Currently viewing the tag: "highland dance"

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!

by Jo Kalat

On April 11, in celebration of Tartan Week, we have partnered with Applebee’s Dining to Donate program. FUSTA members who would like to participate will receive flyers that they can distribute to their students. Anybody showing up at Applebee’s all day on April 11 with a flyer will receive a 10% discount on their bill and additionally, 10% will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Association! Dancers will be invited to do highland reels at their local Applebee’s. This is a win/win/win! Our dancers get to have the wonderful feeling one has when doing community service, highland dance gets publicity, and the Juvenile Diabetes Association gets a donation. And you get a discount on your meal. All you have to do is hand out flyers to family and friends and show up at your local Applebee’s.

Megan Monroe is handling this project for FUSTA. Please see the Letter to Dance Teachers for more information, speak to your dance teacher, and contact Megan by March 11th to participate and support this worthy project.

Dancing with Diabetes

First comes the blurry vision followed by extreme fatigue, hunger and weight loss. Later comes the devastating thirst as your body begins to shut down. Then the diagnosis – juvenile diabetes. This diagnosis is followed by a rigorous schedule of insulin injections, diet, exercise, and worry.

I have had two dancers and a son with Juvenile Diabetes so I know the routine well. At least 3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes. The rate of diabetes in children under age 14 is projected to increase by 3% yearly world wide. Insulin is a treatment, not a cure. We need a cure for this devastating disease.

Prior to my son getting diabetes, I remember vividly thinking – “Diabetes is not so bad – you just have to take a shot every day and you are fine.” I later so regretted this thought. Living with diabetes requires constant work and management. You have to monitor your blood sugars with multiple blood tests (think finger pricks 4 times a day!). Then you have to order your life around your insulin.

If you are a highland dancer, so much more is required of you than of your competitors. Shannon Anfindsen, a two time USIR champion, says this about competing with diabetes:

Shannon Anfindsen


A day that was supposed to be about me focusing on dancing my very best would also consist of me worrying about my blood sugar levels. While other dancers only had to worry about touching the sword, or doing perfect hi-cuts, I had to make sure that my blood sugar was perfect. The slightest difference in blood sugar level would translate to whether or not I could make it through a dance with adequate energy. During competitions, I would have to test before and after every dance, while giving myself enough time to allow for corrections. Highland dancing is hard enough without the added stress of dealing with diabetes. Please donate to JDRF so that a cure can be found.

If you are a dancer with diabetes and you have a story to tell, I invite you to contact so we can share it.

I have always thought of highland dancing as a wonderful way for our young people to increase their fitness and to learn the drive for excellence. Isn’t it great that we now have a chance for it also to be an opportunity for our young people to serve their greater community and make a “reel” difference?

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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FUSTA is pleased to offer two college scholarships for dancers who have demonstrated a high level of participation and interest in the art of Highland Dance.

Applicants for the $1000.00 Harry Farrar IV Memorial Scholarship must be current-year registered dancers who are either high school seniors or high school graduates preparing to enroll in their first year beyond high school.

Applicants for the $1000.00 Eunice Baird Whittlesey Memorial Scholarship must be current-year registered dancers who are enrolled in college or graduate school.

Applicants for either scholarship must be current-year registered dancers, U.S. residents who are either members of FUSTA themselves or their teachers are FUSTA members in good standing. Completed applications materials must be postmarked no later than April 30.

Applications are available on the FUSTA Scholarship webpage.

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“Turn out more!” your teacher yells. Stretch those feet! Elevate!

Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas and a team of USA Scottish Highland Dancers

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



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!

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By Jo Kalat, Choreography Committee

In 2011, we presented the Alien Ceilidh Choreography choreographed by FUSTA’s choreography committee andAlasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas 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

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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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.

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Happy New Years and welcome back to a brand new year at! 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.

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