Ann Johnson was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. By the time she was three her father had learned to play the bagpipes as a birthday surprise for her Scottish grandfather. From then on the music was always present and Highland Dance lessons followed when she was six.
By the time she was 7 she began competing and enjoyed modest success. It was not until she went away to college with every intention of giving up Highland Dance that she discovered she was not ready to do that.
Ann continued to work at her dancing often without regular instruction while she attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Learning to be analytical and to practice effectively were valuable acquisitions that resulted in rewarding competitive successes on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.
After graduation Ann taught 4th grade for two years in Tacoma before returning home to Portland in 1974 where she had been hired by the Hillsboro School District to teach 5th and eventually 6th grade.
In 1980, she attended the organizational meeting of FUSTA held at a Highland Dance conference in Las Vegas. It was easy to become enthusiastically involved in the efforts to preserve and promote Highland Dance in the U.S. Ann served as the Northwest Region’s first delegate and was elected FUSTA’s third president in 1984.
In 2003, shortly after retiring from a 31-year career as a classroom teacher, Ann was again elected FUSTA President becoming the first person to hold that office twice. The world of Highland Dance had changed considerably in the 20 years since she had last been president. It was a world made smaller by electronic communication and the ease of travel. FUSTA and the overseas affiliates of the SOBHD communicated more frequently and found that all were suffering from growing pains in one form or another.
She is credited with re-establishing harmonious relationships with the SOBHD. During Ann’s three terms as president she also oversaw the establishment of the FUSTA Hall of Fame and the academic scholarship for high school seniors. FUSTA’s Scottish representative to the SOBHD became a regular attendee at the Mid-Winter meeting; a move that did a great deal to enhance communication and trust between the two organizations. The FUSTA newsletter and ballot ‘went electronic’ and the vital positions of National Registrar and National Judges’ Committee Chairman became elected rather than appointed positions on the Board of Directors.
For over 30 years, she has been a volunteer and more recently Vice President Competition and on the executive committee of the Portland Highland Games Association.
Ann has been a member of SOBHD Adjudicators’ Panel since 1974 and is an SDTA Life Member and Examiner.
Her dance school in Portland has produced consistently well-trained dancers who have exhibited a love of dance and the true spirit of sportsmanship. Her students have won local and national championships, including the USIR, and medals and trophies at the major summer championships in Scotland.
It is her belief that all who participate in Highland Dance have an inherent responsibility to give back so that others can enjoy the wonderful experiences and opportunities it offers. The privilege of participation in Highland Dance and FUSTA has been a highlight in her life.
Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Ann Johnson know how she may has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.
On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Ann Johnson for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.
Following the success of the past two years events, I am pleased to advise we have just launched the 2013 International Gathering of Scottish Highland Dance, which will see the event take place over the weekend of 23rd November 2013, with standard arrivals from Thursday 21st November for 4 nights or Friday 22nd November for 2 or 3 nights, all accommodation packages include continental buffet breakfast on each day. The 3 and 4 night packages also include 3 day hopper park passes, and the 2 night packages include 2 day hopper park passes, these passes are valid in the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studio each day allowing you to visit both parks multiple times each day should you choose to do so. For groups coming from overseas extended packages can be offered to incorporate for example, visits into Paris and onto London or Scotland.
Our standard accommodation packages are offered at Hotel Santa Fe, Hotel Cheyenne and Sequoia Lodge, however, we can also tailor a package to suit your needs to include additional extras such as half board options, additional park passes, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. These hotels are within walking distance of the parks and the Disney Village which offers dining, souvenir shops and entertainment opportunities throughout the day without using a park ticket, each hotel also offers a complimentary return shuttle bus service which operates approximately every 10 minutes directly to the bus station which is centralised between the Disney Village and parks. The hotels also have Disney character presence at various times each day giving plenty of photo opportunities!
Please note, in terms of pricing adults are aged 12 and over, children are aged 3-11 and infants are 0-2 and are not chargeable. Rooms can occupy a maximum of 4 guests plus a cot and by maximising room occupancy the price becomes more cost effective per person. Places can be secured with a £50 non-refundable deposit per person, with final balances being payable by 30th August 2013. Please note, inclusion within the International Gathering of Scottish Highland Dance event is only available as part of any accommodation package purchased through Take Us 2 The Magic Ltd.
