Most people have not heard of Highland Dancing until, of course, you mention the Highland Fling or the Sword Dance. These are two of a number of dances that have evolved over time and are now taught to those learning Highland Dancing. With the exception of three, they are all solo dances requiring high levels of skill and physical strength. Although Highland Dancing is nearly always accompanied by the music of the bagpipes, it was in very early days danced to the sound of the harp.
Whereas a lot of dancing concentrates on the pattern a dancer makes as they move around the floor, Highland Dancing is far more concerned with the precise execution of intricate footwork. There is mention of a dance called the "Fling" as early as 1805 and from that time the dancing evolved into what it has become today.
Highland Dancing is a very prominent event at the famous Scottish Highland Games which are held throughout the Summer and early Autumn months in Scotland. Originally, the number and combination of steps found in Highland Dancing was almost limitless and competition judges found their task becoming increasingly difficult as allegations of unfairness abounded the Games scene. Consequently, in 1953, the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing was founded. The Board standardised the steps of the four Highland Dances performed in all competitions and published them in a textbook called "Highland Dancing". They also standardised the costumes to be worn for Highland Dancing Competitions. Most of you are familiar with the traditional kilt, but competitive dancers wear other outfits in the course of their competitions.
Until the early 1900's, only boys entered for Highland Dancing competitions. That has now, however, completely reversed and the girls outnumber the boys by about 100 to 1! That is not to say that males are completely excluded - a number of world champions have been boys and men.
Dancing is not confined to Scotland from where, originally, most of the champions came from. Highland Dancing seems to have laid roots wherever Scottish people have originally settled including the United States of America, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa. It often seems now that it is dancers from these countries who are taking the important championship titles as worldwide travel becomes much easier. Never more so than now have native Scottish dancers had to really rise and meet the challenge from fantastic dancers that other countries are producing.
This information was taken directly from: