Halifax 2023: Your Complete Guide to the ScotDance Canada Championship Series

Your Guide to SDCCS 2023

What is SDCCS?

The ScotDance Canada Championship Series (SDCCS) is an annual multi-day Highland dance event which moves around Canada and offers many exciting opportunities for dancers! 

The highlight of SDCCS for many dancers is the Canadian Championships (hence why SDCCS is sometimes referred to as “Canadians” or “Nationals”!), but the Series also offers events for dancers who aren’t competing in the Canadian Championships!

This post includes all you need to know about the events offered at SDCCS, how registration works, tips for getting there and accommodations, how to best experience the Series, what to expect if it’s your first time attending, and important notes for parents.

Registration is opening for competitors on March 15th, so we are giving you the full run-down from our experienced teaching staff & parents who have attended for MANY years!

Why we love SDCCS

Each year, hundreds of dancers gather in a chosen Canadian city for four days of hard competition, forming connections with other dancers, spending time with their dance community, and getting to enjoy the best dancing the country has to offer.

This event is so prestigious because it hosts the Canadian Highland Dancing Championships (more on that below), but has become so much more than that since its inception.

It’s important to note that this event is open to ALL LEVELS! From ages 4 to adult, Primary to Premier, any Highland dancer from around the world is welcome to participate in this 4-day event.

Of course, the various competition events are exciting, but there are several events unique to SDCCS that are not to be missed! One of our favourite events is the banquet, where even after long days of hard work, dancers slip off their heels after dinner and get ready to party. Plus, the choreography event showcases some of the most creative minds and talented performers around!

Attending SDCCS is an occasion that dancers dream about year-round – there’s no other event quite like it! 

Get to Know the Language of Highland Dance

The rest of this post will include some dance terms like “Pre-Championship” and “Restricted Premier”, among others. To help you navigate the peculiarities of Highland dance, we highly recommend you read up on one of our key previous posts!

Saorsa Studio Dancers at SDCCS 2019

SDCCS 2023

This year, SDCCS will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the Halifax Convention Centre. For Saorsa Studio dancers, having the event in Halifax is an exciting opportunity! Having the Series in your backyard versus needing to travel further West is a major bonus (that’s why we’re encouraging as many of our dancers as possible to attend!).

The Series will be July 2nd – 6th, with events happening each day, as well as evenings. After giving the event schedule, we’ll unpack what each of the events mean for your dancer.

Halifax Convention Centre via Convention Centres of Canada

Schedule of Events

Sunday, July 2nd

  •  12 – 5PM: Dancer/Professional Registration
  • 6PM: Opening Ceremonies
  • 7PM: Pin Exchange

Monday, July 3rd

Morning Events
  •  Dancer/Professional Registration

Premier Highland Event

  • Premier/Restricted Premier (Fling (4), ST (3+1), Half Hullachan (4))
Afternoon Events

Pre-Premier Highland Event

  • Primary Highland (Pas de Basques, Pas de Basques and Highcuts, Fling (4), Sword (2+1))
  • Beginner/Novice/Intermediate Highland (Fling (4), Sword (2+1), Half Hullachan (4))
  • Beginner/Novice Special Event (Trophy Fling (4))
  • Intermediate Special Event (Wilt Thou Go to the Barracks, Johnny (4))
  • Premier Special Event (Ship Hector Sailor’s Hornpipe (4), with Preliminary and Final Rounds)
Evening Events
  • Professional CPD

 Tuesday, July 4th

Morning Events
  • Canadian Championship Under 16 Years 
Afternoon Events
  • Canadian Championship Over 16 Years
  • SDC Scholarships Presentation
Evening Events
  • Ship Hector Banquet and Dance Party

Wednesday, July 5th

Morning Events

Pre-Premier Nationals

  • Primary Highland (Pas de Basques, Pas de Basques and Highcuts, Fling (4), Sword (2+1))
  • Beginner/Novice/Intermediate (Seann Triubhas (3+1), Flora (4), Lilt (4))
Afternoon Events

Premier Nationals

  • Premier/Restricted Premier (Village Maid (4), Flora (4), Blue Bonnets (4))
Evening Events


  • Small Group
  • Large Group

Thursday, July 6th

Morning Events


  • Pre-Championship (Fling (4), Sword (2+1), Seann Triubhas (3+1), Strathspey and Half Tulloch (2+4))
  • SDC Open Championship 7 & Under 12 Years (Fling (4), Sword (2+1), Seann Triubhas (3+1), Strathspey and Half Tulloch (2+4))
Afternoon Events


  • SDC Open Championship 12 Years and Over (Fling (6), Sword (3+1), Seann Triubhas (4+2), Strathspey and Half Tulloch (2+4))
Saorsa Instructors and Leaping Lassies Dancers, Callum Hunter and Sarah Graham, who were provincial representatives for Alberta and New Brunswick, respectively, at SDCCS Banquet 2022.

What are the Events?

Let’s unpack the schedule – what do each of the events mean? Should you register your dancer for it?

