Dance Around the World – a new exhibition of trad dance books and artefacts from Scotland and beyond

We are delighted to announce not one but two trad dance exhibitions curated by the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland as part of Pomegranates 2024 festival of international traditional dance – Dance Around the World 3–30 April 2024 at Edinburgh Central Library and Vengefully Changed Allegiance 23–30 April 2024 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, both exhibitions are free and open to all, as well as accompanied by craft workshops, shows and walking tours.

Click here to learn about Vengefully Changed Allegiance and read on to find out more about Dance Around the World exhibition below.


Dance Around the World is a new exhibition displaying over 100 items on loan from public and private collections of world traditional dance books and artefacts. It features items from over 20 different countries including Scotland, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Bali and Japan.

Our collaboration with Edinburgh Central Library began in June 2023 when we brought trad dance performances to the library, possibly for the first time, while celebrating the feisty women-tradition keepers and dance innovators as part of the 10th anniversary of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival. We even recorded one of our Trad Dance Cast video podcast episodes at the library with the legendary trad dance artist and costume maker Margaret Belford. It was then when we pencilled and penned our love letter to the library – this very dance exhibition and all the related festival activities, including the craft workshops and the walking tour. Iliyana Nedkova, Co-curator of the Dance Around the World exhibition

Edinburgh Central Library first opened its doors in 1890 and has gone from strength-to-strength ever since, comprising six departments including specialist collections for art and design, music, local history and children’s books. The building has many wonderful architectural features, including a beautiful domed ceiling above its Reference Library. There is an ever-changing programme of exhibitions, events and activities for children, young people and adults, including the Dance Around the World exhibition.

The exhibition highlights include an Ukrainian folk dance headdress we commissioned for our inaugural Pomegranates Festival 2022 in tribute to the millions of displaced Ukrainians around the world (pictured in the exhibition poster and the installation view above); an original Estonian dance dolly ‘rescued’ from a Finnish flea market and a full outfit worn at Scottish country dances since 1978 by a lifetime member of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

This year’s festival commission is a Barbie doll clad in a tartan frock by our fashion designer-in-residence Alison Harm of Edinburgh’s Psychomoda brand, whose solo exhibition Vengefully Changed Allegiance offers further insight into her sustainable fashion practice while exploring the role of tartan in Scottish trad dance.

Alongside the numerous books on display as part of the Dance Around the World exhibition selected from seven private collections, as well as the catalogue of the Edinburgh City Libraries, there are rare artefacts, including a pair of exquisite lacquer Geta shoes and an Obi bow and sash belt worn as part of the traditional wrap-around costumes for the Bon Odori summer dance festivals in Japan, and at our inaugural Pomegranates Festival 2022 in Scotland.

Edinburgh-based dance artist and art historian who is one of the major contributors to the exhibition Agnes Ness said:

I was so excited to go through my own library, photo albums and memorabilia and select a range of books, postcards and medals for the Dance Around the World exhibition – a wee testimony for my lifelong passion for art history and dance which dates back to my childhood spent in competitive Highland dance in the 1950s, leading to my current adventures as a teacher in Dance History at Dance Base, Scotland’s National Centre for dance where I am a founding member of the 24 Carat Gold Dance Group for those aged 60 and above. Agnes Ness

Another major exhibitoin contributor is Colin MacLennan (as pictured with Agnes Ness at the exhibition launch below) who has been involved in many forms of dance from an early age, including ballet, Eastern European folk, Greek, Renaissance, Scottish country and ceilidh, along with Irish step and set dancing. He continues to dance almost daily while supporting both the Edinburgh International Folk Dance Group and Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland as a trustee.

Amongst the heirlooms in the exhibition is a silver brooch with a Viking ship motif which used to adorn the trad dance and song costume of the Estonian grandmother of the festival’s artist-in-residence Mare Tralla.

Mare, who co-curated the Dance Around the World exhibition is a Scottish Estonian artist and activist currently working and living in Edinburgh. Her professional art career started in Tallinn in the early 1990s, where she became one of the leading interdisciplinary artists of the younger generation, conducting a feminist revolution in the field of contemporary art in Estonia. Mare combines a variety of media in her work, from video, photography and painting to performance and interactivity. She also often utilises traditional crafts like knitting and weaving in her practice, including through her long-term craft project Natty Peeps. In the artist’s own words:

I am so grateful for the opportunity to co-curate the Dance Around the World exhibition in collaboration with this year’s Pomegranates Festival and Edinburgh City Libraries and to offer hands-on craft workshops on 10, 17 and 30 April, 6pm. All free and open to all with a free ticket which could be booked here. I hope that many a craft enthusiast will join me to seek inspiration from the new exhibition to make our own costume jewellery and homeware while tracing the importance of tassels and pom-poms across the trad dance costumes from all corners of the world, including the sporran in the show. Mare Tralla

Mare‘s festival residency follows in the footsteps of the artists-in-residence in the first two editions of the Pomegranates Festivals – Claudia Nocentini (Italy/Scotland) in 2022 and Gabriel Schmitz (Germany/Spain) in 2023. Likewise, Mare will create a new commission in her media of choice in response to the festival activities – a new screen dance that will be premiered at the festival finale We are Migrant on 29 April 2024, 7pm, Scottish Storytelling Centre. Book your Pay What You Can ticket here.

Alongside the hands-on craft workshops, Pomegranates 2024 festival goers will be able to join a walking tour on 27 April to learn about the dance traditions of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Scottish Court and ‘polite’ society. The tour is led by local storyteller extraordinaire Donald Smith and will start from the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a preview of the festival exhibition Vengefully Changed Allegiance by Alison Harm of Psychomoda. The tour will end at Edinburgh Central Library with a preview of the festival exhibition Dance Around the World. Admission is on a Pay What You Can basis with a pre-booked ticket from here.


The Dance Around the World exhibition runs 3-30 April 2024. Free admission. No need to book in advance.

Open Monday-Wednesday 10am-8pm, Thursday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Closed Sunday.
Location: Mezzanine Level. Accessible by stairs and a lift to level ‘B1, Mezzanine’.

Edinburgh Central Library, 7-9 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EG

This exhibition is part of the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) programme of events showcasing Scotland’s traditional arts and cultural heritage alongside international collections.

The Installation views of the exhibition here are images by Mare Tralla. Courtesy the artist and Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland


Browse through the full festival programme of Pomegranates 2024 here and follow the dedicated festival newsfeed here: