For more than two decades, this group of dancers — now led by Jim and Pat McDonald — has been encouraging people from all over South King County and East Pierce County to learn more about their Scottish heritage or, barring a clan bloodline, to just get out and try something new.

Scottish Country dancers return to Enumclaw for 23rd year

It’s time to don your kilt and shoulder your bagpipes, because the Plateau Scottish Country Dancers are returning to Enumclaw.

For more than two decades, this group of dancers — now led by Jim and Pat McDonald — has been encouraging people from all over South King County and East Pierce County to learn more about their Scottish heritage or, barring a clan bloodline, to just get out and try something new.

The group started in 1995 by former Enumclaw resident and expatriate Scot Rick Murchie as an activity at the senior center, but the group quickly grew to encourage anyone who wanted to dance to join.

The kind of dancing the Plateau Scottish Country Dancers focus on, as the name suggests, are country dances that originated in the 1700s on the British Isles.

“It is ballroom-slash-social dancing that can be done in a ballroom as a formal affair, or that can be done as a party at someone’s house out in the yard, that kind of think,” Pat said.

One of the main differences between Scottish social dances and others that were developed in England or Ireland is that the Scot’s didn’t use a caller to announce the dances, according to the McDonald’s informational brochure about the classes.

The Plateau Scottish Country Dancers focus on three different kinds of dances: reels, jigs, and strathspey.

Reels, Pat said, are when dancers dance around each other in certain patterns (think Jayne Eyre-era ballroom dances), while jigs are more similar to square dancing, and involve couples arranging their groups into square shapes.

While jigs and reels are faster dances and various forms can be found all around the British Isles, the strathspey dance was uniquely developed in Scotland and is a slower dance, but is similar to a reel.

The dance is named after the valley of the Spey River in Scotland (strath literally meaning valley).

“It’s not difficult, it’s not high stress. It’s low to medium impact with the beat and body movement,” Pat said, adding that the group also accepts children around 10 years old and up. “We feel it’s very good for our brains and our bodies.”

While meeting new people and learning new dances can be fun, the group also spends time preparing for its annual performances at the Pacific Northwest Highland Games, which comes to the Enumclaw Expo Center every year.

The group also performs at other similar public and private events, as well as put on “ceilidhs dances, which are a sort of party where the public is invited to share in dancing and music, and some easy-to-learn dances are taught on the spot,” Pat said.

The Plateau Scottish Country Dancers meet from 7 to 9 p.m. every Monday starting next week, September 25, at the Danish Hall on Porter Street in Enumclaw.

The first class is free, and is $5 per class afterward.

For more information, go to plateauscottishcountrydancers.org or give the McDonalds a call at 360-825-6572.