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A glimpse of the culture of Scottish Highland Dancing and FUSTA’s USA Scottish Highland Dancing. This public service announcement features the Thistle and Heather Highland Dancers of Chicagoland, under the direction of Nancy Strolle. The piper featured is Ben Peterson. Music is “Alien Ceilidh” by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.

Visit the following sites for more information: – USA Scottish Highland Dancing – to find a teacher – for more great music


The Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators (FUSTA) was established in 1980 to promote Scottish Highland Dancing and culture in the United States and to provide a community system for teachers and judges of Highland dancing.

This video is brought to you by Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.

Directed by Jonathan Vaughn
Produced by Ryan Forkin
Cinematography by Emily Feller
Edited by Molly O’Callaghan
Assistant Editing by Eli Cantu
Production Assisted by Jordan Miller and Jeff Wisniewski


From coast to coast the June 22nd premier of Disney Pixar’s “Brave” brought with it the opportunity for dancers all over the nation to perform at their local movie theaters.  The experience was rich and exciting for Highland dancers.   Clementyne Vega wrote the following.

Highland Dancing has brought many interesting adventures and opportunities to my life.  Most recently, dancing at the BRAVE Hollywood Premiere After Party.    It was an exciting and rewarding experience.    We arrived in Hollywood early and walked up and down Hollywood Blvd.  We watched the crew roll out the red “green grass” carpet and erect a castle in front of the theater.    All of the dancers met up for dinner and then we headed up to the green room to prepare for rehearsal and the grand performance.

The ballroom we performed in was amazing.  It was decorated in true Disney fashion.  They created a Scottish highland forest theme, complete with fire pits and trees.   While we were on stage it was exciting to know that the movie cast and many celebrities were watching us dance!   I recognized several famous faces in the audience and was thrilled to be a part of this event.   It was a night I will always remember.  A night where I got to do what I love most, Highland Dance, in a truly awe-inspiring venue.   I am thankful and grateful to have been included with such a fine group of dancers.

The Minnesotta Highland Dancers were on T.V.! The video is below and the full article follow this link:


The Discover Scottish Dance Facebook Group provides a great place to upload your own photos.  You can share your own experiences there or in the comments section below.


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

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown, 2011 FUSTA Scholarship Recipient

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

Maria Taylor, 2011 FUSTA Scholarship Recipient

Maria Taylor, 2011 FUSTA Scholarship Recipient

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.

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Miss Vermont - Katie Levasseur performs a Scottish highland dance choreography in the 2012 Miss America Pageant Talent Competition

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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by Charlotte Pierce, current dance mom

“Mom, I am going to pick the tartan for my next kilt myself. It’s MY decision, and I am going to do it.”

– LILLIAN, age 11 (and choose she did – Dress Blue Buchanan.)

Clearly, our daughter has taken ownership of her Scottish dancing – it is no longer an activity that we as “dance parents” schlep her to every week “for her own good.” We think Lillian’s attitude came together through a combination of factors, including: getting her to classes at a young age when we could still have some influence; enabling her to take classes with her best friend; qualified teachers sensitive to her talents and developmental needs; and the unique qualities of the Highland community and the enduring friendships she’s made along the way.

Still, pursuing Scottish dancing never occurred to any of us growing up. It wasn’t until my friend Laurie, the mother of Lillian’s best friend Anna, found our first Highland teacher from a flyer posted at the local ice cream shop. As dance moms, both of us were ready to move on from kiddie-ballet mega-recitals to an artistic, physical activity that would be both local and meaningful, and we made the call. Before we knew it, we had ordered FUSTA cards and registered the girls for their first competition. Little did we know that six years later, we’d be traveling to dance classes two hours away in Connecticut and competitions across the country – but that’s another story!

It’s always interesting to hear how families got involved in highland dancing. Some merged into it naturally as the daughters or sons of bagpipers or renowned Scottish dancers like Marguerite Reid and Jeannie Brauns. For our family, Scottish heritage on both sides of the family influenced our choice; my husband has Kerrs on his side, and my mother has always kept a strong connection to her MacNeil of Barra and Colquhoun (Cowan) roots. And then, there’s that Braveheart thing!

