Highland dance has long been a part of Alma College’s Scottish tradition — a distinction that sets the college apart from most other small private institutions. Alma is one of the few colleges in the United States that offers collegiate-level highland dancing courses and opportunities for performance, competition and training for professional teaching and judging.
Alma’s highly skilled dancers also perform at some of the world’s most prestigious events.
Jennifer Ochs, a senior from Issaquah, Wash., has performed in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the most well-known annual cultural performance in Scotland. Every August, highland dancers perform nightly at the Edinburgh Castle in front of audiences totaling nearly 220,000.
In October 2019, Jenny danced with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at a special event in Sydney, Australia.
An English major with a psychology minor, Jenny has been a Highland dancer for the past 19 years. She performs with the Kiltie Highland Dancers on campus and has danced with the Tattoo in Scotland twice before.
Jenny explains that the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was holding a prestigious performance in Sydney that celebrates different cultures and talents that exist around the world. She auditioned to be a Highland dancer to represent the Scottish culture.
Prior to the show, Jenny was injured during a practice. This resulted in her being removed from some of the more challenging dances. Although disappointed, she still enjoyed her time.
“I enjoyed getting to perform in front of thousands of people and doing something I truly enjoy,” says Jenny.
She also was able to meet new people and make friends from different areas around the world.
Her favorite memory was the finale at every show when cast members were introduced. The dancers would perform with other members to songs related to Australia.
“I enjoyed getting to dance and sing along to ‘Down Under’ by Men at Work,” says Jenny. “It was sort of a silly dance but everyone, including the audience, was smiling by the end of it.”
After graduation, Jenny plans to continue traveling for Highland dance and obtain a job related to her major. She wants to work for the local news station in Seattle.
Alma College Kiltie Dancers have consistently competed at high levels at regional and national levels. In the past 60 years, the Kiltie Highland Dancers have included three world champions, four national champions, over a dozen dancers who have placed in the top six nationally, 10 regional champions, with hundreds of combined championship titles. Many former Kiltie Dancers now direct studios of their own and have produced national representatives and champion dancers.