Looking for something fun and social to do that also gets you up and moving? The best form of exercise is the kind that doesn’t feel like exercise and that’s what you get with Scottish Dancing! Since 2014, Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy owner and certified dance instructor Arielle Allard has been teaching locals both young and old the fun of Scottish Dance.

“I first saw highland dancing when I was about 10 years old,” shares Arielle. “A local dancer performed the sword dance over two crossed broadswords at an international fair and I was fascinated. Dance lessons were on my Christmas list that year and I’ve been dancing ever since.”

It didn’t take long for Arielle to dance towards a career as an instructor. At just 14, she began mentoring others as a way to practice teaching dancing. At just 16 she had her associate’s certificate and by 23 she was a full member and ready to instruct! “I’ve always been interested in dance and Celtic music, so it was natural to pick up Scottish highland dance,” she says.

Irish Step Dancing Versus Scottish Dancing

We’ve all seen – or at least heard of – Riverdance. It’s a form of popularized Irish dance that draws a crowd for sure. And at first glance, you may be wondering what the difference between Irish Step Dancing and Scottish Dancing is, as they both seem similar. Scottish Dance consists of four styles, the Ceilidh, Highland, Scottish country, and Step. Irish Step Dancing involves soft-shoe dances including the reel, light-jig and slip-jig, and hard-shoe dances – think Riverdance again – that include the hornpipe, the treble-jig and set dances.

Arielle also notes the outfits are quite different, with Scottish dancers wearing traditional tartans, either a kilt with highland gear or an Aboyne outfit. “As an art form, Scottish tends to be very structured and focused on precision, while Irish dance teachers choreograph a lot more of their dances,” she adds. “Highland dancing is both a sport and an art form, rich with Celtic tradition and history. Irish dancers and Scottish are each very proud of their dance forms.”

An Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy dancer performing the Highland Fling. Photo credit: Diane Allard

Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy in Olympia Teaches All Ages for Fun and Competition

The Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy in Olympia offers dance classes for anyone 11 and up and are adding classes for those 7-10 in the Spring of 2024. “The heart and soul of Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy is to have fun, make good memories, learn the intricacies of highland dancing, and enjoy competing in the local highland dance community,” Arielle says.

And no, you don’t have to be Scottish to enjoy Scottish dance! “I’m afraid if I had to have Scottish blood in my veins to dance, I’d be out of luck,” laughs Arielle. “I have very little Scottish heritage, just a big interest in all things Celtic!”

Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy dancers performing a group dance. Photo credit: Diane Allard

Classes are held on Thursday evenings. Aside from great exercise, you will learn coordination, grace and strength. You will learn several dances that are all steeped in tradition. One such dance is the Sword Dance. “The Sword Dance is traditionally a victory dance, crossing your sword over your opponent’s and dancing over both,” explains Arielle. “Legend had it that if you danced the sword dance before battle and touched the sword, you’d fall in the battle the following day. The Highland Fling is said to have been modeled after the graceful stag bounding over the highlands of Scotland. Some say it was traditionally danced on a fence post or a small shield, but for obvious reasons, we don’t do that nowadays.”

And while you don’t have to compete, friendly competition is a big part of the tradition.

“The highland dance world focuses on mutual encouragement and is a very tight-knit community despite its competitive environment,” shares Arielle on why she loves Scottish Dance and competitions. “Forming dance friendships over my teen years was a lot of fun. Sometimes you win against them, and other times they win against you. But you’re always there to encourage each other and enjoy dancing before the judge.”

Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy dancers performing with the Olympia Highlander Bagpipe and Drum Corp. Photo credit: Diane Allard

If you do decide to compete, the Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy competes indoors in both Portland and Seattle, as well as at Highland Games events in the summer months. They also perform with the Olympia Highlanders Bagpipe and Drum Corp., a group Arielle says she has been dancing with since childhood!

For more information on upcoming events, follow the Eildon Scottish Highland Dance Academy on Facebook.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email