Saorsa Studio Dancers Travel to Calgary for the SDTA North American Scholarship Conference
In September, five hard-working Saorsa Studio dancers traveled to Calgary, Alberta to participate in the Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance (SDTA) North American Scholarship Conference event!
The SDTA conference is a fabulous opportunity for dancers to spread their wings when it comes to traveling, studying dance theory, making new friends, and preparing to dance at a prestigious event.
In this blog, we’ll take you through what the SDTA Conference is, how our dancers got involved, their experiences leading up, their experiences at the event, and our dance parents’ perspectives on the whole affair!
What is the SDTA Scholarship Conference?
The SDTA Conference is an annual multi-day event which moves throughout North America. The event hosts workshops which typically centre around dance development, social activities, professional development, parent informational sessions, choreography, and more. The event brings in professionals from within and outside of highland dance, from all over the world!
The workshops are open to all Pre-Premier and Premier dancers, including those affiliated with governing bodies other than the SDTA.
In addition to the two days of workshops, the conference hosts the annual Elspeth G. Strathern and J. L. McKenzie highland scholarships.
The scholarship events have dancers compete in practical and theoretical skill, and receive awards. These events include a solo choreography competition, a masterclass which measures dancer’s in-class presence, a written theory exam, and a Tribute to J. L. McKenzie competition. Dancers are separated into three categories: juvenile, junior, and senior.
The scholarship portion of the event is open to dancers by invite only. Let’s talk about how dancers are nominated!
Which Dancers Compete in the Scholarship Events?
Dancers may participate in the SDTA Scholarship by achieving exemplary results in their Highland and Theory medals tests and being nominated by their examiner.
SDTA North American Highland Conference 2023 Calgary
Saorsa Studio had 5 dancers nominated and attending the 2023 Conference in Calgary: Kaia, Leah, Rhaya, Sophie, and Rachel. Dancers are notified of their nomination months in advance, allowing time to prepare.
New Brunswick to Calgary is quite a journey, so our dancers and their families put lots of time and effort into fundraising.
“We all worked together over the year to fundraise to help the girls make it to Calgary,” one dance mom wrote, “it also meant the girls had each other to share the experience with”.
Preparing for the Event
“there is a lot of time between being nominated and the actual event. This means that there is plenty of time to learn and practice a new solo and the Tribute and study theory. It also means that there is plenty of time to procrastinate. It can also be hard to keep up your motivation for studying for something that is many months away. Setting aside a little bit of time each week dedicated to SDTA scholarship practice (especially throughout the summer) was really helpful”.
An Opportunity for Connection
Dancer Experiences at the Conference
After months of studying for their theory exam, learning the Tribute to J. L. McKenzie, and preparing their solo choreographies, the weekend of the Conference arrived!
Our Dance Parents' Experiences
parents also purchased tickets to this event. (…)
“The banquet started by announcing each nominee. I thought this was a great touch, as each and everyone of them worked extremely hard to get there. They each also received a certificate for being a scholarship nominee. When the announcements started we were all excited and loved seeing the girls supporting each other.”
“While the main reason we went to Calgary was for the scholarship event, there was a two-day workshop the same weekend. There were different recommended workshop categories based on age, dance experience and/or medals testing level. A fun part of the workshop was a class on ceilidh dancing…which the organizers also worked into the dancing portion of the banquet. It was pretty amazing seeing all the dancers, judges, and parents up on the dance floor together.”
Advice from our Dancers
Preparing for the Conference, and Enjoying Yourself at the Event
“Practice and study a lot. Listen to your dance instructors.”
“Be prepared for long lines at the event. Biggest conference event ever meant a lot of dancers waiting to dance. I was lucky because my studio dance friends were close together in line even with the randomized draw! Make friends while you’re there too”
“Make sure to eat and drink lots. (…) A tip for master class is don’t be worried about messing up, it’s not judged on your mistakes…make sure to really pay attention to the instructor and do your best to pick up the choreography, that’s what they’re looking for. For my theory (written test) it was multiple choice with 2 short answer questions. I was nervous going into the test but I found I was well prepared and it wasn’t too hard. I think the main thing is don’t stress yourself out. Trust that you know what you’re doing, have fun and do your best”
“It’s a busy and full day. You need to make sure you know where to be and when. You are competing with many more dancers than an average competition. All dances and banquet introductions follows the same number order. Remember your number!”
“Have fun! Be proud of yourself for getting there.”
Advice from Dance Parents
Wrapping up an Incredible Experience at the SDTA Conference
Our dancers and their parents brought home certificates, medals, an SDTA shield, new friendships, and countless memories. Here’s just a bit of what they had to say about their overall experiences:
“My favorite part of the weekend was the banquet because it was a fun time with my dance friends. I also really enjoyed learning new steps”
“It was so nice to be able to see Rhaya and her friends all dance and see the hard work pay off. It was also amazing seeing how much support the girls provided to each other during all of this. The high fives, hugs, and words of encouragement were truly
“My favorite part of the weekend was the choreography competition and the banquet.”
“This was my first experience as a dance mom attending the SDTA scholarship event (…) it was a big decision and a commitment to get there but I am very glad we made the choice to go.”
“My highlight was seeing the girls develop a closer bond than ever before. It made it all worth it. Also, a huge thanks to the organizers, as the event was very well organized and executed. You can tell they really care about these dancers and as a dance mom that is very important.”
“We’re lucky to have a studio with some wonderful and supportive instructors who helped the girls prepare and supported them even with large events in their own lives happening. Additional messages and words of encouragement while in Calgary meant a lot to the dancers!”
“I had an amazing time and would 100% do it again”