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Everything You Need To Know About Highland Dancing
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Dance starts September 6th, 2022
Classes until December 19th, 2022
BREAK – December 19 – 31st
Classes start back up January 3rd, 2023
Semester goes until June 30th, 2023
- September 12th – December 2nd
- December 5th – March 10th
- March 20th – June 16th
Enrolment Our September – June Semester Classes Happens In August.
We don’t allow parents to sit in on dance classes as it is a distraction for all of the dancers in the class. Some exceptions:
Parent viewing weeks – each semester around the mid-way point, we aim to host a Parent Viewing Week where parents can observe the last 10 minutes of class and the dancers get to show you what they’ve learned so far
Parent/Guardian & Dancer designated classes: parents are permitted in classes that are specifically designated for dancers and parents to attend and dance together
Privates: at the discretion of the instructor teaching the private, parents may be permitted to observe. It can be helpful for parents to take notes of the corrections given to the dancer during the class.
For assistance in funding your dance class tuition fees, we recommend the following programs:
- The Jumpstart Program through Canadian Tire has helped fund millions of children get involved in local sports and play activities, including dance. You can learn about eligibility and find their online application here.
- Local Fredericton restaurant Isaac’s Way hosts art auctions multiple times each year to raise money in support of individual children’s lessons in art, music, theatre, and dance. We recommend checking their website and social media periodically to see if their current auction is in support of dancers. To inquire into this program for your child, email ART@isaacsway.ca
To support Isaac’s Way’s arts fundraisers, we recommend checking out their current art in person at the restaurant, or online here.
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Highland Dance is a style of competitive and recreational solo dance.
Fun fact: we are (almost all) the same feet positions as Ballet!
Highland Dance is a traditional form of dance, originating in Scotland. The dances have been passed down since the 11th or 12th century, and each dance has a rich history and a story behind it.
Today, it is a technical dance form that demands technique, stamina and grace from the dancers.
Historically, the dances tended to be performed by men in celebration or as an exercise by warriors. According to tradition, the old kings and clan chiefs used the Highland Games as a means to select their best men at arms. They were required to perform the Highland dances to demonstrate their strength, stamina and agility. Women weren’t allowed to compete in Highland Dance until the 20th century!
Although it originated in Scotland, highland dancing is performed throughout the world today. It can be found all over Great Britain, the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. One thing we love about Highland Dance is our connection to an amazing worldwide community!
New dancers – dance shoes are not required
Returning dancers – dance shoes required at class!
Shoes can be purchased at the studio or through Dance Studio Pro’s Portal (must be logged into an account > click online store once logged in.)
12-week Programs: comfortable activewear
September – June Programs: black shirt (tank, tee, or bodysuit), black shorts, white knee socks, hair in bun, dance shoes (not required for new dancers)
White Knee Socks
White knee socks in both child and adult sizes can be found at Walmart and on Amazon.
If you’re looking to add a little bit of excitement to your dance uniform for practice, knee socks with patterns and colours can also be found at those two stores.
Black Tank, Tee, or Bodysuit
Simple black tees and tank tops can be found anywhere from Walmart or Amazon, to Sportchek or Lululemon. As long as your top is comfortable, you can explore many different styles and qualities.
Black bodysuits can be found on Amazon or at local dance supply stores such as Dance Quest in Fredericton.
Similar to black tees and tanks, these can be found anywhere from Walmart or Amazon, to Sportchek or Lululemon. As long as your top is comfortable, you can explore many different styles and qualities.
These can be purchased at the studio or through Dance Studio Pro’s Portal (must be logged into an account > click online store once logged in.)
Doing a dance bun for the first time can be overwhelming, and there’s so many different ways to do it.
Basic materials recommended:
- Hair brush and/or comb
- Hairspray (and gel, optional)
- Hair elastics
- Bobby pins
- Bun form/donut (or other bun shaping tool)
The videos below will help you with the materials needed and the steps involved. Explore them to see which method will work for you!
