Great Question! Thank you Jim!
I’m absolutely flattered that anyone knows a little bit about my story. Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to check out my background.
For those who don’t know, I was a Scottish, Highland Dancer growing up. From the ages of 6 to 11 years old. I looooved it! Highland was my main focus. I did ballet on the side once or twice a week.
Highland dancing comes from Scotland. It is a sport that requires a lot of stamina, strength and technique. It was developed in the 19th and 20th centuries and is still danced today.
If you are a Highland Dancer then you go to a Highland Games to compete. Highland games are held all over the world. As a competitor you are judged individually on four different dances, all danced to the sound of a bagpiper. The dances are, The Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, The Sean Triubhas, and The Reel. You wear a kilt, jacket and knee socks in the color of your choice. (There are additional dances, but in general, it is those four that you are asked to compete with).
What really stands out about Highland Dancing is that you continuously jump on the balls of your feet, alternating between legs for nearly four minutes. Your heels never touch the ground and if they do, you lose points. Major leg strength is formed and required.
The Sword dance was always my favorite. You dance over a sword that has been laid down as a cross on the floor. If you kick the sword you are disqualified.
The Sean Triubhas’s movements are the most similar to ballet and the reel is almost like a folk dance. It is all so much fun! To this day if I hear a bagpipe,
1- I need to find it and 2- I can whip out any of the Highland dances. Those steps are imprinted on my brain for forever!
My childhood consisted of almost every weekend traveling to a different state or in to Canada to compete at a Highland Games. I can clearly still see my brother on his game boy in the back seat, my dad driving the car and my mom making sure everything was organized.
I won the Midwest Champion several times but once, at 10 years old, I won the United States Championship! I was ecstatic! My dad was filming the award ceremony and fell off his chair when they announced my name as the winner! Everyone was surprised! 🙂
Ever since winning the USA Championship title in a red kilt, red has been my lucky color.
Back to the question. YES! 100%. Highland Dancing defiantly helped me prepare for the Bournonville style, and for ballet in general.
Bournonville is famous for all of its small jumps; petit allegro. In all types of ballet you put your heels all the way down to the floor when jumping. It is healthier for the body. But since Highland is danced only on the balls of the feet, my legs formed a muscle strength from very young, preparing them for all of the Bournonville jumps.
The Highland competitions prepared me for the stage. I was never scared to step out in front of an audience. I was even, usually, the family entertainment at family gatherings. “Get Holly to dance, she will do it.” And so I did.
Highland also helped prepare my musicality. In the Bournonville style you have to chose which jumps are accented more then others. Depending on the music, and the sequence of the steps, it can really vary. Highland dancing had my mind focusing on making my jumps musical to the piping and already creating an awareness.
Highland dancing did not really help me prepare for the specific port de bras and head positions that are used in Bournonville ballets. Highland dancing uses the arms, (unlike Irish dancing, which has no arm movements) above the head or on your hips. Rarely below the waist. Bournonville style arms are almost all below the waist.
I would recommend Highland Dancing for anyone, especially if you are already taking ballet classes. It can only help you. Highland is fun, competitive and prepares you for so much potentially in your future! I’m so grateful to my Highland days…