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Freshman Pearl Zhang (pictured, third from left) poses with Lower and Middle School dancers. (From left) Arianna Radtke, Elise Radtke, Pearl, Annie Matte, Nora Watts, Annabeth Slagle and Elsie Wire.
Highland dance, a type of strenuous, physically challenging solo dance accompanied by bagpipes, originated in Scotland. It is one of St. Thomas’ Episcopal’s most well-known and unusual extra-curricular activities. Highland dance involves constant jumping, requiring much stamina, especially from more advanced dancers. Key elements of this style of dance are making sure to turnout your knees and feet and pointing your toes. In one of the most difficult of dances, dancers must have the skill to dance over crossed swords without touching them.
Every student at STE participates in Highland dancing at some level. Lower schoolers practice basic Highland dance steps weekly, which they perform in an annual event in the spring for parents along with Middle and Upper schoolers participating in an optional elective, in which they learn dances performed in our school’s The Sounds of Scotland performance. The most ambitious dancers participate in the extracurricular Highland dance class, where they learn to dance competitively and attend competitions around the United States as well as in other countries.
Carla Gardner, STE alumni dancer, and Freshman Premier dancer, Campbell Brickley, take a parallel leap.
On the first Saturday in October, dancers from all over Texas, including a group from St. Thomas’ Episcopal gathered together in Kerrville with their hair pulled back in high buns and wearing brightly colored kilts for a Highland dance competition. It was the first dance of the season. Campbell Brickley, who won a first place and two seconds, before the competition said she “felt a little nervous, but not really.” Although some of the dancers were nervous, many performed extremely well in the competition.
St. Thomas’ won more medals than all the other dance schools and dancers in the competition. Thirteen dancers from STE took part in the competition. Beginner dancer Elsie Wire and novice dancer Annie Matte won the Most Promising Dancer awards for their individual levels.
The dancers will have another chance for medals at the next Highland dance competition in Salado in November.