Public Service Announcement

A glimpse of the culture of Scottish Highland Dancing and FUSTA’s USA Scottish Highland Dancing. This public service announcement features the Thistle and Heather Highland Dancers of Chicagoland, under the direction of Nancy Strolle. The piper featured is Ben Peterson. Music is “Alien Ceilidh” by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.

Visit the following sites for more information: – USA Scottish Highland Dancing – to find a teacher – for more great music


The Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators (FUSTA) was established in 1980 to promote Scottish Highland Dancing and culture in the United States and to provide a community system for teachers and judges of Highland dancing.

This video is brought to you by Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.

Directed by Jonathan Vaughn
Produced by Ryan Forkin
Cinematography by Emily Feller
Edited by Molly O’Callaghan
Assistant Editing by Eli Cantu
Production Assisted by Jordan Miller and Jeff Wisniewski

Dancing for Charity: A Win-Win Off The Platform

The Primary dancers in the group perform each year at Nella’s Nursing Home at Christmas time

Not all studios have 30 dancers, ranging from beginner to premier. Katy Dillon in West Virginia however is looking for a bigger space to teach in. She gets a calls from families interested in Highland Dance lessons on a regular basis. She and her dancers also support local fundraisers, charity drives and local community events.

Performing at the 2013 United Way Telethon to help raise money for 27 local nonprofit organizations
Performing at the 2013 United Way Telethon to help raise money for 27 local nonprofit organizations

In February, the West Virginia Highland Dancers performed for the 2013 Randolph County United Way Telethon to help raise money for numerous local organizations. This is just one of several charity events the West Virginia dancers take part in each year in their community.  The dancers also perform at nursing homes, local fairs, school events, and fundraisers for local nonprofit organizations. This has been a wonderful way to showcase Highland dancing, and, to the small town of Elkins, WV, dancers with swords and kilts are no longer something out of the ordinary. The group is well known throughout the town and people look forward to seeing them perform.

Dancing at the Tyrand Fall Festival to benefit disadvantaged families in the area

If you’re looking to grow you dance studio or add variety to the competitive dance career of your current students, consider this tried and true approach of supporting local charities, fundraisers and events.  Not only does it give competitive dancers a break from the platform, but more importantly it gives back to the communities, and that’s a win-win for everyone.

Honoring FUSTA Hall of Fame Member Ann Johnson

Ann Johnson
Ann Johnson

Ann Johnson was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. By the time she was three her father had learned to play the bagpipes as a birthday surprise for her Scottish grandfather. From then on the music was always present and Highland Dance lessons followed when she was six.

By the time she was 7 she began competing and enjoyed modest success. It was not until she went away to college with every intention of giving up Highland Dance that she discovered she was not ready to do that.

Ann continued to work at her dancing often without regular instruction while she attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Learning to be analytical and to practice effectively were valuable acquisitions that resulted in rewarding competitive successes on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.

After graduation Ann taught 4th grade for two years in Tacoma before returning home to Portland in 1974 where she had been hired by the Hillsboro School District to teach 5th and eventually 6th grade.

In 1980, she attended the organizational meeting of FUSTA held at a Highland Dance conference in Las Vegas. It was easy to become enthusiastically involved in the efforts to preserve and promote Highland Dance in the U.S. Ann served as the Northwest Region’s first delegate and was elected FUSTA’s third president in 1984.

In 2003, shortly after retiring from a 31-year career as a classroom teacher, Ann was again elected FUSTA President becoming the first person to hold that office twice. The world of Highland Dance had changed considerably in the 20 years since she had last been president. It was a world made smaller by electronic communication and the ease of travel. FUSTA and the overseas affiliates of the SOBHD communicated more frequently and found that all were suffering from growing pains in one form or another.

She is credited with re-establishing harmonious relationships with the SOBHD. During Ann’s three terms as president she also oversaw the establishment of the FUSTA Hall of Fame and the academic scholarship for high school seniors. FUSTA’s Scottish representative to the SOBHD became a regular attendee at the Mid-Winter meeting; a move that did a great deal to enhance communication and trust between the two organizations. The FUSTA newsletter and ballot ‘went electronic’ and the vital positions of National Registrar and National Judges’ Committee Chairman became elected rather than appointed positions on the Board of Directors.

For over 30 years, she has been a volunteer and more recently Vice President Competition and on the executive committee of the Portland Highland Games Association.

Ann has been a member of SOBHD Adjudicators’ Panel since 1974 and is an SDTA Life Member and Examiner.

