schottishe step - comprehensive description

Bar 1: Outer foot (quick), inner foot (quick), outer foot (slow), or more seldom outer foot (quick) + hop (quick).

Bar 2: Inner foot (quick), outer foot (quick), inner foot (slow), or more seldom inner foot (quick) + hop (quick).

During the last part of the bar the leader starts closing the position by moving into the front of the follower, making a half turn clockwise.

At the beginning of bar 3 the couple will be in a closed held position with the leader heading backwards.

The steps are today mostly leveled, but could also be danced with a small hop on beat 4

The Snoa step - comprehensive description

The Snoa contains one step on each beat (with Snoa music) or each second beat (with Schottishe music) backwards/forwards in a closed position, with turns 180 degrees clock-wise on each step.

One foot is normally lifted while turning on the other, although some dancers keep contact with the ground on both feet for shorter or longer periods.

In the Schottishe dance, as opposed to the Snoa dance, the snoa turn may be accompanied by a small hop on each foot. This is however less common in the social dancing environment today.

At the end of bar 4 the leader opens up the position again by slowing down his own turn so the couple once again become headed forwards, side by side.


The style in schottishe can be smooth or elastic, expressing the style of the music.

Although hops on beat 4 in the schottishe steps and at beat 2+4 in the snoa steps were common when I was young, these are rarely used today, may be with the exception for contests.

The schottishe steps are mostly danced either side by side or in a closed position. The schottishe turns can be clockwise or counter-clockwise.

When dancing counter-clockwise, both the schottishe steps and the snoa steps are danced with the leader´s left foot outside the follower´s, in the same position as in the clockwise turns.

The schottishe is the gammaldans that is easisest to vary. By avoiding to repeat the same pattern or the basic steps several times after each other, the dance becomes more varied and enjoyable, both for yourself, your partner and for those looking at you. This is as true with the schottishe as with any other dance.


Outer is here normally referring to the left side for the leader, the right side for the follower.

Turns outwards are thus counter-clockwise for the leader, clockwise for the follower.

Beat notation used for pictures: [bar]:[beat]

Example: 3:2 is the notation for the second beat in the third bar.

Fractions (decimals) for beats might be used.

The Schottishe dance - variations

As the schottishe dance is fairly easy to learn, after some time it should be inspiring to find ways to get the dance more varied.

And fortunately, the dance itself is very well aimed for this!

Below is included many of the variants I practice. Some of them I have found out myself, while other have been picked up from dance instructions - not seldom from other dances than the schottishe.

Closed Hold

The Schottishe steps can be danced with a closed hold as in the Snoa. In other words, the follower is dancing with her face and body headed against the leader all the time. The variant can be altered by starting with the back or the face in the dancing direction on the first bar, and can be danced with or without turns - a half or a whole turn on two bars - clockwise or counter-clockwise. The turns with Snoa steps on bar 3 and 4 can also be clockwise or counter-clockwise.

Here follows an example, danced over sixteen bars:

Bar 1-4: The leader starts forwards. The Schottishe steps are danced one full turn clockwise, the Snoa steps on bar 3 and 4 are danced with two full turns. End this piece with the leader headed forwards, the follower headed backwards.

Bar 5-8: The leader starts forwards. The Schottishe steps are danced counter-clockwise one full turn, the Snoa steps are danced counter-clockwise one and a half turn. The leader takes the last Snoa step backwards. Thus this piece is ended with the leader headed backwards, the follower forwards.

Bar 9-12: The leader starts backwards, and dances the Schottishe steps backwards. The Snoa steps are danced counter-clockwise one and a half turn. The last step the leader is dancing forwards.

Bar 13-16: The leader starts forwards, and dance the Schottishe steps forwards. The Snoa steps are danced clockwise two turns.


The Schottishe is mostly danced over four bars and with two or three turns, with none or one turn on the Schottishe steps, and two turns on the Snoa steps.