Moving on to the performance opportunities which are aplenty, at no additional cost each school will be offered the opportunity to take part in a Disney Performing Arts workshop giving your dancers the unrivalled opportunity to learn from Disney professionals! Each school who has a minimum of 10 performers aged over 5 can also apply to perform on one of Disneyland Paris’ stages within the park, offering a fantastic experience for your dancers to perform for between 20-30 minutes to an audience of Disneyland Paris park guests. There will be a further amazing opportunity for your dancers to take part in a pre-choreographed pre-parade performance along Main Street, USA within the Disneyland Park, this opportunity is offered to performers aged 8 and over and is subject to weather conditions and minimum performer numbers.
Finally, in conjunction with Grampian Festivals I am pleased to advise, again at no additional cost, each school can enter and compete in the SOBHD registered Highland Dance Competition (reg no.A2). You are able to compete in as many divisions as you wish including Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Seann Triubhas, Half Reel or Tulloch, Trophy Fling, Barracks Johnnie, Scottish Lilt, Flora Macdonald, Village Maid, Blue Bonnets, 16 pas de Basque and Pas de Basque and Highcuts. There will also be an awards ceremony with trophies and medals, together with special Disney competition guest!
We aim to offer you and your school a fun filled weekend where you can experience the magic of Disney whilst having many performance opportunities creating memories that will last a lifetime; we will therefore work with you to create your perfect trip and aim to make it as stress free as possible!
The information flyer with pricing sheet giving some further information is downloadable above by clicking the link above the image. You may also wish to visit the following websites:
• See some footage from a Gaelic documentary filmed by Alba TV during the 2011 event www.takeus2themagic.co.uk and click on the Scottish Highland Dance link.
• Here is a link to a performance of a previous school attending http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLCwYap_N4g
• Furthermore, the following You Tube link with pre-parade footage viewable from 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwMIwggMa6U
• Lastly, please keep updated by ‘liking” the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Gathering-of-Scottish-Highland-Dance-at-Disneyland-Paris/171994822897211 and also join the facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/119588584837554/
If you have any questions once you have had chance to digest all of the information, please contact Greg Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org or David Bridge at email@example.com
Christie McLeod Freestone’s love affair with highland dancing has spanned the last half century. When she was eight years old, her Scottish grandfather arranged for Christie and her sister, Jeanne, to study with two of the great highland dance instructors of the day, Pearl Magnuson and Sharon Magnuson (Capitani). After four lessons, Christie decided that highland dancing was “too hard,” and hung up her ghillies. Her sister continued to dance, becoming one of Michigan’s most successful champions in the 1960′s. After four years of traveling throughout North America to highland games, Christie decided to join her sister and become a highland dancer once again. This time, she “caught the bug” and the rest is history.
Not a natural dancer, Christie had to break down movements into isolated positions in order to perfect them. She quickly discovered a talent for analysis and an ability to teach. Her out-going personality, mixed with her ability to instruct, led to the founding of the Mid-Michigan Highland Dance Academy in 1970. As an Alma College freshman, she was recruited to teach her first student, Mary Jo Rohrer (Pung) whose father was the Community Education Director for the public schools. He asked her to teach a six-week course to the community children of Alma. In the first class offered, four students registered. The second class session enrolled 12 students. The third class session produced over 150 students. Highland dance officially became an institution in Alma, Michigan-Scotland, USA.
In the late 1970′s, Christie initiated discussions with the Detroit area teachers about holding a national championship for highland dancing in the United States. Knowing that such an undertaking would need national support, she took the idea to a teachers’ meeting at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1980. It was decided to present a proposal to teachers from around the country at the Las Vegas International Highland Dance Conference in 1981. In order to sponsor a national championship, a governing body was necessary. The Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators of Highland Dance (FUSTA) formed and Christie was elected to be the first president. The first USIR was held in 1981 and Christie had a national champion that first year. In the past 25 years, she has had regional finalists at every USIR and has produced 11 USIR champions.
As an early elementary school teacher with a Master Degree in early childhood education, Christie has researched motor skills development in children and adapted her findings to the teaching of very young highland dancers. She has taught numerous workshops throughout North America sharing her techniques for teaching beginner dancers.
As the director of the Mid-Michigan Highland Dance Academy in Alma, where she currently heads a staff of six member and associate teachers of highland dance, Christie’s students have won over 100 championships throughout the world. She has trained 23 member teachers and three SOBHD judges. She initiated the idea of a judge’s training program, that has became a reality through the collaboration of life-time friends and judges, Liz and Bill Weaver, and student and judge, Kate DeGood. Christie is a life-time Fellow member of the BATD and a member of the SOBHD judges’ panel. She teaches first grade at a public elementary school in Ithaca, Michigan and is an Adjunct Professor of highland dance at Alma College. Christie’s late husband Dave still is, “the wind beneath her wings,” and she is the mother of Craig, “the pride of her life!”