Her dance school in Portland has produced consistently well-trained dancers who have exhibited a love of dance and the true spirit of sportsmanship. Her students have won local and national championships, including the USIR, and medals and trophies at the major summer championships in Scotland.

It is her belief that all who participate in Highland Dance have an inherent responsibility to give back so that others can enjoy the wonderful experiences and opportunities it offers. The privilege of participation in Highland Dance and FUSTA has been a highlight in her life.

Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Ann Johnson know how she may has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.

On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Ann Johnson for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.

International Gathering of Scottish Dance 2013

IGSHD at Disney Paris 2013 Complete Info

Following the success of the past two years events, I am pleased to advise we have just launched the 2013 International Gathering of Scottish Highland Dance, which will see the event take place over the weekend of 23rd November 2013, with standard arrivals from Thursday 21st November for 4 nights or Friday 22nd November for 2 or 3 nights, all accommodation packages include continental buffet breakfast on each day. The 3 and 4 night packages also include 3 day hopper park passes, and the 2 night packages include 2 day hopper park passes, these passes are valid in the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studio each day allowing you to visit both parks multiple times each day should you choose to do so. For groups coming from overseas extended packages can be offered to incorporate for example, visits into Paris and onto London or Scotland.

Our standard accommodation packages are offered at Hotel Santa Fe, Hotel Cheyenne and Sequoia Lodge, however, we can also tailor a package to suit your needs to include additional extras such as half board options, additional park passes, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. These hotels are within walking distance of the parks and the Disney Village which offers dining, souvenir shops and entertainment opportunities throughout the day without using a park ticket, each hotel also offers a complimentary return shuttle bus service which operates approximately every 10 minutes directly to the bus station which is centralised between the Disney Village and parks. The hotels also have Disney character presence at various times each day giving plenty of photo opportunities!

Please note, in terms of pricing adults are aged 12 and over, children are aged 3-11 and infants are 0-2 and are not chargeable. Rooms can occupy a maximum of 4 guests plus a cot and by maximising room occupancy the price becomes more cost effective per person. Places can be secured with a £50 non-refundable deposit per person, with final balances being payable by 30th August 2013. Please note, inclusion within the International Gathering of Scottish Highland Dance event is only available as part of any accommodation package purchased through Take Us 2 The Magic Ltd.

Moving on to the performance opportunities which are aplenty, at no additional cost each school will be offered the opportunity to take part in a Disney Performing Arts workshop giving your dancers the unrivalled opportunity to learn from Disney professionals! Each school who has a minimum of 10 performers aged over 5 can also apply to perform on one of Disneyland Paris’ stages within the park, offering a fantastic experience for your dancers to perform for between 20-30 minutes to an audience of Disneyland Paris park guests. There will be a further amazing opportunity for your dancers to take part in a pre-choreographed pre-parade performance along Main Street, USA within the Disneyland Park, this opportunity is offered to performers aged 8 and over and is subject to weather conditions and minimum performer numbers.

Finally, in conjunction with Grampian Festivals I am pleased to advise, again at no additional cost, each school can enter and compete in the SOBHD registered Highland Dance Competition (reg no.A2). You are able to compete in as many divisions as you wish including Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Seann Triubhas, Half Reel or Tulloch, Trophy Fling, Barracks Johnnie, Scottish Lilt, Flora Macdonald, Village Maid, Blue Bonnets, 16 pas de Basque and Pas de Basque and Highcuts. There will also be an awards ceremony with trophies and medals, together with special Disney competition guest!

We aim to offer you and your school a fun filled weekend where you can experience the magic of Disney whilst having many performance opportunities creating memories that will last a lifetime; we will therefore work with you to create your perfect trip and aim to make it as stress free as possible!

  • The information flyer with pricing sheet giving some further information is downloadable above by clicking the link above the image. You may also wish to visit the following websites:
  • See some footage from a Gaelic documentary filmed by Alba TV during the 2011 event and click on the Scottish Highland Dance link.
  • Here is a link to a performance of a previous school attending
  • Furthermore, the following You Tube link with pre-parade footage viewable from 2011
  • Lastly, please keep updated by ‘liking” the Facebook page and also join the facebook Group –

If you have any questions once you have had chance to digest all of the information, please contact Greg Davidson at or David Bridge at

The Dream Team

by Jo Kalat

Starting out this choreography project was very intimidating to me! The plan was to create choreographies that could be learned by any premier dancer to use with visiting performing artists. It seemed like a great way to use an existing resource to promote highland dancing. Different schools could work together on the same choreography. Much good could come of this project. But the thought of creating something to be approved by the FUSTA board and used across the United States? I wasn’t sure I was up to that!