Dancer Registration

Dancers and professionals have the opportunity to register mainly on both the Sunday and the Monday morning. We recommend leaving a good amount of time for your registration – even with the amazing number of volunteers who make SDCCS happen, you should expect a bit of a line up. 

However, if you can’t be there on Sunday or Monday, don’t fret! You can register any day of the week.

Opening Ceremonies

Who it’s for: all dancers, parents, spectators, vendors, and more!

Opening ceremonies are the official start of the event, typically featuring a performance from local dancers, a parade of provincial representatives, speeches from SDC officials, and a performance from a non-Highland dancer (past examples include a comedian, a hoop dancer, and many others!). 

We recommend everyone attends the opening ceremonies, as it’s such a great way to kick off an exciting week.

Now, let’s talk about passes for the show!

  • Registered dancers – get in for free
  • Teachers who purchased passes – opening ceremonies will be included in your pass
  • Parents who purchased passes – opening ceremonies may be included in your pass, be sure to read & review what’s included
  • Spectators who purchased passes – opening ceremonies may be included in your pass, be sure to read & review what’s included
  • Spectators who just want to watch the opening ceremonies – you can buy a one-day pass just for the opening ceremonies to view.

Our tip is to focus on registering your dancer first on March 15th, and then worry about who is going and who needs passes later 🙂

Monday the 3rd: Premier Highlands Day

Who it’s for: Primary, Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Premier

The first day of competition offers the opportunity to dance for all ages and categories, from Primary to Premier. With Premier events in the morning, and Pre-Premier and special events from Beginner, Novice, Intermediate and Premier in the afternoon, there’s something for everyone!

If you have a dancer age 4, all the way through to adult dancers – you can and should compete on this day! You’ll be blown away by the 9 stages filled with dancers from all over the world.

Tuesday the 4th: Canadian Championship

Who it’s for: Provincial Representatives (top 3 Premiers from each age from each province) ONLY.

Halifax will feature the 47th annual Canadian Championship event, where provincial representatives for each age group compete for the title of Canadian Champion.

Dancers DO NOT REGISTER THEMSELVES for this event. They first have to make the provincial team (top 3 for their age) and then your province will register you.

This fierce competition offers the opportunity for dancers who aren’t competing, including ambitious Pre-Premiers, to take in the best dancing Canada has to offer. If your dancer isn’t competing, we recommend stopping by to see some phenomenal dancing that is sure to inspire your dancer. This day also offers the opportunity to explore beautiful Halifax!


Who it’s for: all dancers, parents, spectators, vendors, and more!

As we mentioned earlier, the banquet is one of the highlights of the event. Anyone can buy a ticket to the banquet and enjoy dinner, the presentation of the Canadian Championship swords, a dance party, and more.

Provincial team representatives in New Brunswick do not buy their own ticket. When you make the team, our province takes care of this for you! Other provinces – you’ll need to check with your teacher to see how your province manages this.

For all others, you should plan to purchase a ticket if you want to join in on the celebration.

Wednesday the 5th: Nationals Day

Who it’s for: Primary, Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, Premier

The second-to-last day of competition is this author’s personal favourite! Once again, all dancers have the opportunity to compete, with Primary having a second shot at their competition dances, Beginner/Novice/Intermediate dancing Seann Triubhas and Nationals, and Premiers competing Nationals in the afternoon.

If you have a dancer age 4, all the way through to adult dancers – you can and should compete on this day!

Choreography Competition

Who it’s for: choreography groups

Following Nationals in the morning in the afternoon, the day finishes with the Choreography competition. Both Small Group and Large Group are great to watch – the creativity and hard work poured into these dances is truly impressive!

We highly recommend staying to watch this event, even if you don’t have a dancer competing! You’ll get to see a Highland dancing event that is very different than a traditional Highland dance competition.

Dancers DO NOT REGISTER for choreography themselves. Your teacher will register you if you are participating in a choreography in Halifax, as choreographies have to be registered as a group.

Thursday the 6th: Pre-Championship and Open Championship

Who it’s for: Premier dancers ONLY.

The final day of SDCCS brings the opportunity for Premier dancers to compete one more (or two more times). The Open Championship is open to all – not just provincial representatives. This means the opportunity to compete against dancers from all over the world!

Plus, the Pre-Championship (open only to dancers who have never won a championship) takes place in the morning. Dancers under 12 years must make the choice between competing in the Pre-Champ and Open-Championship, but dancers over 12 years can technically compete in two events in one day! 

If you’re debating whether to register for the Pre-Champ or the Open Championship, or both, just keep in mind that this will be taking place at the end of four long days of dancers pushing their bodies to the max. Speaking from personal experience, doing both is certainly possible. “Enjoyable” and “painful” are themes you may have to explore in further detail if you decide to go for both events. 

If you have a Premier dancer who has never won a Championship or a Pre-Championship, we recommend doing the Pre-Championship only, but you do have the option to register for the Open as well. For those with Premier dancers who HAVE won a Championship or Pre-Championship, you cannot register for the Pre-Champ; so we recommend doing the Open!

L-R: Sarah Graham, Nicole Odo, and Hannah Howe at SDCCS 2022.