Christie’s legacy is the positive approach she uses when teaching students. Parents are encouraged to watch lessons and to practice with their children. Students are encouraged to participate in other activities, even if it means adjusting dance schedules. She believes that students must experience all that life offers before they are able to decide upon which path they will follow in life. Only then will they find their “gifts” and develop a passion for living. Perhaps, Christie’s greatest gift is that every student leaves a workshop or a dance class feeling special. She often believes in her students more than they believe in themselves. She credits her personal successes in life to the lessons she learned from her loving parents, Catherine and Max McLeod.
Most people slow down after 40 years on the job, but Christie just keeps going at a frantic pace. With a smile, a hug and a word of encouragement, Christie Freestone has made an indelible mark on the world of highland dance.
Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Christie Freestone know how she may has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.
On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Mrs. Freestone for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.
Born in Balloch, Scotland Sheila Mittig studied all forms of dance at the Stewart School, Alexandria. Sheila
emigrated to Dearborn, Michigan in 1964 and immediately began teaching Highland Dancing. She is a Life Member of the B.A.T.D. and has been on the S.O.B.H.D. judge’s panel for many years. Sheila has judged and taught workshops all over the world and has taught two World Champions. Sheila now lives in Novi, Michigan where she still teaches along with her daughter, Alison. A former student of Sheila’s, Alison is a four time U.S. Highland Dance Champion.
Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Sheila Mittig know how she has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.
On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Sheila Mittig for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.
CATHY HYND was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Living close to the Canadian border she began Highland lessons at an early age in St. Catherines, Ontario, first from Bill Cameron and most of her competitive years from Shirley Ashdown. She had a very successful career as a competitor from a young age into her twenties at all the major competitions in the Eastern United States and Ontario.
After completing a degree from the University of Buffalo, she began teaching and often judged when she retired from competition. At the start of a career in Journalism, she became eager to organize a cohesive group of Highland teachers in the Eastern U.S. states, and was the co-founder of the United States Highland Dancing Association (USHDA). The original group included Marguerite Reid, Margaret Callendar, Vera Miller, M.E. Davidson, Margaret Killen and several others who were teaching in major cities.
After getting the organization up and running and organizing the first SOBHD sanctioned championship in the U.S. in the early 1960′s, she met her future husband John Hynd, and after their marriage she moved to California and began teaching along with John and then on her own. Cathy and John were amongst the first American members of the Worldwide SOBHD Judges Panel.
One of Cathy’s legacies will be that she and Jenny MacLachlan from Kitchener, Ontario organized the first Highland workshop for dancers from the U.S. and Canada who came together to enhance their skills and knowledge. Instructors at this event were Heather Jolley and Sandra Bald Jones. Years later, Cathy and Sandra organized the first “World of Highland Dancing Conference” in Las Vegas with professionals gathering from the U.S, Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This event made the world of Highland much smaller and resulted in new communication and friendships that had not been seen prior to this event.
Cathy was part of a group who organized what is now FUSTA at that first Conference which was held in Las Vegas in 1980. From its inception, she has continued to be committed to the goals and success of FUSTA and has actively participated from the beginning until the present day. Christie Freestone acted as the first President and Cathy was supportive from day one acting in various capacities. She served as the first West Regional Delegate for several terms, then as Vice-President and President for two years beginning in 1996. She prides herself in having attended all but two of the USIR events and has served often as co-organizer or FUSTA Liaison at the USIR’s in California. As President she attended the first SOBHD Liaison meeting in Glasgow, and began the practice of holding a mid-winter meeting for the FUSTA Board of Directors, which has become an essential part in running FUSTA today. She also appointed Lynne Erbrick as chairman of the much needed and important Judges Committee, and produced the CD “Dance to the Piper”, coaxing several U.S. pipers to donate their time and effort. The CD has become a significant and worthwhile fundraiser for FUSTA for many years.
Apart from her administrative and organizational efforts, Cathy has managed to produce 12 USIR champions, a Junior World Champion and a 1st runner up, as well as champions at the Commonwealth and Bute Championships. Some of her former pupils are current members of FUSTA and several are on the SOBHD Worldwide Judges Panel.
Over a 50-plus year span, Cathy remains committed to the goals of FUSTA and the SOBHD, and to excellence in competitive Highland Dancing. She is currently a life member of the BATD and a member and examiner of the UKA.
Cathy and John reside in Manhattan Beach, CA. Their daughter Janeen, also a successful competitive dancer, is married to Richard Tronnes and they reside in Vancouver, Canada with their three year old daughter, Ava.