This one is appropriate for competition, although it is recommended that you add a hairnet on top: Perfect Ballerina Bun
This tutorial does not require a bun form/donut: Perfect Ballet Bun
For dancers with long hair, a braided bun may work well: Braided Performance Bun
This tutorial is designed for dancers with thin hair: Ballet Bun for Average Length and/or Thin Hair
Youtube has hundreds of videos to help you with perfecting your dance bun. And remember, just like in dancing, practice makes progress!
Tying ghillies can be intimidating for first-timers! Check out our video tutorial to learn how.
If your dancer is enrolled in a dance class up to either January or June, they are included in our recital! We have two shows: one in December and one in June.
We’ve put together a helpful playlist for your dance practicing needs! The beginning of the playlist includes some songs that can be used for warm ups, then we’ve included multiple speeds and lengths of each dance song. Happy practicing!
The RSOBHD stands for the “Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing”. Fun fact: the “Royal” was added in 2019 after Her Majesty the Queen gave her approval!
The RSOBHD was forms in 1950 with the goal of establishing structure, cooperation and consistency across the many Highland Dance associations in the world. They are a supervisory board, which includes representation from the different Highland Dance associations. They set quality standards for Highland Dance across the world!
SDTA: Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance
UKA: United Kingdom Alliance
BATD: British Association of Teachers of Dancing
These are classified as the dance examining bodies. They are independent governing bodies of Highland Dance, each with their own standards of conduct, technical variations and professional standings.
For example: the SDTA was founded in 1934 to provide examinations in different types of dance, scholarships, conferences and other events and services. At our studio, we host dance exams through the SDTA, and our dance instructors are SDTA certified!
Highland dance is a highly original style of dance, rich with cultural folklore from its homeland of Scotland. Stories have been passed on through generations of dancers from their ritualistic origins, and we continue to pass on and create these stories ourselves.
Throughout the past few centuries, Highland dance has gone from a test of a warrior’s strength and agility, to a soldier’s pastime, to a competitive sport for men, to a competitive sport dominated by women. The stories of the dances have changed and been lost and found again. Here are the most popular possible origin stories for the traditional four Highland dances.
The Highland Fling generally has two stories associated with it. The first links the dance to a deer hunt, as the arms and hands may mimic a stag as it jumps along the Scottish countryside. The alternative origin story describes the Fling as a dance of triumph after a battle to be danced over a small shield known as a Targe.
The Sword Dance
The Sword Dance is the quintessential dance that many who are vaguely familiar with Highland dance would recognise and associate with Highland. The Sword Dance is danced over two swords crossed in a + formation. Like the Highland Fling, the Sword has two common possible origin stories. The first story relates to when King Malcolm III (Canmore) of Scotland killed another Scottish chieftain in battle, he celebrated by dancing with his bloody sword crossed over the sword of his fallen foe.
The other possible origin of the Sword dance lies in the tradition among Scottish soldiers to dance the Sword the night before battle. If the soldier dancing were to hit the sword, it would serve as an ill omen for the fight ahead of them. Some say that to tap the sword with the foot would predict an injury, while kicking the sword could predict their death.
The Seann Truibhas
The Seann Truibhas (pronounced Shawn Troose, and often shortened to “ST”) is often attributed to the 1745 Scottish rebellion against English rule. The English rulers imposed a ban on traditional Scottish kilts, so the Scots were forced to wear trousers. In the first part of the dance, the movements are more flowing and graceful than the traditional Highland movements we are used to. This is supposed to represent the English influence over Scotland.
Seann Truibhas translates to “old trousers” in Gaelic, as the first part of the dance has movements mimicking the Scots trying to shed the pants. Then, toward the end of the dance, the dancers clap, the music speeds up, and the movements revert to a more traditionally Scottish style. This represents the Scottish escaping the kilt ban, as they did in 1782.
The Reel of Tulloch
The origin of this Reel lies in Tulloch, a village in North-East Scotland, where supposedly on one cold morning before church, congregants began stomping their feet and clapping to keep warm. Eventually, someone began whistling a tune, and the people began to dance.
