Scottish dance is both and art and a sport. It is athleticism and it is beauty. It is heritage and it is emblem. My grandmother moved to Cape Breton from Scotland when she was a teenager, and many of her granddaughters, including my sister and me, were enrolled in highland dance as children, with an inner nod to Grandmother’s motherland.
I absolutely love to dance. At age 4 I donned my first bun, dancing slippers, and wee kilt. Highland dancing is responsible for some of my earliest friendships, an active childhood, and in my mind it is an iconic part of Nova Scotian culture.
Many traditional dances will be forever forged in my muscle-memory, where I’ve stashed my ability to ride a bicycle and horses. It is always there; one minute I’d think “it’s been too long since I’ve done this”, but the next minute it all comes back to me. I’ve caught myself saying “how does the Earl of Erroll’ go again?” and when the tune comes on, or the first step begins, I instantly remember.
I went through a phase without dance. Looking back on it, I remember in high school I was almost embarrassed about loving it, because a friend said it looked stupid. I’m sure there are a few kids who experience the same thing. I’m old enough now not to care about other people’s opinions of the dance genre; old enough now to recognize what an important part of my upbringing highland dancing was; old enough now to miss it dearly when I haven’t danced in ages.
A few years ago I joined an adult highland class which I very much enjoyed, but I found schedule conflicts got in the way, and many of the dancers were new to highland, so they were learning from scratch (where as those of us who used to dance really just needed a refresher).
And I had a realization. I could do a one-off during Celtic Colours. I wondered are there are other former highland dancers who would just love to get together for a reunion? I wondered if there were any other women who, like me, feel like they’d love to shuffle out a few steps, but maybe they’re feeling a bit “rusty” and don’t feel like springing into a hornpipe at the Festival Club? I decided to host an event over the Thanksgiving long weekend that is an invitation to former highland dancers to come join me for a “Dusty Slippers” class. Let’s have a reunion, meet others like us who love Highland dance but don’t ever seem to find time to do it these days.
Don’t worry I’m no champion. Although I have years of dance experience under my belt, I won’t lie – it’s been a while since a disciplined highland dance practice was part of my life. I’m terribly out of shape. I’ve declared this year “the year of the donut”. I will give it my all but will probably lose my breath doing it. And I will not judge you if you forget the 4th step of the Fling. I simply love highland dance enough to have crafted out a class that caters to former dancers just like me.
Now, current highland dancers are also welcome – only rule being no judgment of those who are rusty or out of practice. This class is meant to be fun! You may even walk away with a few step-sequence exercises to incorporate into your weekly / monthly routine to warm up your dance muscles, and get back into the “fling” of things!
The event takes advantage of Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre’s gorgeous dance studio. It is a great excuse for a Thanksgiving weekend road trip, taking place Saturday October 11th from 1:30-3pm (including introductions, warm-up, breaks and a cool down). If you’re a highland dancer with dusty slippers (or no slippers that fit anymore) please come! It will hopefully be a fun and funny class for all of us.