The order between the Schottishe steps and the Snoa can however be altered without breaking the four bars' pattern as follows:

  • two Schottishe, two Snoa (basic pattern)
  • four Schottishe
  • four Snoa
  • one Schottishe, three Snoa. This leads to that the follower takes the leader's position. Try changing roles between leader and follower using this variant. In some melodies, e.g. from Roslagen, the music has in some places one extra beat in a bar. In such cases this variant can also be used to do one extra turn, thus keeping the relative position after the extra beat
  • three Schottishe, one Snoa. As above
  • one Schottishe, two Snoa, one Schottishe - this leads to dancing the snoa on the opposite beats

I use the last variant rather often. All the combinations above can be danced both clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Triple Time

Dancing the Schottishe step for just one bar in a closed position while turning together results in that the next foot to use is exchanged as well as the relative position between the leader and the follower.

The same result but using more energy and speed can be achieved by turning one and a half turn rather than just one half turn for each bar. This does of course require more momentum and speed. The leader has to provide this momentum by accelerating at the end of the bar that precedes the variant.

Because three steps are used in the turn, I have here referred to the variant as a triple time turn. When the variant runs smoothly clockwise, you might also try to practice it counter-clockwise.

The triple time turn can be used in place of any Schottishe step in the variants in the topsy-turvy described above. Below follows some combinations I often use.

  • Two Schottishe, two triple
  • One triple, two snoa, one triple. See pictures below . This is a combination I often use
  • one Schottishe, two snoa, one triple
  • Two triple, two snoa


The video below contains both the picture group below, and the next following.

Schottishe with triple time topsy-turvy Schottishe with triple time topsy-turvy - start Schottishe with triple time topsy-turvy - Bar 1 beat 2 Schottishe with triple time topsy-turvy - Bar 1 beat 3

Some schottishes and polkas, e.g. from Roslagen, use an extra beat here and there in the music. According to those who been in touch with the traditions, this extra beat has been used to change the turning direction.

But for the energetic, a single triple time step in a turn provides an alternative for keeping the time in the music. Other options with the same result might use a single Schottishe step, a Snoa step with retardation, or letting the follower lead until the next extra beat in the music.

All the variants mentioned above are easy to lead. In those cases where the normal dancing pattern (two Schottishe + 2 Snoa) is broken by a Snoa step after just one bar with Schottishe steps, the leader can block the follower's Schottishe step by forcing a snoa turn well before the next Schottishe step.

The follower will then easily without any prior knowledge intercept and use the Snoa step. For the triple time steps in turns, the leader has to provide extra momentum and speed in the turn before the Schottishe step, making the follower to feel and use the triple time step pattern.

It will also work well using different steps in the couple, given that the pattern in the bars is kept. Triple time as explained above use the same timing within the bars as the Schottishe steps danced straight forwards. This leads to that one in the couple can use Schottishe steps forwards, while the other individual dances triple time turns. In the following sequence we see an example of this.

Schottishe triple-time variant - leading Schottishe triple-time variant - leading Schottishe triple-time variant - beginning of clock-wise turn Schottishe triple-time variant - leader and follower use different step patterns Schottishe triple-time variant - leader and follower use different step patterns


This variant starts by letting the follower take the position to the left of the leader, with the leader's left hand behind the follower, holding the follower's right hand. The leader's right hand holds the follower's left in front of the follower.

This position can be established either on bar 1 or 3. One example of how to establish this position is to dance the third bar snoa clockwise with closed hold a little less then a half turn. During this turn the hold is gradually opened up by letting the follower's left hand slip down over the leader's right arm.

On bar 4 the leader holds the follower's left hand with his right, and lets the follower turn clockwise one full turn under his arm, while the follower's right hand slips down over his left arm to a hand hold.

The couple is now standing side by side headed forwards, the follower to the left of the leader, with the leader prepared to accelerate onto his left foot forwards.

In the turn the leader builds energy by taking a relatively long step with his left foot forwards on beat 1. On beat 2 the leader turns a quarter counter clockwise and strides a long step forwards, putting his right foot in front of the follower. The couple keeps the side by side hold.