Florence Hart started highland dancing lessons in Scotland when she was 5 years old. She became a Cowal medalist and Fife champion. At 15, she won a scholarship to the Celtic Ballet School of Theatre Dance and studied there for 3 years in Glasgow. Florence danced in Britain until the age of 23. She arrived in the United States in 1961 where she started teaching highland dancing. She began her SOBHD judging career in 1967. Florence has a fellowship in SDTA and is a member of UKAPTD. She has trained many champion dancers and has had representatives from the Midwest at the USIR for the last 25 years. She taught at Macalester College for 38 years and organized the Macalester Highland Games in 1965.
Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Florence Hart know how she has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.
On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to be the first to say “Thank You” to Mrs. Hart for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the USA Highland dance community what it is today.
Please join us in congratulating the winners of the 2011 FUSTA Scholarships! These essays appeared in the 2011 USIR program and we’re glad to be able to share them with you. We’re really proud of these deserving young women and their many accomplishments. If you or a dancer you know will be in college or graduate school next year, please consider applying for the 2012 FUSTA Scholarships. You’ll find more information in the previous post and on the FUSTA Scholarship webpage.
2011 Harry Farrar IV Memorial Scholarship Winner: Ellen Brown
I am thrilled to be the recipient of the 2011 Harry Farrar IV Memorial Scholarship! As a Scottish Highland dancer since the age of seven, this culturally vital dance form has helped me to build drive, discipline and determination as well as inspiring me to delve into the history of my ancestors. My theory studies have progressed through five levels of practical, written and oral exams, including opportunities to participate in the Sadie Simpson Highland Scholarships in Toronto, Atlantic City, and San Antonio. This year I passed my Associates Exam with highest honors, receiving an Associate Certificate and membership in the British Association of Teacher’s of Dancing (BATD). I will be attending Duke University in the fall as a Dance major and intend to use my passion for dance and my love of children to explore the positive effects of dance study on child cognition. I also plan to continue my pursuit of technical excellence and further educational accreditation through local and national Highland workshops, allowing me to one day pass on my love of Scottish heritage and culture to students of my own. Thank you once again for this wonderful opportunity. I truly appreciate the confidence that you have shown in my abilities.
2011 Eunice Baird Whittlesey Memorial Scholarship Winner: Maria Taylor
At the age of nine years, I traded my ballet shoes for a pair of ghillies and have never looked back. Since then, Highland dance has played a central part in my life, and many of my fondest memories come from dancing with my sisters and friends at classes, competitions, and shows. This spring I completed my junior year at Alma College, a small Scottish liberal arts school in central Michigan where I am pursuing an English major and French minor. I have been on the Dean’s List every semester and am a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English honors society. Highland dance has remained at the forefront of my social life in college, as some of my numerous Highland friends attend Alma as well. For us, dance classes serve as welcome study breaks. After an hour of strathspeys, sheddings, and pas de basques, we feel revitalized and better able to concentrate on our studies.
One of my favorite aspects of Highland dance is performance, something I credit to my first teacher, Daphne Wright, and the many shows she organized for local Burns suppers, fairs, and nursing homes while she lived in Michigan. At Alma, I continue to enjoy performing for the community with both the Mid-Michigan Highland Dance Academy and the Kiltie Dancers, Alma College’s Highland performance troupe. I also perform regularly with the Walton School of Highland Dance at shows in the Detroit area with such groups as the Detroit Concert Choir and the St Andrew’s Pipe Band. Studying with several Highland instructors working together as a team – Christie Freestone and Kate DeGood in Alma, and Tracey Walton in the Detroit area – has aided me greatly in continuing to dance while away from home.
While Highland is my first love, I enjoy participating in other forms of creative expression as well. Soon after I started dancing, I began violin lessons, performing in local youth orchestras throughout high school and with both the Alma Symphony Orchestra and the Redford Civic Symphony during college. Liturgical was another dance form I enjoyed during high school; after graduating, I mentored for the group during my first year of college. In addition to dance and music, I enjoy acting in student-run theatricals and writing short stories. I also volunteer as a docent at the Governor Warner Mansion – a historical museum owned by the city of Farmington – and am a member of the Warnerettes, a parasol drill team that marches in parades to promote the Mansion and Farmington history.
My greatest desire is to continue Highland’s traditions by helping a new generation come to appreciate its heritage and intricacies as I do. I have taken my Associate’s and Member’s exams and intend to continue with my professional exams, aspiring to become a respected teacher, judge, and examiner. I would like to thank both my parents and my three inspiring teachers Christie Freestone, Kate DeGood, and Tracey Walton – as well as the many instructors I have had at workshops and camps over the years – for their continued support and encouragement. Their commitment to excellence remains instrumental to my success.