What are the reasons children and adults first get involved in Scottish dancing?
  • Expression of Scottish heritage
  • Friends or family already involved
  • Combination of athletic training and artistic expression
  • Strong Scottish cultural representation in community
  • A “different” kind of dance for boys as well as girls
  • Historical roots and traditions
  • Closest available dance class
  • Accidental discovery at a local event or community advertisement


How about your family, how did you first get involved in Scottish highland dance?

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featuring Ashley, Missy, and Amanda Gentry from Kentucky

The Gentry family from Kentucky has been deeply involved with highland dance for many years as dancers, teachers, and competition organizers in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio and across the United States. We caught up with them at the 2011 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games to ask about their experiences as a highland dance family. They share how traveling to Scottish games brought them closer together as a family, gave them opportunities to travel, and enriched their lives.


If you have a video you would like to see featured here, email it to along with the name of your school and your location, and optionally an explanation of its significance to you.

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by Melissa Johnson, Child psychologist, Cary NC

Dance friends

“Our daughter was taking ballet lessons when a Scottish dance demonstration caught her attention, and she begged to start taking Highland dance lessons. She quickly fell in love with this colorful, energetic, and distinctly beautiful style of dance — as did her parents and grandparents! Her training in highland dance shows through in her poise, self-confidence, and physical fitness, and she cherishes the friendships with teachers and classmates that she has made along the way.”

“My daughter was a highland dancer for almost twelve years. Her dance experiences were among the most important influences in shaping the young woman she grew to become. She is poised, outgoing, confident, and enthusiastic, and I saw all of those traits develop as she learned new skills, made friends, traveled, competed, performed, and experienced the joy of dance. As a young woman, she no longer competes, but she still dances for pleasure regularly and is strong and fit. She and her dad feel lucky that she had this opportunity”


Highland dance parents, how has our sport affected your family? Leave us a comment or email us at

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The skills learned in my years as a competitive Scottish Highland Dancer were instrumental to my success as a litigation attorney for a Fortune 500 company. Growing up, I was very shy, and competing from a young age gave me the confidence and poise necessary to perform in front of large groups of people.  It also instilled in me the belief that I could accomplish anything that I set out to do.   I would recommend it to any young person as a great foundation to a successful career.

    Heather Bale,

    Attorney at Law

    Corporate Law Department State Farm Insurance Company

    by Amy Hurwitz, FUSTA West

    Highland dance has played an integral role in my life since I first joined FUSTA as a dancer at age five. Through dance, I learned the importance of self-discipline, practice, persistence, and good sportsmanship at competitions.  Whether local or far away, competitions often gave my family an excuse for small vacations during which we visited new cities and immersed ourselves in the Scottish culture at the Highland Games.

    Friends & the World Wide Highland Dance Community: Through Highland dance competitions and workshops, I have also made lifelong friends throughout the United States, North America, Scotland and Australia. FUSTA’s annual USIR event is always a highlight for me as I am reunited with friends from far away and get to visit a new city each year. For championships abroad, I often socialize or travel with Highland dance friends, and enjoy the team mentality among dancers from the USA.

    Teaching: In my early teens, I took my teachers’ exam and began training young beginning dancers, and gave workshops at my high school and later at university.  These experiences increased my knowledge of the dance textbooks and enabled me to give back to my community in a new way. Seeing my students learn new dances and improve their technique is very satisfying and I hope to contribute to the legacy of Highland dance.

    Career: Now, as I enter the working world and continue graduate academic studies in science, the values that I gained and practiced through Highland dance transfer easily and benefit me daily.  As well, wherever I go, geographically or career-wise, I know I can find a support system through the teachers, dancers and families of FUSTA.  Ultimately, when I complete my academic studies, I would like to start up a small dance school of my own to continue the legacy as an ambassador of Highland dance and to keep a balance with my career in science.

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