On the third beat the leader steps with his left foot with the toe directly behind his left heel, with a 90 degree angle between the feet. At the same time the couple turns counter clockwise. On the fourth beat the turn is completed when the leader steps to his right foot forwards in the dancing direction.

The follower's steps are the same as the leader's, except the length of the steps. While the leader takes his long step forwards, the follower takes her long step backwards.

The first part of the turn should be done with noticeable momentum, giving a sling to the couple. Mostly a lady not acquainted to this step will have a tendency to fall backwards, despite the support from the leader's arm behind her back. After some practice this will decease.

The turns can continue as long as you wish, normally perhaps 2, 6 or 10 bars if the turn started on bar 3, 4 or 8 if the turn started on the first bar. The turn can be ended by the leader loosing the follower's left hand and do one turn in front of the lady to normal position side by side.

Another alternative is to loose the follower's right hand and lead her behind himself with his left hand, while following her in the turn one turn clockwise.


This variant uses a simple pattern and was a spontaneous finding at a dance event some years ago. The variant is danced with a closed hold using the rhythm of the Schottishe steps all the time. Despite the plain pattern the variant can lead to some stumbling.

The variant is opened with the leader heading forwards in the dancing direction, with the follower opposite, heading backwards. The leader starts on his left foot, the follower on her right. On the first bar the couple take Schottishe steps in the dancing direction, using the same length on all steps.

On the fourth beat the couple makes a half turn counter-clockwise.

On the second bar the same steps are used, but now with the leader taking his steps backwards, the follower forwards. Once again make a half turn counter-clockwise on beat four.

The third bar is danced as the first. On the fourth bar do not turn on the 4th beat.

The first bar on the next sequence starts with the leader stepping backwards, the follower forwards. On the 4th beat the couple makes a half turn clockwise. This continues to the 4th bar, when eventually the variant can be ended by the follower making a half turn to a side by side position.

The difference between this variant and normal Schottishe is primarily that normal Schottishe with closed hold is danced turning all the time, while this variant is danced forwards and backwards, with a quick turn on just one beat in the bar.

Especially on the first beat in bar 2 and 3 the step is very active, and the Schottishe steps should be with an even and substantial movement.

Early Variants

These variants are among the first I started practicing, possibly from the middle ofthe 70's.

The first variant I can remember is, I guess, not very unique:

During bar 1 and 2 the Schottishe steps are danced with a low, one sided hand hold. During bar 3 and 4 the couple turns towards each other - the leader clockwise, the follower counter-clockwise, one turn per bar, with kept hand hold.

The next variant I believe the local keeper of the Akalla recreation house showed me. It is a nice variant if it is not repeated too often. I feel that sometimes the variant is not familiar to many dancing today.

During bar 1 one Schottishe step is danced with a one sided low hand hold. During the next bar another Schottishe step is danced, but at the same time the leader prepares the follower for a turn counter clockwise under his arm.

During bar 3 the follower dance one turn under the leader's arm. At the same time the leader walks around the follower using two walking steps, thus meeting her. During bar 4 the couple dance one turn clockwise together with a closed hold.

Foot Twist

This variant is another own finding from long ago. The variant is also fun to use in other contexts, such as when dancing foxtrot and Lindy Hop.

Many years after I invented and started to practice this step in schottishe, I met it instructed by others, at a workshop of charleston dance variants at Swedish Swing Society. The one thing I remember better than anything else from that workshop was an incredible muscle soreness afterwards!

The follower is positioned to the right of the leader. The couple are holding each other's waist with the inner hands. The outer hands are held in front of the couple.

The Schottishe steps during bar 1 and 2 are replaced by a twist forwards on the foot soles and heels, the right for the leader and the left for the follower.

The couple starts by turning on the sole on beat one until the heel is positioned diagonally forwards in the dancing direction. The other foot is lifted and waved to and fro. On beat 2 the weight is placed on the heel and the toe is twisted forwards. This is repeated 7 times. On the 8th beat the leader has to make a small jump on the right foot forwards, while turning so his back is in the dancing direction.