“Turn out more!” your teacher yells. Stretch those feet! Elevate!
Watch your positions. Remember your corrections. Oh my aching feet! Highland dancers must be the hardest working people on the planet. Each week they come to class one or more times to be told what they are doing wrong and to be pushed to work harder. They go home and practice to perfect those backsteps, pas de basques, and toe-heels. This push for excellence is at the heart of highland dancing and it pays dividends of improved fitness, attention to detail, and heightened focus. Sometimes those dividends come in the form of trophies and medals. All in all, it is a good thing.
But sometimes we forget why we are dancing. Celtic music is the heartbeat of the Scottish people and highland dancing is the expression of that music. We express the joy, the pain, and the pride of Scotland with our dance.
There is no finer Celtic musician than Alasdair Fraser. Alasdair’s deep understanding of Scottish music and indeed of Scotland and its history is evident in his performances. To dance to the music of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas is to truly experience the thrill and elation, the fire and grace that is highland dancing.
Highland dancers across the US are thrilling to the opportunity to perform with Alasdair and Natalie. Dancers have performed with them in Portland OR, E. Lansing MI, Belleville and Cincinnati OH. Each performance has been a resounding success. It has been a chance to show a broader audience what we as highland dancers can do. And it is a chance for us as dancers to dance for joy. What a nice opportunity to break away, if only for a moment, from the pressures of competitive dancing to perform the Alien Ceildh choreography as created by the FUSTA choreography committee. Each group has put its own personal spin on the choreography and that is part of the fun. And yet dancers from different schools have been able to come together to produce a beautiful dance performance.
My special thanks to Jocelyn Case, Tracy Walton, Christie Walsh, and Missy Gentry who organized the performances locally. Their hard work made it all happen.
From the comments following, I think you can see that the opportunity was truly inspiring for the dancers.
“This experience was so amazing because to have the opportunity to dance on a stage with two people who were so talented and passionate about their craft made me have so much joy to be a part of that, doing something that I love too – to dance!” – Becca Baldwin, McKinney School of Dance
“It was a really cool opportunity being able to perform with Alasdair and Natalie. Although we were from different studios, we were able to collaborate and add our own style to the original choreography. I hope to be able to perform it again!” – Hayley Jameson, Case School of Highland Dance
“I have been listening to Alasdair’s music since I was a little girl, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to perform with him. I think everyone was a little nervous before the show; would the costumes work? Would we remember the choreography? Were we even doing the same arms? As soon as we met Alasdair and Natalie, and realized how excited they were to bring together music and dance, we knew it was going to be great. This has been my favorite performance in the twenty years I’ve been dancing, and on top of that we got to watch a great concert. Thank you so much to Alasdair and Natalie, for reminding me why I love Highland dance.” – Hilary McKinney Heiney, McKinney School of Dance
“I was really nervous for it because we had so much trouble getting everyone together due to or schedules, but when it came down to it I was really excited. I thought it went really well and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also would love to see him perform again if I ever have the chance.” – Kourt Bacon – Bacon School of Highland Dance
“I thought it was fun taking an original choreography and making it our own. I liked how Alasdair and Natalie were so welcoming to us when we came onto the stage. I would love to do it again!” – Libby Patterson, Case School of Highland Dance
Margaret Callander was born in Cleveland, Ohio and began dancing at the age of 5. She is a Life Member of the BATD and has been a Member of the SOBHD Judges’ Panel for many years. She began teaching in 1950; in 1955 she won at the Edinburgh Festival. Her students have won many awards in the United States, Canada and Scotland. Prior to the creation of FUSTA, she was secretary of its predecessor, USHDA. This Association was comprised of members from the present Midwest Region and Eastern Region. Out of this Association, FUSTA was born. Margaret was one of the founders of the Ohio Scottish Games, which led to the organization of the Ohio Scottish Arts School. For the more than 30 years the School has promoted Highland Dancing to students from the United States and Canada. The School promotes teacher training and has produced hundreds of teachers to carry on our Scottish Arts and Traditions.
Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Margaret Callander know how she has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.
On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Ms. Callander for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the USA Highland dance community what it is today.
This year, we believe for the first time, one of the Miss America contestants is performing a Scottish highland dance choreography in the talent portion of the competition. Katie Levasseur, Miss Vermont, dances with the Saint Andrew’s Highland Dancers of Vermont and is a senior at the University of Vermont.
We can’t promise that they’ll show her choreography on national tv, but tune in tonight, Saturday, January 14, 2012 to support Katie as she competes for the title of Miss America! The broadcast will be at 9:00pm EST on ABC.
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