Highland spring fling offers life lessons

I was suckered into signing up for a dance festival.

Not for me, (although that would be interesting), but for my daughter who has fallen under the spell of Highland Dance.

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When I was a young girl, I was briefly in ballet and when I was around 10, I joined tap for some unknown reason. Highland Dance was never something that I thought about, or really noticed, but I vaguely remember that my cousins Highland danced when we were kids.

In my young and carefree years as a young adult in university, I joined a belly dance class and I absolutely loved it. I loved the blingy costumes, the music, the sisterhood and the way that my body grew stronger and more flexible.

Plus, it was really fun.

Being able to shimmy was a fun party trick that no one asked me to do. I was not able to continue belly dance with any sort of regularity after I had kids because the classes started (started!) at 8:30 p.m. in the evenings.

Who wants to leave the house again at 8:30 p.m.? I sure didn't and, as such, my own dancing career has fallen by the wayside. (When I say dancing career, please note that it was never actually going to be a "career" for me, but instead a fun way to exercise and to get out of the house). But I still love dance.

I love ballet and contemporary dance. I love watching So You Think You Can Dance once the wretched auditions are over and they get on with the beautiful dancing. My kids love to dance and we regularly have dance parties in the evenings to shake the sillies out before bedtime.

When I put the kids in dance last year, hip hop for my son and ballet for my daughter, I just wanted them to enjoy learning more about dance and to get some fun exercise. It has been great.

Rarely do they complain that it is time for dance and they like to practice the "sweet dance moves" that they learned that week. When I asked them in September if they wanted to join dance again this year, the answer was a resounding "Yes!"

My daughter wanted to do ballet again and she also wanted to learn to dance, like "the girls with the socks."

Not knowing anything about Highland except for the fact that I liked the socks too, we agreed and signed her up for Highland as well as ballet.

Little did I know that those socks cost around $200. And those cute little tartan kilts, oh, they run around $800 new. Luckily, there are lots of used costumes floating around and the other dance families are happy to help you learn the ropes, borrow clothes and understand this baffling new language of stamps and Scots Dance cards and exams and such. It is a lovely community and I am grateful for the other moms that are helping me and the older girls who are such lovely role models for my little girl.

I was feeling weak when my daughter's teacher had suggested she join a festival so she could learn what competitive dancing was like in a supportive environment.

"It will be good for her," she said. "She's ready," she said.

Sighing, I asked, "How much?" and off we went during the coldest morning in February to the Civic Centre for a Highland Dance competition.

We were really proud of our girl.

She wasn't nervous and went up on stage and gave it her all with another little girl from her studio.

The only issue was that our sweet girl thought she was going to win first place. I explained that because she only just started dancing, she might not win and I asked her what was she going to do if one of her friends won instead. She thought for a moment and then said that she would clap for them and tell them "good job."

When she didn't place, she held herself together onstage and clapped as the other girls who had been dancing for years received their trophies and only when she came back to the audience did she start to cry. We hugged her and told her we were proud of her.

And we are.

Maybe it is good for her - $200 socks are a small (not really small) price to pay for something that makes her try her best and light up from the inside.

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