Registration for SDCCS is a bit more complicated and… competitive than other competitions. Online registrations open on March 15th, 2023 at 1pm EST.

Entries for the Series have historically overloaded SDC’s online system, so the website is known to crash and load for extended periods of time while dancers and parents attempt to register. So, have your dance card and credit card at the ready, and be patient! Here are the tips from SDC:

  • “Entries will go live March 15, 2023 at 1pm Eastern Time. No earlier.
  • The link will be posted on http://scotdance.ca/sdccs/ just before entries open. 
  • The more you refresh your browser, the heavier the load on the system – don’t do it! 
  • Have all dancer and payment information ready as per the list in the Official Entry Form
  • Be patient! Each time you refresh your browser, it is like adding another user to the line-up causing slow downs and people being “kicked out.””
L-R: Lindsay Gaunce, Sarah Graham, and Hannah Howe backstage at SDCCS 2022.


SDCCS has secured several host hotels in Halifax where attendees can book rooms at special rates. If you haven’t made a hotel reservation yet, we highly recommend doing so as early as possible in order to ensure that you get the location you want!

Saorsa Instructor and Leaping Lassie, Callum Hunter at SDCCS 2022.

Flight Deals

SDCCS has also secured special deals with AirCanada and WestJet for attendees flying into Halifax for the occasion! Be sure to take advantage of the deals if you are traveling by air.

The SDCCS Events Stage at SDCCS 2019

Attending the Event as a Parent, Guardian, or Spectator

Entrance tickets and passes are essential for all looking to attend the event. We recommend that you buy your passes or entry tickets ahead of time. They will be available at the door, but having the tickets ahead of time will take stress off of your shoulders. It is possible that the venue may hit capacity through the busier days (typically Highlands day and Nationals day), so you may not want to take the chance. 

Tickets and passes are typically sold separately from dancers registration, and typically come in one-day, multi-day, or complete event formats. Stay tuned to the SDCCS website and social media (linked below) for upcoming information on entries!

Opening Ceremonies Performance at SDCCS 2015. Image via CBC News.

Tips for First-Time Attendees

What to Expect

SDCCS has some peculiarities that will be unfamiliar to anyone who has only ever attended the typical Highland competitions. Here are some of our rapid-fire pointers:

  • Parents (excluding those who are also dance professionals) are not permitted backstage with their dancers. Yes – even the 5-year-olds have to go without a parent! But don’t fret; just because SDCCS is huge, doesn’t mean it’s any different from the friendly atmosphere you’d find at any Maritime dance competition. Dancers will be able to find friendly volunteers, older dancers, and dance teachers if they ever need assistance.
  • Because of the size of the venue (the events will often run all nine stages at once! See the amazing size of the stage in the above photo) sometimes dancers decide to stay backstage between dances rather than walk back and forth to where their party is sitting. Once again, you won’t have to worry about them thanks to helpful event volunteers.
  • The most important tip from dance mom-extraordinaire and volunteer organiser for SDCCS 2019 in Moncton, Angela Francoeur, is to volunteer! Not only does volunteering sometimes come with the bonus of free entry to the event for the day you’re volunteering, it’s a vital part of making SDCCS happen. You don’t have to have any volunteering or dancing experience to lend a hand, and it’s always very, very appreciated. SDCCS does not happen without volunteers! Stay tuned to SDCCS social media (linked below) for information on volunteering.
  • The venue will play host to many vendors for all-things Highland dance – if you’ve been in the market for a new outfit or a dance accessory, look no further! Additionally, be prepared for the possibility of not having food vendors inside the venue. Don’t worry! Downtown Halifax is home to some really fabulous eating options. From quick options on competition mornings, to fine dining for celebrating a day’s dancing – it’s all right there downtown.
  • Stay updated on social media! Find the links to SDCCS social media below, and be sure to follow for important updates.
  • Be prepared for the magnitude of the event! SDCCS typically hosts upward of 800 Highland dancers from all around the world. The stage is massive, the venue expansive, and the opportunities for fun and friendship are endless.
  • Be prepared to move: it is very common for callbacks to be announced in the main stage area, and awards given in a separate area of the venue.
  • Downtown Halifax is very pedestrian-friendly, and you know what that means: if you’re driving, be prepared for parking to be an issue!
  • For Pre-Premier dancers, particularly those in the Maritimes, SDCCS is an amazing opportunity that you can shape to your needs! You can choose to compete for one day, experience the excitement of the event, dance on the huge stage, and then head home. You can also choose to compete multiple days, take in the thrilling Canadian Championship, explore beautiful Halifax, attend the banquet, and more. SDCCS can be shaped to how you want to experience it!
Saorsa Studio Dancers representing New Brunswick at SDCCS 2019, ready for the banquet. L-R: Hannah MacDonald, Scout McKee, Bethany MacKay, Nicole Odo, Kate Francoeur, Maggie MacDonald, Rebecca Aube, and Katherine Tesselar.

Make Sure You Stay Updated

See you in Halifax! In the meantime, get excited for SDCCS and stay updated on social media!

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