It may no longer be Christmas time, but our upcoming Dining to Donate charity event is putting us in the giving spirit! The team at Discover Scottish Dance uncovered this footage of a Good Morning America episode from November 2010 taped in Chicago, IL. Watch the Thistle and Heather Highland Dancers perform a Highland Fling at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). And dancing isn’t all these talented dancers do. They also donated coats to support a coat collection put on by MSI.
If your dance group would like to participate in the fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, see our previous post for more information and get in touch with Megan today!
Let us know if you have a great video to share, we’d love to post it here!
“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
This well-done documentary showcases many aspects of highland games in Scotland, as well as discussing the history of the games. We (of course) particularly enjoyed the footage of the dancing and it’s also fun to learn about many of the other events that take place at highland games around the world. Did you have any idea that the hammer throwers wear “blade boots,” shoes with what look to be trowels mounted in the front? Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments!
Check out this neat video of a Full Tulloch performed at the Chicago Spring Fling Championship in February 2009! The reel chosen for championship Highland dance competitions varies from year to year. It is usually a combination of Strathspey, Highland Reel, and/or Full or Half Tulloch. As you can see in the video, rather than starting in a straight line, the Full Tulloch (and Half Tulloch, when performed alone) begins with the dancers facing one another in a square formation. In case you like the music, this particular reel tune is known as Kelsey’s Wee Reel. And don’t forget that this year’s Spring Fling will be held at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, IL on February 25, 2012!
Let us know what you think in the comments and please submit any videos you’d like to see posted here to DiscoverScottishDance@gmail.com!
By Jo Kalat, Choreography Committee
In 2011, we presented the Alien Ceilidh Choreography choreographed by FUSTA’s choreography committee and open to all FUSTA members to use in performances across the United States.
In 2012 we are pleased to announce that some performances on Alasdair Fraser’s tour have presented opportunities for dancers to join him on stage with our very own Alien Ceilidh Choreography!
Jocelyn Case took the lead and organized a group that performed with Alasdair Frasier on January 22 in Portland, Oregon. Alasdair was pleased and so are we. We’re including a video so you can all enjoy the show. Other performances are planned in East Lansing, Michigan, and Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. This is a great opportunity to showcase Highland dancing.
If Alasdair is not going to be in your area, there can still be opportunities for you to perform. A new choreography to Scotland the Brave is now on the website. This is very versatile and can be performed with any group. So keep your eyes open for any touring group in your area.
For those instructors who are current FUSTA members and are interested in teaching the choreography to their students the instructional videos are available on this site under the Video, Members section. The password can be obtained by emailing us at DiscoverScottishDance@gmail.com.
Legend has it that the initial Gillie Callum, more commonly known as the Sword Dance, was created by Malcolm Canmore, a Celtic Prince who fought a battle in 1054. Triumphant, he crossed his opponent’s sword with his own and danced over them celebrating his victory. It is also said that the warriors danced the Sword Dance prior to battle. If the warrior touched the swords, it was considered an omen symbolizing injury or death in battle.
We no longer have to worry about going into battle, but the dance links us to those soldiers. Highland dancing has been handed down to us as a proud tradition that we continue to celebrate today. Originally, only men performed and competed in the dances, but now men and women compete as equals. The strength and agility once necessary for victory in battle will now bring medals and trophies.
We hope you enjoy this video of a group of talented male dancers performing the Sword Dance. Watch their strength showcasing the tradition that unites highland dancers worldwide.
Happy New Years and welcome back to a brand new year at DiscoverScottishDance.com! We’re going to kick off 2012 with a remarkable video of the Royal Scots Guard accompanied by an impressive collection of Scottish Highland Dancers. This was shot at the Las Vegas International Tattoo in 2011.
