Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dances to date ...

So - Miss E has been dancing about 18 months ...

I thought it would be interesting to list the dances she has learnt so far - and what she thinks of them ... so we can look back later on.

So ... as of May 2014

Highland Fling - 4 step.
This is becoming much tighter. I do think I will forever be saying KNEES OUT tho! You would think all those years of ballet would have helped!

Sword Dance.
I think this is E's least favourite dance. But it's one of the one's she's been dancing the longest so that is understandable.
Her confidence in not hitting the swords has grown and it is getting much more technically correct

She loves the lilt. I think it really suits her. Maybe it's the ballet. She does a really pretty Lilt.

Flora Mcdonald's Fancy (Flora)
Again - she loves it!

Seann Triubhas
One of her newer dances and she has worked so so so much on it. She loves it - especially the intro

Well - we have only covered the first step or so. I think she is going to really enjoy this one tho - she likes the character dances when she watches them.

Strathspey and reel.
Her teacher says the new dances are always the favourite. Definately the case right now. She is practising it twice as much as her other dances. She should be competing in it in 3 weeks. I am rather nervous.

That's where we are right now! What will another 6 months bring??

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A display ...

Sigh - this is the first time I have ever missed E's dancing.

I had to work - but thanks to daddy and some good friends E was ready and able to attend a highland dancing display at the local church fete.

Big Big thanks to one of the mums from parkrun who did E's dance bun! Daddy certainly needs lessons!

Seann Triubhas

 Sword dance  

Highland Fling

In the midst of competition season she said it was great to dance "just for fun". Although I do hear she was begging to join in the reel.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Something truly special ....

Photos in this post are courtesy of Rachel Spies Photography. To see more of her work follow her on facebook at

When miss E began highland ... I never ever suspected she would get so many opportunities to dance. It truly has been wonderful for her.

But out of all the competitions , displays, and events ... this is my favourite of all, and will be a precious memory forever.

Miss E, along with her teacher and another girl from her dance class were invited to dance down the aisle before a beautiful bride entered on her wedding day.

It was a day I will never forget. They danced down the aisle (and finished at the front) in a modified version of the lilt.

The little girls took their task so seriously and made a beautiful first impression for the wedding guests.

 I think this photo of their teacher piping the bride from the car is one of my favourites.
All day they had taken this special occasion in their stride. I was truly thinking they did not get the honour that it was.

That is, until I saw the above photo, where the curiosity of two little girls was captured as they waited for that first peak of the bride.

The bride wore dress stewart tartan heels under her gown. The groom a matching vest.
It was such a joyous day. I am so pleased that E could be a part of it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First comp of 2014!

It was almost a relief to get to competition day - our first comp of 2014!

We attended Bernadette's again in Toowoomba and E just scraped into the 9 year old category.

It was a big category for a Toowoomba comp, with 14 girls. And as the girls competed all day- rather than beginners in the morning it was a long day for them too. But they conducted themselves so well.

Our day started early (thank goodness we didn't have to travel on the day - thanks for the hospitality mum!) and first dance was the Highland Fling.

E did a lovely fling - but didn't place. A little disappointing for her - I think she was worried that would happen all day. She was excited for her two friends that placed tho and it was lovely to see her go and congratulate them and make sure they knew.

Our second dance of the day - was another fling! The trophy highland fling. This was a really lovely fling for E. She still has lots to work on (turn out!) but she is doing nicely.

Unlike many of the section dances, the awards for the trophy fling are presented on stage. It is always a hold your breath moment while you wait to hear if her number is called! And she was so excited to hear it she took off before I could even congratulate her!

Her first prize of the day was 6th in the Highland fling. Well done!

As always - we continued on with the Highland dances. Her sword was a lovely sword (does anyone else feel physically ill until you know they have gotten through that dance without kicking the swords?) and I can see the improvements she is making! Therewas no sword kicking and she placed 6th! How exciting!

This comp was the debut comp for E in her Seann Triubhas. To be honest - I was worried if we would even be good enough to compete in it at one stage. It has gone from one of her most hated dances - to possibly her favourite dance. She danced it nicely and when she came off the stage she said she thought it was her best Seann Triubhas ever! Once again she placed 6th! Seemed to be the day for sixes at this stage!

 On to the national dances (and yes I still love to see her in her aboyne!)
The title today consisted of the lilt and the flora - two of E's favourite dances.

I think she is really suited to these two dances - perhaps it is all those years of ballet. She does seem to have a beautiful graceful feel to these dances - they flow nicely.

E has been working hard on her lilt (with shouts of CORNERS from her mum as she practises) and danced it beautifully on the day!
Obviously this was also agreed by the judges - she was thrilled to get THIRD! Fantastic in such a big group!

Her final dance of the day was the flora. This is one of E's favourite dances, and she danced it beautifully.

Unfortunately she didn't place. She was so disappointed as she thought she danced it well - but sometimes this is just going to happen.

