Competitive Scottish Highland dancing comes to Whatcom Community College on Oct. 27; the first Highland dancing competition in Bellingham for over 30 years.
As director of the Clan Heather Dancers, I am pleased to introduce the community to the Scottish competitive dance scene as we present the "Reel Competition."
My involvement in Highland dance began at age 10 in Bellingham. My mother introduced my sister and I to Highland dance and my brother to bagpiping. Eventually, I traveled to Vancouver, B.C., to train for competition. My brother and I continue involvement in Highland activities. We present the Skagit Valley Highland Games and Northern United States Highland Dancing Championship; he as executive director of the Celtic Arts Foundation and I as dance competition chair.
The Reel Competition moved around the I-5 corridor for 11 years and it is truly satisfying and exciting to come home to Bellingham.
Highland dancing is an elite competitive dance sport and dancers travel the world to vie for prizes in prestigious events. Precision of movement, athleticism and grace are showcased in traditional Highland dance.
Many Whatcom County residents attend summer Highland Games but may not understand that expert instruction is available locally and events are held year-round across North America and the world.
Dancers travel from across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia to vie for prizes at the Reel Competition. Boys and girls as young as four present the Highland Fling and sword dance in the primary class. Beginners, novices and intermediate dancers follow to complete morning events featuring traditional Highland and Scottish national dances.
Premier is the highest level of competitive dance beginning at 11 a.m. and continuing throughout the afternoon.
Not all dancers are of Scottish descent. The dance form attracts those who are, naturally, but others are drawn to the intricate steps, wonderful rhythms and music; and beautiful costumes.
Tartan kilts are worn by male and female dancers performing Highland dances. The national dances feature female dancers in flowing tartan skirts and velvet vests. The Irish Jig is danced in hard shoes where rhythms are tapped along to the music and the Sailors' Hornpipe shows difficult movements mimicking sailors onboard whaling vessels.
The choreography category offers dancers having latitude with steps and music utilizing authentic movements with a contemporary twist.
I am an adjudicator for the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing and have judged the Canadian InterProvincial, Champions of Champions in Australia and the World Championships in Scotland. Teaching students in three studios: Bellingham, Mount Vernon and Everett is part of my career. Workshops across North America allow opportunity to reach students of Highland dancing throughout the continent and judging competitors allows me to preserve the correct methods of execution of steps of this traditional dance form.
Often called the most sophisticated folk dance form in the world; traditional Highland dances are preserved in textbooks and teachers and adjudicators must be well-versed in proper execution of movements that make up the dances. Difficult theory exams, dance demonstration and mock judging prepare would-be teachers and adjudicators of the dance form.
Highland dancing attracts transfer students from mainstream dance because of opportunities afforded for ongoing performance and competition.
As an expert in this dance form; I have worked with thousands of dancers in my 38-year teaching career; many of whom have found competitive success at the championship level. Performance and competition lead to improved learning skills, athletic ability and self esteem. My students are often featured at community festivals and events across the Pacific Northwest.
In 38 years of teaching I have worked with students ages 2 to adult. Students represented my school at the United States InterRegional Championships on numerous occasions. Many students progress through the competitive classes and continue studying with me for years. Currently my premier students have 5 to 12 years of experience in my school. Often parents with keen interest will start children at age two or three and by the time dancers are age 8 or 9 they are well on their way to competitive success.
The Reel Competition is fun, family entertainment offering the color and pageantry of Scotland in its wonderful dance form.
Clan Heather is offering Highland dance workshops 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, at Bell Tower Studios, 1430 N. Garden St., Bellingham, with Daniel Carr, the 2010 World Adult Highland dancer. A $35 class for beginners is offered from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Advance registration is required. Call 360-715-8682 or email email@example.com for information.
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