What is Highland Dance?

April 25, 2017


What is Highland Dance? 


While the name initially seems unrelated, 'Highland Dancing' couldn't be more accurate.  Highland dance is the ethnic dance of Scotland. Just like many other dance genres there are competitions throughout the United States, Canada, and across the world. Many people ask me how similar Highland dancing is to Irish Step Dancing; in more ways than one they are very different! While the shoes (ghillies) are similar, even the shape of the shoe varies from those of Irish dancers. I would even dare say that Highland dance is more similar to ballet than any other genre of dance. Highland dancing is welcoming to both male and female dancers.



How do Competitions Work?


In Utah, we are a part of the Northwest FUSTA ( Federation of United States Highland Dancing Teachers and Adjudicators) region. There are competitions within each region that prepare dancers to compete at Regionals, which is held annually in the Spring. This year it is being held in Washington state on May 13th. The top dancers from each region then compete at Nationals, USIR (United States Inter-Regional Highland Dance Championship) during the summer. This year USIR is being hosted in Salt Lake City, UT for the first time in over 30 years! Top competitors from Nationals then compete at Worlds in Cowal. 


 There are stories and histories behind each dance competed. Experts determine the steps for premier dancers to compete and they change each year. Dancers can begin competing in the simplest of the dances (Pas de Basques and Pas de Basques & High Cuts) as young as 4 years old! Dancers compete based on age and level, and so it creates a more friendly entry into the competition world for dancers who don't begin when they are 4 yrs old. Dancers compete well into adulthood and can even begin as adults! See the levels below for the progression in skill:


Primary (Ages 4-6)

Beginner (Ages 7-Adult)






Dancers receive medals for individual dances, and trophies for the highest score in their category. Each competition that a Beginning or Novice dancer


places in gives them a stamp. It is a literal stamp on their ID card. Once the dancer has received enough stamps to move forward they can "level up". 


If Dancers would like to get feedback from a judge there are medals exams available, and even workshops with a judge.


If you or your dancer are interested in joining the Highland Dance community begin HERE!


If you would like to learn more about Highland Dance in the U.S.A. you can visit the FUSTA Website HERE



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