The Red Thistle Dancers were founded in 1973 and are a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing and performing the dances and music of Scotland.
Headed by Artistic Director Fred DeMarse, the Red Thistle Dancers have been regular participants in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival since 1977 and were honorees in 1991.
The Red Thistle Dancers have performed in the Dance Mosaic in Palo Alto, in concerts and full-length theater productions, at outdoor events and fairs, and for international festivals, schools, parties, fundraising events, weddings, and conventions. See our performance calendar for upcoming events or for more information about booking a performance.
The Red Thistle Dancers perform a variety of traditional Scottish dance forms, including Country Dancing, Highland Dancing, and Ladies' Step Dancing.
Scottish Country Dancing is the ballroom dance of Scotland. It consists of energetic jigs and reels and graceful strathspeys. Our repertoire includes dances dating from the 18th century to the present, including original dances devised by our own dancers. The Red Thistle Dancers even have a namesake dance, "The Red Thistle," devised by John Drewry, one of the greatest devisors of Scottish Country Dances, dedicated to our director, Jennifer Kelly.
Highland Dancing, the oldest form of Scottish Dancing, is highly technical and vigorous. Highland dancing is is now recognized as a sport by the Sport Council of Scotland.
Traditional dances such as the Fling, the Sword Dance, and Seann Triubhas that were traditionally performed by men are now performed by women as well.
The elegance and grace of the Scottish Ladies' Step Dancing, a more balletic form of Scottish dance, complements the strength and power of the men’s dances.
Highland Dance Director
Though the Red Thistle Dancers have performed with live music almost since inception, Red Thistle Music became the official band of the Red Thistle Dancers in 2001.
Susan Worland Bentley (violin), Lyle Ramshaw (piano) and Michael Bentley (bodhran & percussion) have performed together as Red Thistle Music for over 10 years, often in support of dance performances, but also in ceilidh and country dance settings, as well as at weddings and music-only events. Red Thistle Music has released several CDs and provided music for segments on the two Red Thistle Dancers' DVDs. All three members have been involved in the Scottish and Celtic musical tradition for many years in the Bay Area, and toured across the US and in Europe.
Red Thistle Music is frequently joined by guest musicians and singers for performances, including Andy Imbrie on piano, Janet Kurnick on violin and Calli Morrow on harp. Their graceful Strathspeys and lively jigs and reels enhance the experience of a Red Thistle show.
Red Thistle performances often include Scottish Highland dances performed to live bagpipe music. Pipers play traditional dance tunes as well as audience favorites, such as "Scotland the Brave", "Amazing Grace" and "The Skye Boat Song".
Dancing to live music is a special experience, especially when we invite the audience to join in!
Audience participation is a memorable way to complete a performance.
The Red Thistle Dancers have produced a unique series of instructional videos for Scottish Country Dancing available for purchase in our store along with a new release of dances, music, and instructions for "Jennifer's Dances", favorite choreography and accompanying music by founder Jennifer Kelly.