Dancer must be over the age of 4
Get a dancer identification card from ScotDance New Brunswick. You can find the dancer registration form here: https://www.scotdancenb.com/forms, click on “Dancer Registration”
View page 3 for a checklist of everything you need in your application
Once your application package is complete, bring to dance class for your dance teacher to review and sign. The package must be complete for our instructors to sign off.
Once signed, mail everything to the registrar at the address provided on the form
NOTE: the dance cards have a two-week processing time, not including mailing time. Leave yourself enough time to get a dance card!
Once you have a dance card, you can register for any competition in the world!
You can find local dance events to register for here: https://www.scotdancenb.com/events
Dance exams are a great opportunity for dancers to challenge themselves, learn new steps and dances, get feedback from a dance examiner, and get medals sent to them all the way from Scotland! There are exams for nearly all ages, and we host an examiner yearly in the Fall. An examiner will go on tour to all the dance schools, and we are typically scheduled for October or November. Note: exams often land on a school day! Your dancer is usually only scheduled for a few hours though but could have to miss a bit of school.
There are two types of exams: dance exams (physical) and theory exams (oral).
Your dance teacher will assign your dancer to exams based on their experience level and dances known. Dancers will then prepare for exam day, perform for the examiner, and receive a mark sheet filled with constructive feedback and an overall mark for the dancer. These results are then sent to Scotland, and medals are mailed to the dancers after the fact. The feedback from the examiners is always really helpful, and provides a perspective from someone other than your dance teacher!
Dancers over age 10 who receive top marks in their Highland exam and their theory exam are eligible for nomination to the SDTA Scholarship event. More details on the scholarship given below.
Dancers can work their way up through the exam levels, and will typically reach the highest level by age 16, at which point, they can take their first professional exam to become a certified dance teacher. You are not required to do any other exams before taking your teaching exam at 16, but oral theory exams are highly recommended as the format is the same for the teaching exam.
The ROSBHD (Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing) operates a registration system that allows dancers to progress through the competitive categories based on their results. These categories are (in order of level)
Dancers who register with the RSOBHD are entitled to compete in all competitions recognized by the RSOBHD.
Dancers are judged on:
Technique – maximum 80 marks
Timing – maximum 10 marks
General Deportment – maximum 10 marks
Technique makes up a HUGE part of the dancer’s score! Technique is evaluated based on the expectations set out in the RSOBHD textbooks. When your dance teachers give you corrections, it’s to make your dancing align with the expectations of the books!
At competitions, dancers will compete against other dancers in their category. They will go up on stage, typically 3 at a time (you may sometimes see 2 or 4 at a time depending on competition numbers), and they will perform for the judge. The judge will give each dancer in the group a score out of 100 after watching each set of 3, and will pass their marks along to the competition organizer. Dancers will receive 0 if disqualified, to 100 for a perfect dance, though 100 is extremely rare. Dancers/parents/teachers will not see these scores.
Judges’ points are used only to determine what place each dancer receives for each dance. Aggregate winners are determined by adding up the combined scores over the day, but rather than use the judge’s scores, points are assigned according to placement (dance points). All competitions operate under the Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing and use the same dance points to keep things consistent between competition.
1st place – 137 points
2nd place – 91 points
3rd place – 71 points
4th place – 53 points
5th place – 37 points
6th place – 23 points
As mentioned, these dance point values are assigned based on the results of the judges’ points. The judges’ points are used to determine the order of placing from 1st onwards, but the above dance points are awarded for consistency.
Primary: designed to introduce the youngest dancers to competitive dancing. Dancers must be under the age of 7. Once they reach their 7th birthday, they will have to move up to the Beginner category (you must submit another dance card application for “Change of Status” – free of charge).
Beginner: Dancers move into this category after the age of 7 (or earlier if their teacher has chosen to move them up). Dancers may stay in Beginner until:
- They win a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place medal in SIX separate Beginner competitions (they will receive a stamp on the back of their card). They can only receive stamps in the Highland dances (Fling, Sword, Seann Truibhas, Reel).
- Until 12 months following the first stamp has passed
Whichever is later. Dnacers then move into Novice.
