A variety of Highland dances will be on display
“There's going to be a lot of stuff going on, stuff to watch, activities to get involved in — like tossing the caber — which will be entertaining,” stated Julia Hopkin, one of the young dancers who will be competing in the Highland Dance competition at the Bermuda Highland Games on June 8.
The 15-year-old Bermuda High School student has just taken three sets of exams, the Gold level National exam, the Scottish Award 1 Highland exam and the Grade 4 Highland dance theory exam, but she is looking forward to having her skills assessed once more by the Canadian judges who will be coming in expressly for the Games.
Explaining the difference between 'national' and 'highland' dances, Julia pointed out that they are quite different in style.
The Highland dances, in the past danced by men only, are very structured and more “purely Scottish”, and include the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance.
They are danced almost always in kilt and velvet waistcoat. The National dances, like the Scottish Lilt and Flora MacDonald's Fancy, are a little more balletic, a little more like folk dances, and are generally danced in a white dress with a tartan sash.
Of course, there's an exception to every rule and a dance like the Irish Washerwoman's Jig is danced in an entirely different outfit and has more dramatic elements to the dance. The shoes worn for this dance have taps, and when the heels are clicked they sound like bells.
Highland dancing is very physical, noted Julia, who has been dancing for about seven years. In almost all of the dances the dancer jumps on every beat, so needs a lot of stamina.
“The clothes are quite a challenge too,” she added, wryly. “There are three layers of clothing, including a very heavy kilt and a velvet waistcoat, which makes dancing a whole lot harder.”
Of the games in general, she noted, “It's going to be a lot of fun.” There should be something for everyone, “because it's going to be such a community event. We have so many different cultures in Bermuda, it's easy for people to get involved.”
And though the event will celebrate Scottish heritage particularly, “it's not exclusive,” Julia noted.
Dance instructor Emily Tolson-Pienaar noted how excited she was about the Games.
“The dancers are not really exposed to Scottish culture beyond performing with the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band,” she explained, “so it will be so much more exciting to be part of a bigger picture, with the whole family enjoying themselves.”
A number of dancers will be participating in the competition, ranging in age from six-year-old Emily Davis, to teens.
In all six individual dances will be in the competition: Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Triubhas, Reel, Scottish Lilt and Flora MacDonald's Fancy
Emily is looking forward to showing off her skills.
“I feel happy,' the Bermuda High School student explained. “It makes me feel so good inside to be a dancer.”
Eight-year-old Connie Betts, who attends St George's Preparatory, is “a little scared, shy”, but “I think I'll do good because when I get the steps of a dance and I show it to Miss Emily, she says it's wonderful.”
Isabella Henderson, who attends Bermuda High School, is excited about the opportunity to see how good she is. The nine-year-old will be performing the Sword Dance, the Lilt and the Fling.