The Alien Ceilidh FUSTA Choreography
Dear FUSTA members,
The Alien Ceilidh FUSTA Choreography has just been made available for you to learn, teach and use. There are many Celtic music groups that perform across the United States. One way that we can increase public awareness about highland dancing is to perform with these groups. Many of you may do so informally already, but we’d like to facilitate everyone’s ability to do so. There is a FUSTA choreography committee that has been working hard to develop choreographies for both pre-premier and premier dancers that ANYONE can use in conjunction with Celtic musicians performing near you. So far, the committee has been working on two types of choreographies: first, ones that are choreographed to a specific piece of music by an artist who has agreed to work with dancers when they are in concert, and second, ones that are choreographed to an iconic piece of Scottish music that *any* group who is performing near you might be able to play.
Above is a video of the first of these: “Alien Ceilidh” to the tune of the same name by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. Alasdair and Natalie have said that they’d be happy to have any dancers who are located near their performance venues come and perform to that piece of music (with prior notice, of course!). The choreography committee has put together this choreography to this piece of music–it’s designed for premier-level or otherwise advanced dancers to learn in 2-4 sessions.
To facilitate learning the choreography, we have put together some learning tools and made them available in the FUSTA members section of this site. Please look for your password in an e-mail from your FUSTA delegates about this choreography.
We would *love* for you to have your dancers learn this choreography and give us feedback on how the tools work and/or can be improved. Of course, feel free to adapt it to the needs of your dancers — it could fairly easily be adapted, for example, to be performed by more or fewer dancers, as needed. Please feel free to use this choreography in your own shows with recorded music (but obviously this should not be entered into a choreography competition!).
Please consider having your dancers perform in the USA Scottish Highland dance logo’d t-shirts, preferably black with silver bling, a black skirt and a tartan waist sash. Logo’d t-shirts will be available at the BATD Conference in Chicago on Oct 28, 29 & 30 and online soon.
Finally, please check out the performance schedule for Alasdair and Natalie at http://www.alasdairfraser.com/performances.html and see if they’ll be performing near you any time in the near future. If so, and you’re interested, please contact us at DiscoverScottishDance@gmail.com and we will help you set up a joint performance with them. Note that part of the point of this is that any group of dancers could learn the choreography and perform it, so if you want to join forces with other teachers/dancers in your area, that would be wonderful!
Be on the lookout for two more choreographies coming soon!
The Advancement Committee
With special thanks given to the Choreography Committee for their hard work and fantastic results.
video by Ali
These lovely dancers were competing in Primary, the category for young dancers less than 7 years old, at the 2009 Seaside Highland Games almost 2 years ago in Ventura, CA. We managed to catch up with one of the girls recently who by now is competing in intermediate and asked her to tell us some of her favorite things about highland dancing:
“My favorite things about highland dancing are seeing my friends and traveling. I have made new friends all over the United States, in Canada, and even in Scotland! I met many of my friends when I was in Primary, even some at my very first competition! We are still friends three years later! We get to see each other at competitions even though we don’t go to the same dancing school. We cheer for each other and have fun hanging out. Some of my friends who live far away are mostly penpals, but I get to see them when we travel, which I love! We have traveled too many places to count! I love highland dancing! If you are looking for a fun activity to do where you can make lots of new friends, I recommend highland dancing!” — by Beret, age 8
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It’s early in the morning and all around the highland dance platform, dancers are getting their hair fixed, nervously warming up, and taking in last minute advice from their teachers. Within the larger highland games, we’re often in our own little world.
Nearby, the sound of a hundred bagpipers fills the air, punctuated by cheers from the crowd as men toss logs the size of telephone poles. The scent of meat pies, roast corn, and other tasty treats being prepared for the lunchtime rush wafts across the field. Each year thousands of people enjoy attending highland games in the United States. They come for the food, the cultural celebration, the music, the athletics, as well as the dancing.
Next time your siblings, grandparents, and friends want to tag along to support you, encourage them to come and watch, and then to take part in the children’s athletics, the kilted mile, whiskey tasting, or whatever excites them.
Have you been to a big Highland Games? One with thousands of people and activities from morning to night? Tell us about your favorite part (besides the dancing, of course) in the comments!
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