Alternatively, the twist can replace the snoa steps.

Schottishe with foot twist

Zigzag 1

In this variant the Schottishe steps are replaced by steps in zigzag diagonally to the right and left.

Start by keeping the closed hold after the snoa steps. The leader place himself with his back 45 degrees backwards and inwards, the follower consequently will be headed diagonally forwards.

During the next two bars the couple will just use walking steps, one step on each beat.

The leader takes one step with his left leg backwards, diagonally inwards the ring. On the next beat another step is taken behind the first. At the same time a turn is started on the right foot, so the step will almost be taken towards the centre of the floor.

The follower steps diagonally forwards on her right foot, and then takes a step with her left foot almost towards the centre of the floor.

On the next beat the turn is completed so the leader is faced 45 degrees to the right of the dancing direction, and the follower has her back in the same direction. The next step the leader takes with his left foot diagonally forwards, and starts the turn by taking the step almost right-angled. The follower takes a step on her right foot diagonally backwards, and a step with her right foot almost right-angled.

This pattern is repeated once more, thus dancing twice inwards and twice outwards. This will lead to a good position for starting the snoa turns.

Schottishe in zigzag Schottishe zigzag - 2:2 Schottishe zigzag - 2:3 Schottishe zigzag - 2:4 Schottishe zigzag - just before the snoa steps

Zigzag 2

The second zigzag variant is zigzagging at half the speed of the previous. The couple is dancing side by side rather than against each other, and the steps are taken at the side of the partner. Start with schottishe steps diagonally inwards towards the centre, the leader backwards and the follower forwards.

Then the couple makes a half turn clockwise and take the next steps diagonally outwards from the centre.

The sideways placement can also be used in zigzag 1. Both these variants can also be practiced in foxtrot.


When practicing this variant it is important to check that there are no dancers close behind, as there will be no forwards movement during two snoa steps.

On the second bar of the snoa turn, the turn is interrupted when the couple have their side in the dancing direction. The leader then has his left side, the follower her right, headed forwards in the dancing direction.

The turn is replaced by a springy movement of the weight. On the first two beats in the bar the weight is moved from the feet headed backwards to the feet headed forwards, without lifting or moving any foot. On beat three and four the weight is moved backwards again, to the leader's right foot, the follower's left. As this step has no forwards movement, it is needed that the closest dancers in the back has a few meters distance so they will not bump into you.

In the first bar in the next four bar sequence the lost distance is taken back by a more rapid movement forwards. In this movement the normal position side by side headed forwards is replaced by keeping the same position as in the previous bar, with the side in the dancing direction and headed towards each other. Both the leader and the follower take one step per beat, starting with moving their front feet sideways forwards in the dancing direction. On the next beat the back feet are moved crossing over the the front feet. On the third beat the front feet are once again moved forwards, and on the fourth the back feet are moved close to or slightly crossing the fore feet behind them.

The same steps are repeated on the next bar, leading into normal snoa turns.

During the variant a closed hold is used all the time.

Roll off the Neck or The Kallhäll Variant

This variant was spontaneously created on a crowded dancing floor at the winter dance event in Kallhäll year 2001.

In this variant the leader holds his right hand in the follower's left, wounding his right arm around the follower's neck in the snoa turn. This leads to a spin clockwise for the lady at the end of the turn. The variant has some similarities with the "Texas Tom" variant, but using a higher hand hold.

The variant was originally started on the second schottishe step forwards (right-left-right for the leader, left-right-left for the follower). The leader lets the follower make one turn counter-clockwise with his right hand holding her left.

When the follower turns, the hand hold is kept, leading to that the leader's arm winds around the follower's neck. While keeping the hand hold the snoa turns are danced, with the leader holding his right hand on the follower's right shoulder.

On the last beat of the snoa, the leader lets the follower spin two turns under his right arm without interrupting the snoa turn. It is likely that it is needed to borrow a little from the first beat in the next bar to complete the spin.

