A Taste of Scotland: Kiltie Dancers Perform in Annual Fall Concert

“Although highland dancing is one of the most technically difficult and athletic forms of dancing, it still requires a great deal of grace and precision.” — Kate DeGood Cassidy

<em>The Kiltie Dancers perform last spring at Alma College.</em> The Kiltie Dancers perform last spring at Alma College.

Four Alma College highland dancers were selected to perform abroad last summer. Now three return to join the Kiltie Dancers for their the annual fall concert.

The Kiltie Dancers, directed by Kate DeGood Cassidy, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 in the Remick Heritage Center. Admission is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.

Traditional highland dances, modern solo, group choreography and new techniques from the 2017 Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing textbook are practiced by the Kiltie Dancers.

“Although highland dancing is one of the most technically difficult and athletic forms of dancing, it still requires a great deal of grace and precision,” says Cassidy.

Originally a Dance for Warriors

Originally, highland dancing was performed by clan warriors in order for chiefs to determine their best men. These dances allowed the men to demonstrate their strength, stamina and agility. Later, the Scottish military used highland dances as training exercises.

<em>The Kiltie Dancers</em> The Kiltie DancersHighland dancing at Alma College dates back to the 1950s. Known then as the “Kiltie Lassies,” the group was student-led. In 2011, the Highland Dance Program was officially instituted.

Fourteen premier-level dancers form the Kiltie Dance Company, which has had recent competitive success in group choreography work.

The Prestige of Performing Abroad

Kiltie dancers Emily Carter, Amelia, Ohio, sophomore; Matilda Ennis, Glenside, Pa., junior; and sisters Elizabeth and Jennifer Ochs of Issaquah, Wash., performed abroad this summer.

Carter was the only American to participate in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

“The experience gave me a whole new perspective of not only me as a dancer but as a future dance teacher,” says Carter. “Dancing in this tattoo made me a better performer and person. It also gave me a new appreciation for highland dance.”

Ennis, Elizabeth Ochs and Jennifer Ochs were three of the eight Americans among the 50 highland dancers performing in the prestigious Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland. Until 2015, only dancers from British Commonwealth countries were eligible to perform. American dancers were invited beginning in 2015.

“The most awesome part about getting to participate in this event is doing what I love in front of 9,000 people,” says Elizabeth Ochs, who graduated last April. “Highland dance has been such a big part of my life, so having the opportunity to share with others my love for this sport is something truly amazing.”

Story published on October 25, 2016