Dance, magic dance

I just spent the last half an hour or so watching highland dancing videos on Youtube.

You should probably do this too because, for lack of a more eloquent descriptor, THEY ARE AWESOME.

I love watching these videos because they totally jazz me up, and I remember the good old (olden) days when I too used to be a highland dancer.

No joke.

From the ages of five to twelve, I flinged, reeled, and jigged with the best of them.

And I loved it, truly.

In so many areas of my life, my passion for dance bled through: Instead of walking places, I just danced. Sitting at the computer, I would curl my feet up into tight points, always trying to strengthen my arches, and I would hum different bagpipe tunes under my breath while I wrote tests.

Sorry for the crap quality!

More than anything, I really wanted to be Canadian champion, and more than that I really, really wanted to get married in my National costume.

A little highland dance background:

National costumes are different from Highland costumes (Highland being the “traditional” outfits that will most likely spring to mind when you think about highland dancing.)

National outfits instead are much softer and, in traditional terms, much more “feminine.”


This makes a lot of sense when you think about how the dances you complete in the Highland outfit are the Fling, Sword Dance, Seann Truibhas, and the Reel, whereas the dances associated with the National costume are the Blue Bonnets, Lilt, and Flora Macdonald.

Not exactly hard core stuff.

I highly doubt any Englishman felt a quake or two in his boots upon espying a bunch of bonny lasses, heel-toeing about to the Blue Bonnets Over the Border.

The Sword Dance on the other hand?

There’s no way in heck you’d want to mess with the crazies jumping about on top of multiple, sharp sabres.

Anywho, highland dancing was my total jam pretty much all through out elementary school. I even spent two weeks away from home after the summer of grade four at a dance camp in Red Deer, Alberta.

I stayed in the college dorms all by myself, ate at the school’s cafeteria (I had a punch card that let me know how much money I had left on my tab!) and signed up for different activities through my dorm mother and dance lead (the oldest girl in my training class.)

Every morning I would put my hair in a bun, put on my tights and leotard, and walk across the campus to class.

I don’t know if to this day I’ve ever felt as grown up, mature, and accomplished as I did at eleven during those two weeks.

The pièce de résistance was when a young piper asked me out the night that we went to the carnival. (What was this, Dawson’s Creek!?)

I mean, the guy couldn’t have been older than thirteen, but this basically exploded my on-the-cusp-pubescent mind.



I didn’t think things could get any more epic until the last night of the camp: all the dancers participated in a big gala, and we all performed the group dances we had been practicing over the length of the camp.

(I loved my group’s dance SO much that I practiced it every day for the rest of the summer.)

At the end of the evening, they announced the dancer who had won the scholarship to return following year’s camp, free of charge. The winner would also receive free accommodation, food, and receive a small living allowance over the course of the camp.

And would you believe it?

They announced little old me as the winner!

I was so shocked I didn’t really know what to do, so I kind of just continued sitting there, smiling like the pint-sized loon that I was.

I remember two older girls sitting behind me said something like, “Way to go Vanessa! You totally deserve it!” They then kind of pulled me out of my chair and pushed me towards the stage.

It was such an unbelievably happy moment for me walking up there to receive my certificate. I had just spent two weeks doing something I loved more than anything in the world, with a new group of friends, in a setting where I felt incredibly grown up.

Over the years I have definitely enjoyed other similar moments – different iterations of that pure joy and incredulity – but this one was definitely my first.

And watching these amazing videos is a great reminder of the brilliance of that feeling.

I hope so much that you too have a similar memory.

And if you do, take a moment and just sit back.

And press play.

Published by

Vanessa Woznow

Writer, runner, ranter, reader. I write about all things.

11 thoughts on “Dance, magic dance”

  1. I love this. I love stories of pure childhood joy.

    I also participated in dance as a child. Highland dancing’s less graceful, frumpier, louder cousin: CLOGGING.

    And while I did otherwise experience a few moments of childhood joy (like that year I got pompoms for Easter) they were never related to CLOGGING. Your first experience of joy came from highland dancing; my first experience of dread came from clogging.

    Aw. I’m just gonna go hug my little childhood self for a wee while. Thanks for the nostalgia! xo

    1. This makes me laugh so much, I cannot even tell you.

      CLOGGING!? Really? I had no idea that was a thing in NS. So weird! Did your sister do it to?

      OMG, I want to hug your childhood self too! I wish we could have highland danced together.

  2. My highland dancer! I’m the toddler with two left feet that would go to the B’ham Scottish Highland Games and watch you in awe. So graceful, powerful, and beautiful all at once. It was better than watching a prima ballerina taking the stage. And you have such incredible memories associated with it too! Seriously, this is my fave. I never go to the Highland Games now without thinking of you. :)

    1. I just looked up the dates for this year’s Games. Marc and I are planning on going down! If you are there we MUST meet up. (Just fair warning, I don’t know why but pipebands always, ALWAYS make me cry. SO weird!)

      And yes, I completely agree! The power of highland dancers just takes my breath away. It’s magic, truly!

  3. Dance has always been of interest to me. I am not the most coordinated person and probably could say I have two left feet, but I still love to move and shake. I enjoy learning more about you – thanks so much for sharing:) Happy Week!

    1. A love for moving and shaking is all you need! Dancing is one of the most amazing things, as it really does bring people together like nothing else.

      Thanks for this lovely comment. :) As always, you bring a big smile to my face!

  4. I dig this post! I was on a German dancing team for four years, and this made me all sorts of nostalgic. Perchance, is the title of this post from Labyrinth?

      1. A big bass drum, an accordion, and those long lutes seen on the Agricola commercials! Maybe I’ll craft a post to share some shots. You’ve raised some lovely memories for me.

  5. Last night: I dreamt that all the quarrelling factions at “the Olympics” got together to perform a Highlands-type dance, thereby assuaging whatever ill-will and discord and enabling these Olympics to officially begin.
    (Hmmmm … )

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