May 30th, 2024

Highland dancers keep age-old traditions alive


By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on May 14, 2024.

Dancers in the premier class perform during the 42nd annual Lethbridge Highland Dance Association Open Competition on Saturday at Winston Churchill High School. Herald photo by Justin Seward

More than 100 Highland dancers from around Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. gathered at Winston Churchill High School for the 42nd annual Lethbridge Highland Dance Association Open Competition on Saturday.

“Many of the dancers tell us that this is their absolute favourite competition just simply because it’s a smaller competition,” said Wendy Urquhart, LHDA competition secretary.

“We offer perpetual trophies to the girls, too, along with their keeper trophies and we just put on a fantastic competition.”

The competition focuses on perpetuating highland dance traditions.

“These dances are centuries old and when you watch dancers dance with a kilt, these dances were initially danced by men only,” said Urquhart.

“They’re dances of battle, they’re dances that tell war stories, stories of victory and so It’s more a way for us to help to perpetuate our traditions.”

An important factor at the competition was dancers dance to live music.

” That’s really important to us and in order to win, you’ve got to not make mistakes or make as few as possible,” said Urquhart.

“You have to dress cleanly and then you also have to keep in time with live music which is not an easy thing to do.”

Dancers had the opportunity to perform five dances in different categories where there was an a first, second and third place finish and an aggregate winner.

Maya Shoults is a premier level under 18 Highland dancer and teacher from the Beaumont School of Highland Dance.

“I love coming to this competition because it has such a good competitive attitude,” said Shoults.

“Everyone supports each other and really everyone’s here just to do their best and gets some time on stage and just have some friendship.”

Shoults said there’s always a lot of buzz going on, no matter where you go.

“You have to learn how to keep your head in the game, I guess is the best way to say it,” said Shoults.

“You have to learn how to keep it almost a separation between what’s yours and what’s everybody else’s.”

She said the more times you have older dancers coming to these events, you get little kids who come in and they see people who look like them.

“They get to see these people who look like them succeeding and doing well, ” she said.

Dancers started for age four and went up the oldest of 49 in the competition.

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