Highland Dancer Diary: Rhaya and Sophie’s First Championship

Rhaya and Sophie Jump Into Their First Championship

Highland Dancer Diary

As a new competitive season of Highland dance begins each year, lots of new Premier dancers participate in their first championships. This past weekend, two of our young Premiers, Rhaya Kendall and Sophie Bowles, competed at the Maritime Closed Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We caught up with Rhaya and Sophie throughout the weekend, and now we’re excited to bring you along for the ride!

Other Saorsa competitors at the Maritime Closed Championship. (L-R): Rachel Brinkman-Mills, Hannah Howe, Callum Hunter, Kate Francoeur, Sarah Graham

What is a Championship?

Let’s start with the basics – what is a championship? 

Championships are dance competitions with a few specific conditions:

  • Only Premier-level dancers may compete.
  • Dancers compete with the Fling, Sword, Seann Triubhas, and a Reel.
  • The dances have set steps defined by the RSOBHD each year.
  • There are 3 judges rather than 1, and scores are calculated collectively in order to award placings. 
  • Closed championships have limited entry conditions – dancers must qualify to compete by birth or residency (the championship Rhaya and Sophie competed in was the Maritime Closed Championship – only Maritime dancers could compete).
  • Open championships are open to dancers outside the region named in the championship title (i.e.: even dancers from outside Canada may compete in the Canadian Open Championships). 

Looking for more answers about the world of Highland dance?

Our Highland Dancer Blog has it all!

What to Expect

The pressure on dancers to perform their best at a championship can be immense compared to a typical competition. The eyes of three judges rather than one can be intimidating!

Additionally, championships like the Maritime Closed, which happen in Winter and Spring, are often benchmarks for dancers as they work toward bigger championships – like provincials, Canadians, etc. 

The Maritime Closed Championship was the first one of 2023 for Maritime dancers – so nerves were high as dancers tried to start the season on the right foot. 

The Night Before

Having traveled to Moncton a day early, the Saorsa Studio dancers competing in the championship met up for dinner the night before the big day!

Sophie and Rhaya participated in the grand traditions of Highland dance: they got Shirley Temples, kids menu word searches, and pasta. 

Q: How are you feeling?
Sophie Bowles: Good. Excited.
Rhaya Kendall: Hungry. Nervous. 

Q: What are you most excited for?
SB: Doing the third step of the Sean Triubhas to see how it goes.
RK: Doing my last set of split High Cuts in the Reel to be done for the day!

Q: What are you most nervous for?
I’m not nervous.
I’m nervous for the Sword.

Q: What are your goals for tomorrow?
To dance without mistakes, to not kick the sword, and to have a good, clean competition. 


Championship Day Arrives

When the morning of the championship arrived, Rhaya and Sophie got warmed up and ready to take the stage.

Q: Are you feeling ready?
SB: Yes.
Rhaya was feeling nervous…
RK: No. 
But we know it was just the nerves talking. Both dancers put in the hours of practice – they were ready!

Q: What did you have for breakfast?
RK: A mini waffle.
SB: An English muffin with peanut butter and jam.

Q: What dance are you most excited for?
RK: The Fling.
SB: One dance at a time.

The day passed with lots of exciting moments. Saorsa Studio founder and the girls’ teacher, Nicole, was proud of Rhaya and Sophie’s performance.

Q: How did the day go for Rhaya and Sophie?
Nicole Odo: They each danced really clean dances, and had some of their sharpest and tidiest steps in some of the dances. I saw them push themselves, and they were super supportive of each other when they would go over their dances together in the warm up area before each dance.


Q: How do you feel about your dancing?
S: Good.
R: Good.

Q: What was your favourite part?
R: Getting it done.
S: I think I danced the Fling really well.

Q: What do you want to focus on for next time?
R: The Reel.
S: Not losing my ghillie while dancing, and also the shake and travel step of the Reel. 

Q: Do you feel like you’ve fixed a correction you’ve been working on? If so, what correction?
R: Yes; leaping with the correct foot in the Seann Triubhas.
S: Yes; being sharper on count 2 in the Fling.

The girls were each very happy to earn a few placings and get their foot in the door for a very exciting upcoming season of championships!

Now it’s time for them to set their eyes on their next goals to be achieved and get back to work in the studio❤️


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Upcoming events at Saorsa

Dancing in a Winter Wonderland – 2023 holiday recital

Saturday, December 9th at 5:30pm
Theatre Bernard Poirier at the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne

Annual Studio Christmas party

Sunday, December 10th 3-5pm at Saorsa North

All dancers and families are welcome to join us for holiday snacks and activities hosted by the Fredericton Highland Dance Association!