But my choreography committee is up to the task. The committee is composed of Kate DeGood, Kathleen Hall, Trish MacConnell, and Laura Hester Madden. What a joy and an eye opener it has been for me to work with these motivated young ladies. They have shown me what the new generation can do and how to use technology to bridge the geographical gap of highland dancers. These dancers are dedicated to the cause of highland dancing. They have devoted a great deal of time and energy to this project. I want the highland dance world to know more about these young leaders.

Kate DeGood with a young workshop student
Kate DeGood with a young workshop student

Kate DeGood’s competitive dancing career has brought worldwide championship success in every age category. She is the holder of over 80 major championship titles throughout the United States, Canada, Scotland, and Australia. She is a 7 time US champion, 2 time World First Runner-up, 10-time World Finalist, having placed in the top 6 in the World Championships 7 times. Kate is a Fellow of the BATD and SDTA, Chairperson of the BATD Great Lakes Region, and Coordinator of the North American BATD New Professionals Forum. She is an S.O.B.H.D. Judge, passing the exam at the youngest possible age of 21. An active member of FUSTA, Kate is involved in the “Discover Scottish Dance” campaign. In addition to instructing at Alma College, she is director at the Kate DeGood School of Dance at the Detroit St. Andrew’s Society’s Kilgour Centre in Troy, MI. Kate also judges, lectures, and performs throughout North America.

Kathleen Hall on the far left dancing with Shot of Scotch
Kathleen Hall on the far left dancing with Shot of Scotch

Kathleen Hall has been a highland dancer since 1991, when she started dancing with the Jo Moore Kalat Scottish Dancers in Raleigh, NC. She is a member of the BATD, FUSTA, and ScotDance Canada. She has danced and taught with a number of different studios, including the Edinburgh University New Scotland Dance Society, the Columbus (OH) Scottish Highland Dancers, the Weaver Highlanders (St. Louis, MI), the Reid School of Scottish Dance (Philadelphia, PA), and Charlene Ward’s highland dancers (Vancouver, BC). She co-founded a group of premier-level performance highland dancers, Shot of Scotch, in New York City. In her non-dancing life, she is a linguistics professor at the University of British Columbia.

Trisha MacConnell
Trisha MacConnell

Trisha MacConnell began dancing in 1991 at the San Jose School of Scottish Dancing in San Jose, CA under the direction of the late Norine Harmon. She is a five-time Western Regional Champion, a 13-time USIR finalist, (finishing in the top six at the USIR ten times) and a two-time World Championship finalist. Outside of highland dancing, Trisha holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Duke University in Durham, NC. She now practices as an orthopedic physical therapist for Providence Health Systems in Portland, OR, specializing in treating musculoskeletal pain.

Laura Hester Madden (middle)
Laura Hester Madden (middle)

Laura Hester Madden has been Scottish dancing for over 20 years and hopes that there are many more years to come! In her earlier dancing days, Laura had the honor of being an Ontario representative for several years, winning the Canadian Championships during that time. After college, Laura started back up dancing and has been fortunate enough to represent the southeast region at the USIR for the past 4 years. Laura now lives in Michigan and is enjoying being a part of the Midwest region. She has a special love for choreography and was thrilled to be asked to join this FUSTA committee.

My thanks to this wonderful committee. And also to all of those local teachers who have taken their time to utilize this resource. Look for more exciting projects to come. The future of FUSTA is bright with these leaders on the horizon.

Honoring FUSTA Hall of Fame Member Christie Freestone

CChristie McLeod Freestone’s love affair with highland dancing has spanned the last half century. When she was eight years old, her Scottish grandfather arranged for Christie and her sister, Jeanne, to study with two of the great highland dance instructors of the day, Pearl Magnuson and Sharon Magnuson (Capitani). After four lessons, Christie decided that highland dancing was “too hard,” and hung up her ghillies. Her sister continued to dance, becoming one of Michigan’s most successful champions in the 1960′s. After four years of traveling throughout North America to highland games, Christie decided to join her sister and become a highland dancer once again. This time, she “caught the bug” and the rest is history.