Novice: The level after Beginner. Dancers may stay in Novice until:
- They win a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place medal in SIX separate Novice competitions (they will receive a stamp on the back of their card). They can receive stamps in all dances.
- Until 12 months following the first stamp has passed
Intermediate: The level after Novice. Dancers may stay in Intermediate until:
- They win a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place medal in SIX separate Intermediate competitions (they will receive a stamp on the back of their card). They can receive stamps in all dances.
- Until 12 months following the first stamp has passed
Premier: The highest level in Highland Dancing. Goodbye stamps!
Dancers are now able to compete in Championships, Premierships and Pre-Championships.
You may sometimes see “Restricted Premier” and “Premier” events. Restricted – dancer has not won an overall trophy in 2 years. Dancers who HAVE won a trophy would fall into the Premier category.
Highlands: Fling, Sword, Seann Truibhas, Reel (Strathspey & Highland Reel, Strathspey & Reel of Tulloch, Strathspey & Highland Reel & Half Reel of Tulloch, Reel of Tulloch). Highlands are performed in the kilt.
Nationals: Lilt, Flora, Blue Bonnets, Village Maid, Earl of Errol, Scotch Measure, Laddie, Barracks. Nationals are performed in the Aboyne for females, Kilt of Tartan Trews for males, with the exception being the Laddie and Barracks, which are performed in the Kilt.
Jig: The Jig is a character dance performed in hard shoes and its own outfit requirements (more history at the link below)
Hornpipe: The Hornpipe is another character dance performed in a costume replicating a sailor’s uniform (more history at the link below)
For dancers who receive top marks in their Highland and theory exams, the examiner may put their name forward as a nominee for the SDTA scholarship event. Nominees will then begin to prepare for this event which is hosted late September/early October. The location of the event changes each year, making for a great travel opportunity!
The first day of the scholarship event consists of the events dancers are judged on to be selected as a scholarship winner. These events include:
- Written theory exam
- Performance of the Tribute to James L McKenzie
- Performance of a solo choreography
- Masterclass (dancers are evaluated on their participation, enthusiasm, response to feedback, etc. in a dance workshop class)
The dancer with the highest overall points in all categories will be selected as the scholarship recipient. Runner ups are awarded as well.
Championships (for Premier level only)
Open championship: competitors residing outside of the area named in the championship title may compete (ie. dancers around the world can compete in the Canadian Open Championships)
Closed championship: competitors must qualify by birth or by residency to compete in the event (ie. the New Brunswick Closed Provincial Championship is closed to NB dancers)
Championships are for Premier level dancers only, and dancers must dance the HIGHLAND dances: Fling, Sword, Seann Truibhas and Reel with the steps assigned by the RSOBHD.
3 judges are needed for Championships!
Premierships (for Premier level only)
Categorized as an Open event
Dancers compete in the NATIONAL dances and steps chosen by the RSOBHD for that calendar year
3 judges are needed for Premierships as well!
Other event types
These non-championship events are the ones you typically see hosted by your local dance associations. Competition Organizers are able to select the dances for the competition (within the RSOBHD regulations), and these competitions allow Pre-Premier dancers to move up in their categories. Overall trophies are awarded to dancers with the most accumulated points obtained over the individual dance events of the day.
In Championships and Premierships, dancers under the age of 12, or Juvenile dancers, dance “short steps”, and dancers over the age of 12 in the Junior and Senior categories dance “long steps”. The purpose of this is to have Juvenile dancers doing shorter dances as they continue to develop strength and stamina.
Championship Short Steps for Juvenile Dancers (Dancers under 12 years old):
- 4-Step Fling
- 2+1 Sword
- 3+1 Seann Truibhas
- Reel varies each year
Championship Long Steps for Junior and Senior Dancers (Dancers 12 Years and Older)
- 6-Step Fling
- 3+1 or 2+2 Sword
- 4+2 Seann Truibhas
- Reel varies each year
The Premiership dances vary each year, but some Premiership dances can vary in length as the Championship dances do. For instance, in 2021, dancers under 12 had a 4-step Hornpipe, while dancers over 12 had a 6-step hornpipe.