Printer Friendly

SCOTTISH HIGHLAND DANCING.

Scottish Highland dancing, one of the oldest and most passionate forms of Celtic dance, is coming to the forefront of mainstream dance. It's one of Scotland's greatest ambassadors to the rest of the world. Through worldwide organization, competitions, and advanced technique, modern-day Highland dancing has gone beyond what's generally considered folk dance. Professional performance companies featuring champion competitive dancers are springing up around the world and creating a sensation.

BALLET AND HIGHLAND DANCE

Many people don't realize that ballet and Scottish Highland dance share the same ancient roots, that they influenced each other during the time of the "Auld Alliance" between the French and the Scots. You only have to look at the positions of the arms and feet to see the similarities. Knowing that, it's not surprising to see a Scotsman performing with a ballerina in ballets such as Graduation Ball or La Sylphide.

It's no wonder that many successful Highland dancers are also ballet dancers. You'd never know that the unassuming young ballet student who attends the School of American Ballet's summer program, Ashley Knox, is also a champion Scottish Highland dancer. In fact, she's the current U.S. national and North American champion, and runner-up world champion in the 15-years-and-under division. This is no small accomplishment. Years of lessons from a top-notch teacher and daily practice go into the making of a champion. According to Ashley, "It's essential to practice to build up the physical strength, so that when you're dancing you make it look easy."

The question a lot of people ask ballet student and Highland dancer Amy Hurwitz is, "Does ballet help with Highland dancing, or does Highland dancing help with ballet?" Amy replies: "The two complement each other. Ballet gives you strength and balance. Highland gives you strength and stamina. For both you need flexibility and turn out."

Another dancer who combines Highland dance and ballet is Celtic Dance Theatre Arizona's founder, Laura Carruthers, who also dances for Ballet Arizona. Laura is a former Highland dance national champion and world runner-up. Following the success of her Fire and Grace show last year at the Orpheum Theatre in California, Laura is organizing a world tour. Her choreographer combines Highland, ballet, tap, and jazz. Her partner, Xavier Corcoran, has danced with Pennsylvania Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Arizona and is currently with Celtic Dance Theatre.

WHAT IS HIGHLAND DANCE?

Imagine the thrill of dancing to live bag-pipe music, outside on the grass, with a heavily pleated tartan kilt swirling around you. Flexibility, strength, and stamina are needed, along with the grace of a ballet dancer and the power of an athlete. Highland dancing was traditionally performed by men only.

There are many Scottish Highland and national dances. The most famous three are the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, and the Sean Triubhas. The Highland Fling is a victory dance warriors performed on their shields. The Sword Dance was traditionally done to prepare for battle. The Sean Triubhas is a dance that evolved when the English outlawed the wearing of kilts. In it, the dancer tries to shed cumbersome trousers in favor of the flee-flowing kilt.

Many Highland dancers compete in games organized by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD). Since it began in 1950, the board has made it possible for dancers to compete worldwide at SOBHD competitions, and ensured fairness by setting universal standards for teaching, dress, contests, and judging.

PROFESSIONAL GROUPS

There are a few professional companies that hold annual auditions. Many boast world-champion performers and/or directors. The Scottish Dance Company of Canada tours internationally with its Immrama (Gaelic for "the adventurous journey") show. The cast includes Canadian and world champions.

If you loved Riverdance, you'll be impressed with the Scottish Dance Company of Canada. Also, Celtic Dance Theatre Arizona's show Fire and Grace, includes three U.S. Scottish Highland dance champions.

Like ballet schools, high-level Highland dance schools around the world have formed studio performance groups or companies that perform locally, or even internationally. They perform the traditional modern Highland dance and Highland-flavored choreography. Watch for the Schiehallion Dancers, from Hamilton, Ontario, who have performed internationally. From Wisconsin come the Heather Highland Dancers, a group made up of several families of dancers who do community cultural outreach activities as well.

HIGHLAND DANCE: THE FUTURE

Many serious Highland performers and choreographers are coming forward and making themselves available for special events and tours. The future of Scottish Highland dancing is exciting and bright. The swirl of the pleated tartan kilts combined with the powerful dancing and thrilling music of the bagpipes is an uplifting experience that's not to be missed!

Heather Marie Walsh writes frequently about Scottish Highland dance. You may e-mail her at: HeatherWH@aol.com.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Dance Magazine, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Walsh, Heather Marie
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Sep 1, 1999
Words:787
Previous Article:Tulsa and the Italian Tornado.
Next Article:Check It Out.
Topics:


Related Articles
Mark Morris Dance Group.
New pop dance and its audiences.
Check It Out.
Scottish Country Dancing Has a Young Soul.
Back to the Basics.
DEBBIE ALLEN'S ACADEMY SCATTERS L.A.'S CONJUNCTIVE POINTS.
IN NEED OF A GENIE.
SCOTS-AMERICAN FEELS CALL OF THE HIGHLANDS; ETHNIC HERITAGE IS A GIFT THAT BRINGS A BOND STRONGER THAN TIME, DISTANCE OR CONQUEST TO A TRANSPLANTED...
SCOT LOVERS MEET TO COMPETE IN SEASIDE HIGHLAND GAMES.
Riffing on Broadway: shows find new life as choreographers' inspiration.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters