Highland Dancing is the traditional solo dancing of Scotland which was originally used by Scottish regiments as a form of physical training. It is both an art and a sport that requires agility, strength, and endurance to perform the highly technical dances which consist of complicated movements performed on the balls of the feet while using upper body, arm, and hand movements.
In competition, there are five categories in which dancers compete. Primary (age 6 & under), Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, and Premier. Before a dancer can move up to the next category, they must be successful placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in at least six separate competitions. Dancers are judged on timing, technique, and deportment in each dance. Depending upon the discretion of the adjudicator, dancers are then awarded 1st -6th place in each dance. The overall winner in each category is awarded a trophy. Primary (age 6 & under) receive medals and ribbons only.
Some of the dances you will see the dancers compete in are:
Highland Fling - The Highland Fling is probably the most famous of the Scottish Highland Dances. It is thought to have evolved about 1790, when legend has it that a shepherd boy on a hillside watched stags rearing and wheeling. The boy tried to copy the stag’s antics and hence we have the graceful curve of the hands and arms depicting the stag’s antlers. It is also considered a victory dance that clansmen traditionally danced on their targes.
Sword Dance - It is said the Sword dance originated in 1054 when Malcolm Canmore crossed his sword over the sword of his slain opponent, symbolizing the sign of the Cross, and danced over them in exultation. After that, the dance would be performed before a battle. If the sword was touched it was deemed to be a bad omen! Before 1850, the steps were danced clockwise round the sword, not anti-clockwise as nowadays. The Sword Dance is the oldest folk dance recorded in written history, and is still taught to Highland Regiments.
Seann Triubhas – Seann Triubhas means “old trousers” in Gaelic. The dance was created to mourn the loss of the Highlanders kilts & way of life due to Proscription Act of 1746 which banned Kilts, tartan, bagpipes, and the Gaelic language. During the slow tempo, dancers perform steps attempting to shake off the offending trews. You will notice the dancers will clap and the tempo will become much faster. This symbolizes victory and the celebration of being able to wear the kilt once again after the end of the Proscription Act.
Strathspey & Highland Reel - Very little reliable information is known about the origin of Strathspeys and Reels, but they are known to have been danced towards the end of the 17th century and Jacobite days. The slow movement is thought by many to be a mourning dance following the path of the river “Strath” in the valley of the “Spey”. The Highland Reel is a quicker and livelier form of the Strathspey and was known to have been taught from about 1740. Although this is danced in teams of four, each competitor is judged individually.
Sailor’s Hornpipe - This is one of the most popular dances with audiences and is danced in a sailor’s outfit with the traditional British Navy hat. The Hornpipe has many complicated and intricate steps imitating sailor activities common in the days of wooden ships and iron men.
The Irish Jig (Scottish Version) - The Irish Jig is an energetic dance containing lots of fist shaking, skirt flouncing, and foot stomping. It is meant to be a parody of the infamous Irish temper. Girls dancing the Jig are acting out an angry fit of an Irishwoman whose husband has not made it home from the pub and goes looking for him. Boys dancing the Jig act out the happy-go-lucky husband facing his wife's anger. This is the only competitive dance that shoes with taps are worn.
Kyla Groeschel is a Fellow of the Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance and an Adjudicator with the Scottish Official Board’s worldwide judges panel. Her love for highland dance was instilled by her instructors Nancy Stevens, Pam Patrick and Norine Harmon, and that love has propelled Kyla to teach hundreds of dancers over a 34 year period. Many of her students have claimed championship titles at the Western Regionals, Sacramento Valley, British Overseas and Western United States Open. In 2005 Kyla received the Crown and Thistle award from the Sacramento Caledonian Club in recognition of her outstanding service and unselfish dedication to the Club and Scottish fellowship. Kyla is thrilled to have been invited to Texas and looks forward to seeing some great dancing!!
Doug Frobese - Duncanville, Texas
Doug Frobese began playing bagpipes at age 9 at St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston, Texas. In 1991, Doug joined the Hamilton (now St. Thomas Alumni) Pipe Band, served as pipe major from 1997 to 2000 when the band won grade 3A and took third prize in grade 2 at the World Pipe Band Championships, and he remains a piper in the band. Doug has also played with the Kansas City St. Andrews Pipes & Drums & the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band in Edinburgh Scotland. In addition to playing for Scottish highland dancing competitions Doug also plays with the Celtic folk band, The Rogues.
The Kerr County Celtic Festival
Scottish Highland Games and Highland Dance Competition