Fire and Grace: Dancing with Alasdair Fraser

“Turn out more!” your teacher yells. Stretch those feet! Elevate!

Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas and a team of USA Scottish Highland Dancers
Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas and a team of USA Scottish Highland Dancers

Watch your positions. Remember your corrections. Oh my aching feet! Highland dancers must be the hardest working people on the planet. Each week they come to class one or more times to be told what they are doing wrong and to be pushed to work harder. They go home and practice to perfect those backsteps, pas de basques, and toe-heels. This push for excellence is at the heart of highland dancing and it pays dividends of improved fitness, attention to detail, and heightened focus. Sometimes those dividends come in the form of trophies and medals. All in all, it is a good thing.

But sometimes we forget why we are dancing. Celtic music is the heartbeat of the Scottish people and highland dancing is the expression of that music. We express the joy, the pain, and the pride of Scotland with our dance.

There is no finer Celtic musician than Alasdair Fraser. Alasdair’s deep understanding of Scottish music and indeed of Scotland and its history is evident in his performances. To dance to the music of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas is to truly experience the thrill and elation, the fire and grace that is highland dancing.

Highland dancers across the US are thrilling to the opportunity to perform with Alasdair and Natalie. Dancers have performed with them in Portland OR, E. Lansing MI, Belleville and Cincinnati OH. Each performance has been a resounding success. It has been a chance to show a broader audience what we as highland dancers can do. And it is a chance for us as dancers to dance for joy. What a nice opportunity to break away, if only for a moment, from the pressures of competitive dancing to perform the Alien Ceildh choreography as created by the FUSTA choreography committee. Each group has put its own personal spin on the choreography and that is part of the fun. And yet dancers from different schools have been able to come together to produce a beautiful dance performance.

My special thanks to Jocelyn Case, Tracy Walton, Christie Walsh, and Missy Gentry who organized the performances locally. Their hard work made it all happen.

From the comments following, I think you can see that the opportunity was truly inspiring for the dancers.

“This experience was so amazing because to have the opportunity to dance on a stage with two people who were so talented and passionate about their craft made me have so much joy to be a part of that, doing something that I love too – to dance!” – Becca Baldwin, McKinney School of Dance

“It was a really cool opportunity being able to perform with Alasdair and Natalie. Although we were from different studios, we were able to collaborate and add our own style to the original choreography. I hope to be able to perform it again!” – Hayley Jameson, Case School of Highland Dance

“I have been listening to Alasdair’s music since I was a little girl, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to perform with him. I think everyone was a little nervous before the show; would the costumes work? Would we remember the choreography? Were we even doing the same arms? As soon as we met Alasdair and Natalie, and realized how excited they were to bring together music and dance, we knew it was going to be great. This has been my favorite performance in the twenty years I’ve been dancing, and on top of that we got to watch a great concert. Thank you so much to Alasdair and Natalie, for reminding me why I love Highland dance.” – Hilary McKinney Heiney, McKinney School of Dance

“I was really nervous for it because we had so much trouble getting everyone together due to or schedules, but when it came down to it I was really excited. I thought it went really well and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also would love to see him perform again if I ever have the chance.” – Kourt Bacon – Bacon School of Highland Dance

“I thought it was fun taking an original choreography and making it our own. I liked how Alasdair and Natalie were so welcoming to us when we came onto the stage. I would love to do it again!” – Libby Patterson, Case School of Highland Dance

Video: The Full Tulloch

Check out this neat video of a Full Tulloch performed at the Chicago Spring Fling Championship in February 2009! The reel chosen for championship Highland dance competitions varies from year to year. It is usually a combination of Strathspey, Highland Reel, and/or Full or Half Tulloch. As you can see in the video, rather than starting in a straight line, the Full Tulloch (and Half Tulloch, when performed alone) begins with the dancers facing one another in a square formation. In case you like the music, this particular reel tune is known as Kelsey’s Wee Reel. And don’t forget that this year’s Spring Fling will be held at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, IL on February 25, 2012!

Let us know what you think in the comments and please submit any videos you’d like to see posted here to DiscoverScottishDance@gmail.com!