“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
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.
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.
Choeographed and performed by the Jo Kalat School of Scottish Dance in Cary, NC
Rhythm of the Dancer was originally put together over ten years ago by senior premier dancers at Jo Kalat’s studio. It was my senior year of high school and I remember spending hours at home coming up with a small section to present to my friends at our weekly choreography class. We debated each and every detail, creating a finished piece we were all proud to be a part of. Each of the original dancers contributed parts, overseen by our dance teacher. Several of the moms collaborated to sew the beautiful costumes and it was debuted at the Loch Norman Highland Games in the spring of 2000. After all our hard work, we won the group choreography competition!
Years later, this version was featured in the concert ‘Rhythms of Scotland,’ performed in North Carolina. The group of dancers includes several of the original cast with a number of talented younger dancers taking over the places of those who have moved away to college, careers, and teaching. Looking back over ten years later, more than half of the original group is still actively involved in the highland dance community as dancers and teachers, me included. We’re now spread across at least 7 states in the Southeastern, Eastern, and Northwestern regions and Scotland.
It was my favorite choreography as a dancer and is still one of my favorites to watch. I hope you enjoy it too!
If you have a video of a choreography or performance you would like to see featured here, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with the name of your school and your location, and optionally an explanation of its significance to you.
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