Overall - despite it being an incredibly long day - this was a lovely comp and she loved dancing with so many friends!

A very successful start to the year!

2014 begins - Competition practise and private lessons

E loves her highland classes. They are a HEAP of fun!

Problem is - sometimes I think they are too much fun, and of course, they leave very little time for her to work on small improvements and changes that will make her dancing better.

We have been doing private lessons once a week before school and I really think it is helping. E of course loves another chance to dance, and it gives her time to think about her steps and what she needs to work on in practise.

And speaking of practise ...

Practise is a funny thing.
Some days she is desperate to do it.
Other days it is all out war.

Some things that are helping ...

Making a tally board and letting her see how many times she can dance each dance in a week ...

Letting her watch champion dancers on you tube.

Letting her dance her fling to pop songs ...



Letting her do her practice after she should be in bed! Cheating bedtime seems to be a particularly big incentive!

She knows practice helps her dancing. And she wants to be a better dancer. But let's face it - we ALL try to avoid practise when we can!

Somehow I think I am going to have to keep being creative to keep the practise up!

Do you have any tricks you use?


December truly was a busy time of year for E.
Not only had she just finished competitions, but she had dress rehearsals for her dance concert (ballet, tap and jazz) AND she sat her first Highland Dancing Exam.

The exam E sat was her Primary exam through the Qld Scottish dancing association.

We had practised a lot in the lead up, and when I left her she knew her theory off by heart.

This is my very excited girl just before she went in for her exam.

She was very lucky that we did not have to wait long to get her results. The were announced that evening at the school Christmas breakup party.

E passed her exam with flying colours, and was awarded Honours with Distinction by the examiner.

You can see her being presented with her results here.

2013 was a very very busy year for Miss E with her dancing - but she adored it. She has come so far - and there are many more adventures ahead for her.

Our new aboyne - made by Gran with love

St Andrew's Day was the first competition we required an Aboyne outfit for as we were now competiting in the national dances - the flora and the lilt.

I had promised E that since we had a second hand kilt, we would make her an aboyne brand new in a colour she loved.

I found this gorgeous plaid fabric at Spotlight in Australia. It is a light wool so it hangs absolutely beautifully.

Of course - you can make an aboyne from fabrics such as cottons (most in our studio do) but I am so glad I spent the extra. Her skirt and plaid have a beautiful hang from the fabric, and they just don't crease.

She loves the pink in the skirt - it is perfect for a little girl.

The vest is a beautiful dark blue double velvet.

I will tell you now - I knew from the start that sewing these fabrics was way out of my comfort zone. I have never sewn with velvet, and I wasn't about to start so close to needing the outfit.

There was much frustration as my gorgeous mum worked out the best way to work with these fabrics (by the way - the answer is pay someone else too - or if not - baste them all together first before you sew them) but the result was stunning.

She is a happy little girl - and she looks beautiful on stage

Competition 3. St Andrew's Day

Blogging catchup continues!!

Excuse my indulgence in travelling back through my daughter's competitions - but if I am to keep this blog I would like it to be a complete record of her progress through the years!

Plus - this competition gives me the first chance of showing of her new Aboyne!

 St Andrew's Day competition was held at Bracken Ridge in November 2013. It was her first Brisbane comp, and honestly - the first comp that she practiced hard for.

Miss Marleen had been incredibly generous with her time, making herself available for private lessons, and also attending the day with us even though we were her only student attending.

It really made such a difference to have her focussing with Miss E before each dance and we are very grateful.

 We will forever remember this comp for how HOT it was.
Poor E - I spent most of the day helping her keep as cool as possible.
Note to self - put a couple of hand fans to take to comps in the dance bag, and a towel you can dampen down too if necessary. I felt so sorry for her dressed in wool and velvet.
 Second note to self. Be careful - dance shoes get slippery.

Poor E had a little slip (and recovered beautifully) in her sword dance.
Tips given by her teacher was to sand the shoes lightly, or to dampen them down.
I'd love to know what works for you. One for further research I think.

This comp - was the comp when I suddenly saw E figure it out. Maybe it was because it was just her and none of her friends to play about with - but she became so focussed. She wanted to run through each dance before performing. She was watching the higher level girls - and commenting on why she thought they did so well.

The results reflected the practise she had done.
5th overall. 5th in the Trophy Highland Fling. 4th in the lilt and 3rd in the flora.

She has declared the flora her new favourite dance.

A very happy girl

Monday, May 5, 2014

Competition number two - highs and lows

Competition number two was Bernadette's in Toowoomba.

At this comp Miss E again danced the sword, fling and trophy highland fling.

It was a day of ups and downs for my little dancer.

She did not place in either of her flings, and all of her friends but one did.

It is hard enough to not place at this age, but in one fling she said she heard someone telling her it was the swords - so that is what she began dancing. She recovered well -but of course she was disqualified for doing the wrong steps.