Not a natural dancer, Christie had to break down movements into isolated positions in order to perfect them. She quickly discovered a talent for analysis and an ability to teach. Her out-going personality, mixed with her ability to instruct, led to the founding of the Mid-Michigan Highland Dance Academy in 1970. As an Alma College freshman, she was recruited to teach her first student, Mary Jo Rohrer (Pung) whose father was the Community Education Director for the public schools. He asked her to teach a six-week course to the community children of Alma. In the first class offered, four students registered. The second class session enrolled 12 students. The third class session produced over 150 students. Highland dance officially became an institution in Alma, Michigan-Scotland, USA.

In the late 1970′s, Christie initiated discussions with the Detroit area teachers about holding a national championship for highland dancing in the United States. Knowing that such an undertaking would need national support, she took the idea to a teachers’ meeting at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1980. It was decided to present a proposal to teachers from around the country at the Las Vegas International Highland Dance Conference in 1981. In order to sponsor a national championship, a governing body was necessary. The Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators of Highland Dance (FUSTA) formed and Christie was elected to be the first president. The first USIR was held in 1981 and Christie had a national champion that first year. In the past 25 years, she has had regional finalists at every USIR and has produced 11 USIR champions.

As an early elementary school teacher with a Master Degree in early childhood education, Christie has researched motor skills development in children and adapted her findings to the teaching of very young highland dancers. She has taught numerous workshops throughout North America sharing her techniques for teaching beginner dancers.

As the director of the Mid-Michigan Highland Dance Academy in Alma, where she currently heads a staff of six member and associate teachers of highland dance, Christie’s students have won over 100 championships throughout the world. She has trained 23 member teachers and three SOBHD judges. She initiated the idea of a judge’s training program, that has became a reality through the collaboration of life-time friends and judges, Liz and Bill Weaver, and student and judge, Kate DeGood. Christie is a life-time Fellow member of the BATD and a member of the SOBHD judges’ panel. She teaches first grade at a public elementary school in Ithaca, Michigan and is an Adjunct Professor of highland dance at Alma College. Christie’s late husband Dave still is, “the wind beneath her wings,” and she is the mother of Craig, “the pride of her life!”

Christie’s legacy is the positive approach she uses when teaching students. Parents are encouraged to watch lessons and to practice with their children. Students are encouraged to participate in other activities, even if it means adjusting dance schedules. She believes that students must experience all that life offers before they are able to decide upon which path they will follow in life. Only then will they find their “gifts” and develop a passion for living. Perhaps, Christie’s greatest gift is that every student leaves a workshop or a dance class feeling special. She often believes in her students more than they believe in themselves. She credits her personal successes in life to the lessons she learned from her loving parents, Catherine and Max McLeod.

Most people slow down after 40 years on the job, but Christie just keeps going at a frantic pace. With a smile, a hug and a word of encouragement, Christie Freestone has made an indelible mark on the world of highland dance.

Please take a moment to post a comment. This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Christie Freestone know how she may has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.

On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Mrs. Freestone for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.

California Dancers Organize a Food Drive

Kids in Kilts, run by dancers Megan and Devon Watson from the Farrar School of Dance in S. California, held a food drive in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The food drive was very successful, collecting 559 items of food for the Manna Food Bank in Thousand Oaks. We were accompanied by Amanda Morris, also a student of Mrs. Farrar; Charlie Morris, former dancer and now piper; and Poppy, grandfather to all of the dancers. Because of the success, we are looking forward to our May food drive.


Honoring FUSTA Hall of Fame Member Sheila Mittig

Sheila Mittig (right) with her daughter Alison Plemmons (left) and dancer Sarah Ketron (middle) at the Chicago Spring Fling
Sheila Mittig (right) with her daughter Alison Plemmons (left) and dancer Sarah Ketron (middle) at the Chicago Spring Fling

Born in Balloch, Scotland Sheila Mittig studied all forms of dance at the Stewart School, Alexandria. Sheila

emigrated to Dearborn, Michigan in 1964 and immediately began teaching Highland Dancing. She is a Life Member of the B.A.T.D. and has been on the S.O.B.H.D. judge’s panel for many years. Sheila has judged and taught workshops all over the world and has taught two World Champions. Sheila now lives in Novi, Michigan where she still teaches along with her daughter, Alison. A former student of Sheila’s, Alison is a four time U.S. Highland Dance Champion.

Please take a moment to post a comment.  This is a space to share stories, show your appreciation and let Sheila Mittig know how she has impacted and enriched your experience with Highland dance.

On behalf of FUSTA and the Discover Scottish Dance efforts we’d like to to be the first to say “Thank You” to Sheila Mittig for her honorable commitment and outstanding achievements that contributed to making the U.S.A. Highland dance community what it is today.