Lately another variation with the same theme has been developed. This variant is started where the snoa turns normally starts, by the leader taking three fast steps forwards and rounding the follower, at the same time leading the follower to one turn counter clockwise. In this movement his right arm winds up around the follower's neck.

The last step in that bar and the next two are normal snoa steps keeping the arm around the follower's neck. From this position the follower spins one turn clockwise under the leader's right arm, and then both the leader and the follower makes one more turn outwards from each other without any hand hold (the leader turns counter clockwise, the follower clockwise).

Schottishe Roll off the neck Roll off the neck - beat 3:1 Roll off the neck

Lady´s Spin Outwards

After the the normal schottishe steps forwards and the first snoa turn, the leader rise his left hand over his head and lead the follower into a clockwise spin two complete turns around her own shoulder. At the same time the leader makes one turn counter-clockwise.

The angle for the leader to give the follower a distinct lead during the last turn in the spin is a bit narrow, as the lead occurs somewhere over and behind his head.

Despite this it is in most cases possible to give enough lead for the follower to feel what to do.

The leader takes two quick steps left- right, and then rest one beat on the right foot, until the step on the left foot can be taken on the first beat in the next bar. The follower' step in the spin is right-left-right-left, whereupon the next step is taken with the right foot on the first beat in the next bar.

Schottishe - decorated with a tap with the right heel Schottishe - going into spin outwards Schottishe - the leading of the second turn in the spin Schottishe with spin outwards - the last turn for the follower Schottishe with spin outwards

Tango Inspired

One of easiest variants in the Schottishe is to replace the snoa turns with walking steps in the dancing direction. This can be done by going into the snoa turn as usual, but when the leader has his back in the dancing direction and has established a closed hold, the couple dances with four walking steps in the dancing direction.

When I practice this I mostly prefer to turn very quickly against my partner, so she has not yet prepared for her turn when it is time to start the walk.

As the leader is headed backwards during these steps, he has a good view of how much space there is behind the couple. If there is space enough to hold the movement for two beats, a variant that has been borrowed from the Argentinean tango can be practiced.

On the third step, that is beat 4:1-4:2, where the leader steps onto his left foot and the follower onto her right, the leader's right leg is not moved straight-line backwards.

Instead the right hollow of the knee is moved to contact with the lady's left hollow of the knee, and the lower part of the leg is folded over the lady's with a soft nice kick.

At the same time or slightly afterwards the leader springs forwards, set his right foot down and moves his weight to that foot. The lady then has the opportunity to answer with a similar kick against the leader's hollow of the knee.

When dancing out from this position the leader turns round so he has has his face in the dancing direction, keeping the closed hold. From this position many variants can be practiced, e.g. Closed Hold.

As the leader has his weight on his right foot between the legs of the lady, the move to the next variant will be done stepping backwards while turning.

Tango inspired Schottishe variant
	When springing back there is a slight movement backwards against the dancing direction, so watch out for other dancers! The lady responds eventually with a similar kick. Tango inspired schottishe


The Schottishe dance is easy to vary. Here is a small combination running over eight bars described. It is of course possible to use a part of the combination, e.g. use the first four bars and then combine with something else. The last half of this combination has several similarities with Bugg variation in hambo.

In the first half of the combination the snoa turns are replaced by the follower walking around the leader. Both in the couple use schottishe steps. While doing so, the hand hold is switched so the leader with his left hand take the follower´s left, and during the turn move this hand above his own shoulder, and at the same time with his right hand take the follower´s right in front of the follower.

In the second half the follower dances around the leader, and at the same time dances one turn around her own shoulder. The follower will thus turn around the leader approximately on bar one and three, and around her own shoulder on bar two and four. During the fourth bar the leader loosens the follower and prepare for a normal closed hold. The follower can also make two turns on the fourth bar.

The leader's role is to lead the variant, and move himself so the follower can turn as easy as possible. It is needed to stay close to the follower and follow her during her first turn around her own shoulder, so the arm length will suffice.

Schottishe combination - start Schottishe combination - start of second half Schottishe combination

Last updated: Oct 23, 2014