I had a teary little girl to comfort, and a lesson to mama that my job on dance day is to make sure that when her section is called she is calm and focused and knows what dance is next.

Miss E had a lesson in bravery. She had to get up on stage after her teary start, and do the swords. Every time till now that she had done this dance she touched the swords.

This day though - as I watched her dance - I saw a new concentration in her. She was determined that she would do that dance. Other mamas commented on how determined she looked.

And it payed off.

THIRD in the swords. That little medal meant so very much to her today.

Our first competition

In April 2013 we took Miss E to her first competition.

It was a local comp run by our dance school (is run biennielly) and I will be completely honest - I had no idea what I was doing!

Miss E competed in the Highland Fling, The Sword Dance, and the Trophy fling.

She did so well - it was a big change from dancing in class.

My biggest advice to new parents is stay till all the trophies are handed out. Always.

We almost left - only to be persuaded rather strongly to stay. Miss E was awarded third place in the trophy fling! Her first prize! Totally shocked us all!

Sticker shock

Want to know something?
There is a reason the teacher doesn't discuss costume costs in the very first lesson!

As we progressed it became time to talk costs. And by costs I mean clothing.

Step one is the shoes. I am a big believer in the right shoe for the right job. And if shoes are needed for a dance then I pay for them no questions asked. $50 for ghillies - but at least they get used every lesson!

Step two is our class uniform. For the first term the girls just wore comfortable clothing. But as time progressed it is important they wear the studio uniform which provides for ease of movement and lets the teacher see the shapes their bodies are making so she can instruct properly.

We are pretty lucky at our studio. Long white socks. ($7 for two at target!), a short purple and white skirt ($20) and a black school singlet ($20 ish??) . There is also a jacket for winter and comps - I was lucky to pick one up second hand for $20. Nothing to scary there.

When the teacher starts discussing costumes however - it is a different matter.

My biggest advise is to stop and breathe. Wait to talk to the teacher. Don't google. Don't do your own research.

Yes kilts are very pricey - a complete kilt out fit could be well over $600-700 new.

But little dancers grow. And most studios have second hand outfits that can be sold on. Speak to your teacher.

Miss E's complete kilt outfit was under $200. And doesn't she look beautiful?

One day - yes - we will buy her the kilt of her dreams.

But that will be the day she commits to highland over other dance, and I don't have the expenses of concert costumes.

Don't leave costumes to the last minute - look early while you have time to source something a little cheaper.

It is an investment piece - and they will wear it for years to come.

Our first dances - the fling and the sword

It amazed me how quickly our little dancers progressed.

Through some stroke of magic I think - Miss Marlene, our teacher, managed to teach them the sword dance and the highland fling at approximately the same time.

It really did amaze me to turn up to the last 15 min of class each week and see what they had learnt.

Miss E seemed to progress quite well. She is a clever girl, and learning the steps is relatively easy to her. What I can see already though - is there is a big difference between learning the steps and being able to do them all in a technically correct way.

The position of the leg, the angle of the feet, the way the hands are held. They are all so important.

Some days it amazed me that we didn't drive the teacher to drink! Getting so many little girls to learn the steps in just the right way.

But she did it.

And we progressed to our first two dances - the sword dance and the highland fling.

How it all began

How sweet are they?

Back in 2012 our girls received an invitation to attend a trial term of Highland dance classes at the nearby Highland Dance school.

So - because it sounded like fun, and was low pressure (no shoes or costumes required ... at the time!) we thought we would give it a go!

I was thrown into a whole new world. A world of words I had never heard of, that made me realise how little I knew about dance and Scotland in general!

The girls loved it! They were mainly from the same school and they thought it was a heap of fun! The mummy's were excited to see them learning (and wondered how long they would sound like a herd of elephants!)

It started out as something to trial. But we soon discovered the girls were hooked.

This is there first perfomance on grandparents day. The girls were still so new but they did pas de basques as an older dancer danced the sword on stage. We didn't even have our own proper costumes at that stage - just borrowed ones from the teacher!

Ahh things were so simple then!

How did I end up here??

How did I end up here?

Hi! I'm Kath - mum of Miss E.

And once upon a time the person voted least likely to be a highland dancing mum. Actually least likely to be an any sort of dancing mum.

Some how though - I have become the mum of a tap, jazz, contemporary and Highland dancer. (and until this term there was ballet too ....a timetable clash has meant the end of that though.

Highland seems to be starting to shine as her real love ... and it's a genre that has meant a real commitment from me.

Some days I feel like I am conducting the research of the century as I try to sort through her miriad of questions about her dance.

So I decided to blog.

Somewhere out there ... is another mother who is dying for answers about dance.

Maybe somehow we can help each other through it.

I do want to say though - that I am in no ways an expert - this is just me - trying to find my way through the muddle that is dancing from a mum's point of view.