Highland dancing comes to the mountains 

It may not earn you points in the night clubs, but highland dancing is a respected dance form around the world – especially in Canada. With a prominent Scottish heritage, Canadians are keen to keep highland dancing alive – and do it well!

"Last year I was in Scotland, dancing all over the countryside, and I met a lot of Canadians," says Claire McIntosh, a former competitive highland dancer turned teacher.

"Actually the best highland dancers in the world come from Canada. There were four of them in the top six at the world championships. Dancing in Canada is treated so much more like an athletic sport and dancers have that mentality of an athlete. In Scotland, it’s like a folk past time and in Australia it’s just more of a hobby."

With a name like Claire McIntosh, you would expect the lass to hail from the Scottish hills herself. However, her accent quickly identifies her as Australian. While there is also a strong contingent of Scots in Australia, the heritage is not as widely celebrated as in Canada.

"There’s a small community. It’s not quite as popular and since I left the country it’s gone into a rural decline, which is one of the reasons that I’m really excited about teaching here in Whistler. It’s not a big city, and they don’t (highland) dance here, so it will be interesting to see how it goes," says McIntosh.

Learning in a small country town Down Under, the 20 year old has gone on to perform around the world. She has received honours in five states in Australia and has competed in the United States, Canada, England and Scotland. She has also earned her teaching degree, which she intends to use full time due to a nagging ankle injury.

"I’m encouraging all age groups to come out. We’ll be breaking it up into three groups. You don’t need any specific previous dance experience. I’ll be breaking it down right to the basics, starting at the floor and moving up," explains McIntosh.

"Students should be prepared for it to be like an aerobics class. That’s the kind of stamina that’s required, where you’ve got low impact and we’ll build up. It’s really a strength and endurance sport."

McIntosh is offering a single day, three-hour workshop at MY Place Saturday, Oct. 20 and will offer a continued schedule based on demand.

For registration information, contact Trina Eby at 604-935-0183.

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