A Passion for
Drumroll....We have received many beautiful essays for the ScotDance Ontario Essay Contest,
and are pleased to announce the winner!
Congratulations to... Fiona T!
We've sent you your $40 For Reel Apparel Gift Card via email!
Thank you to all who participated; we'll be posting the
Honourable Mention Essays in the next few days!
Please enjoy Fiona's essay below:
My heart does not beat in time to any electrical current or pulse that comes from my
body. It does not function according to any typical rules. At the very center of my heart there is a
tiny highland dancer and every time she dances my heart beats, waiting for that next jump to
continue beating on.
That tiny dancer is my greatest source of strength, my reason for waking up in the
morning. She urges me to dance and that keeps me alive.
Before this year, I would not have been able to explain what highland dancing meant to
me. I took for granted that I would always be able to dance at competitions, highland games, and
recitals. When they were all taken away, I was left with only a tiny dancer in my heart who
wanted so desperately for me to keep dancing but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to go to
class or how to practice if I had nothing to work for.
I had to figure out why I started dancing in the first place. I thought about my five year
old self who walked into the dance studio and immediately fell in love with the sound of
bagpipes and dance moves with funny names like pas de basques and highcuts. I went to dance
class because it was fun and it made me happy. It was such a pure, simple reason but somewhere
along the way I forgot that is all it takes.
I see this joy in the little kids I teach. When they run into class excited to tell me that they
practiced, or when I see the smile on their face after they finish a dance without making any
mistakes, it makes my heart swell with happiness and the tiny dancer in there jumps for joy along
with my students. This connection I feel to my students shows how incredible highland dancing
is that it can connect people across generations; I love each of my dancers in the same way I
know my teacher loves me. While I may not always understand the lives of my 6 year old
dancers, when they step in the studio and start dancing, I am connected to them in a way that is
This ineffable, magical sense of community is present in so many ways I wasn’t aware of
until I started looking closer. It is present when my Grandad, who immigrated to Canada from
Scotland, tells people his granddaughters are highland dancers. It is the pride in his voice that we
are honouring his culture and heritage. It is present when I’m walking down the street and I hear
bagpipes playing and I share a knowing glance with my sisters because we know exactly what
tune it is and what dance we could jump into. It is present in the smiling faces of every dancer
I’ve ever shared the stage with. We are all connected by a love for an obscure sport that
sometimes feels like a shared secret identity or superpower. We know the difference between a
kilt and a skirt. We know that Irish dancing and highland dancing are definitely not the same
thing. We understand why people put on so many extra pounds of wool and velvet to dance on a
plywood stage in the hot sun at highland games because we love to do it too. I have yet to find
anything that rivals the deep and powerful connection I have with other highland dancers. It may
have taken a disastrous year for me to realize it, but I have never been more grateful for such an
amazing sense of community.
I, like so many others, have felt the strain of this pandemic in how little time I’ve been
able to spend with friends. We don’t get to see each other everyday and when we do connect, it
is through a screen or in a socially distant setting. It’s been a very overwhelming and isolating
experience but highland dance has helped me through it. Once I was able to reconnect and
remind myself why I loved dance, it became my favourite thing to do again. When I’m stressed
or lonely, all I need to do is go to dance class and I know I’m going to feel better. Even though I
can’t hug the people at dance, just being close to them and being able to talk and laugh together
is the best medicine. It cures the part of me that struggles to get through the day because it seems
like this crazy situation is never going to end.
While I may have already known the highland world was filled with incredible people,
this year has taught me how important it is to have such a strong community. I have also realized
it is not enough to acknowledge the existence of such a community, it deserves more
commitment. I need to be aware of how this amazing community benefits my happiness and
well-being so I can continue paying it forward to the next generation of highland dancers. I
promise I will, because without highland dance I definitely would not be the person I am today.
It has given me everything from my work ethic to the tiny dancer at the centre of my heart and
for that I will be forever grateful.