Scottish Opera, Theatre and Dance
Companies and Festivals
Scotland’s theatre has a long tradition spanning centuries and continuing to the present day. From professional, amateur and community performing companies, to the multitude of dedicated theatre and arts festivals which take place all over the country every year, it’s safe to say that Scotland truly soaks up theatre in all of its forms!
The National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) is Scotland’s national theatre and performing company. Launched in 2006, NTS has no central location. Instead, the company takes theatre to the people of Scotland – and beyond – by performing anywhere they can connect to an audience, including airports and high-rises, forests and ferries, drill halls and football pitches, pubs and factories.
Alan Cumming’s radical reimagining of Macbeth saw NTS play a part in 2012’s Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Meanwhile, The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart played a starring role in the Ryder Cup 2014 handover festival in Chicago 2012, as well as touring Ohio, India, Connecticut , North Carolina, Rio and Sao Paulo.
For details of Scotland’s other theatre performing companies, visit the federation of Scottish Theatre
Edinburgh hosts, arguably, the most famous annual arts festival in the world – the Edinburgh International Festival, which – for three weeks ever August - sees Edinburgh's six major theatres and concert halls, a few smaller venues and often some unconventional ones too, come alive with the best professional classical music, theatre, dance and visual art from around the globe.
The associated Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings thousands of performers to the city, from big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers. The festival includes theatre, comedy, dance, music, exhibitions and various events.
Scotland plays host to a wide variety of additional theatre festivals, such as Glasgow’s Bard in the Botanics, where classic Shakespeare is performed against the backdrop of Glasgow’s internationally famous gardens.
Every year in May, Burns an’ a’ That! festival in Ayrshire brings together international performers with local people to celebrate Scotland's internationally acclaimed poet Robert Burns.
The country boasts a wealth of fine auditoriums and theatres which host many big touring shows as well as exclusive one-night events.
Edinburgh is home to the largest all-seated auditorium in the UK – The Edinburgh Playhouse - as well as the Usher Hall, the King’s Theatre, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Traverse Theatre and the famous Festival Theatre, amongst others.
Meanwhile, through in Glasgow, there is a plethora of theatres to choose from, including the King’s Theatre, the Pavilion Theatre, the Tramway, the Tron, the Arches, the Citizens Theatre and the Theatre Royal, to name but a few.
Outwith the major cities, there are many theatres throughout the country bursting with creative talent and thought-provoking performances. There’s the Dundee Rep Theatre, the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in rural Perthshire, the Eastgate Arts Centre in Peebles and Eden Court in Inverness, not to mention An Lanntair in Stornoway, the Theatre Royal in Dumfries, Mull Theatre on the Isle of Mull, and the Byre Theatre in St. Andrew’s.
Scottish Opera is Scotland’s national opera company and the largest performing arts organisation in Scotland, performing in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness and over 50 other theatres, village halls and community centres in Scotland and the UK each year. Notable achievements include the world premiere of James MacMillan’s Ines de Castro at the 1996 Edinburgh International Festival and Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle at the 2003 Edinburgh International Festival. The Company celebrated its 50th birthday on in June, 2012.
The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, based in Glasgow, provides a superb launching pad for new talent in opera. In 1998, the Conservatoire opened Scotland's first and only opera school, the Alexander Gibson Opera School. Notable alumni includes Janis Kelly, Felicity Hammond, Lisa Milne and Patrick Doyle.
In Scotland, you are never so much as a 'pas de bourree' away from a dance class, competition or performance. From traditional Scottish Highland and ceilidh dancing, to ballet, contemporary and street dance, the country celebrates a whole host of dance forms.
Scottish Ballet is Scotland’s national dance company, based at the Tramway in Glasgow. Employing 36 professional dancers, 41 staff and a part-time freelance orchestra of up to 70 musicians, Scottish Ballet's primary aim is to provide programmes of world-class dance performance and educational activity at all scales. The company performs its broad repertoire throughout Scotland and around the world, which includes both classical and contemporary works from Sleeping Beauty to The Nutcracker and A Streetcar Named Desire.
Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is Scotland’s national contemporary dance company and is based at Dundee Rep Theatre. The company’s programme includes work by internationally celebrated and emerging choreographers with a repertoire that is constantly evolving, pushing boundaries and expectations. The company tours throughout the UK and internationally. Along with providing a unique education program and access to dance for all, Scottish Dance Theatre collaborates with artists of outstanding calibre in the fields of music, design and the visual arts to produce dance of the highest quality.
Each year, the World Highland Dance Championships take place as part of the Cowal Gathering Highland Games in Dunoon on Scotland’s West Coast. The complex footwork of Highland Dance with its jigs and reels, is celebrated here with more than 650 dancers from all over the world taking part each year.
Schools and Dance Education
Scotland offers a great deal of dance classes and professional training. If you're interested in vocational dance courses, visit The Dance School of Scotland, DanceBase or Scottish Youth Dance.