Monday, May 31, 2010

Bellingham Highland Games

I have been around Highland Dancing and Piping for about ten years now. The Highland Games are where we hang out all summer long. It is always such a thrill when we first pull into the parking lot. The tunes reach our ears before we even get onto the grounds. Various pipers, drummers and dancers all walking around in their colorful kilts.

The music is exhilarating, the food is amazing, and the talent is inspiring. I am moved to tears during Opening Ceremonies as I watch hundreds of Pipers and Drummers march across the field playing "Scotland The Brave." I never tire of it. I get choked up every time I hear that one piper playing "Amazing Grace," and then lose it altogether when all of the pipers and drummers join in for the second verse. I know why the English would turn tail and run as those Scottish Warriors would march towards battle. It's overwhelming to say the least.

Tayler and Autumn have competed in the Highland Dance Competitions for years. I am usually rushing around rolling their hair into Highland buns, pinning plaids and pulling up socks. The judges are in place in front of the stages. The dancers are stretching and jumping to get ready to compete. There are many dances competed, all complete with history attached. I will tell you about four dances.

The Highland Fling is one of the oldest of the traditional Highland dances of Scotland. Returning from a victorious battle, male warriors would perform the dance in celebration of their success. It was performed on a small round shield, called a targe. Most targes had a sharp spike of steel projecting from the center, so the dancers learned to move with skill and dexterity to avoid injuring themselves. The dancers try to stay in one spot as they dance. It is said to be based on the antics of a stag on a hillside; the grouped fingers and upheld arms representing the antlers.

The Sword Dance is thrilling. I always watch this one through my fingers, with my breath held the whole time. I can barely watch. The sword dance was typically done in battle and it was done either before the night before battle where the Scott's men would put down there swords and cross them a dance the sword and if he touched his sword that means that he would have a horrible day in battle the next day and probably wouldn't come back alive. But, if he danced victoriously over his sword he usually would have a great day in battle the next day. Another story is that the Scottish warrior would dance this after a battle using his defended opponent's sword. He would cross his sword with his enemies sword and dance a sword around it. In Highland competitions if the dancers touch the sword they are marked down or disqualified....which is why I watch with my eyes closed.

Seann Truibhas, pronounced ‘Shawn Trewes’, is Gaelic for ‘Old Trousers’. It is believed that the dance developed after the 1745 Jacobite Rising, when Charles Edward Stuart (more affectionately known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) came to Scotland from France to win back the crown. Initially the uprising was a staggering success; the Jacobite army rapidly broke out of the Highlands, captured Edinburgh, and advanced as far south as Derby in England. Unfortunately, the army lacked the necessary French support, and so retreated back to their stronghold in the Highlands, where it was finally defeated at Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746. Afterwards, the government decided to end once and for all the Jacobite military threat. Jacobites were rounded up, imprisoned or executed. Estates were snatched, the clan system dismantled, and their kilt and plaids, pipes, and weaponry outlawed.

Some suggest that the dance was created when the above Act of Proscription was repealed in 1783, and Highlanders were once again allowed to wear their kilts. The dancers look like they are "kicking off their trousers." It's one of my favorites.

The Irish Jig is a parody of Irish dancing—borrowing many similar foot and leg movements, and even using hard shoes and "temper". Arm movements reflect the history behind the dance. An angry housewife mad because her husband has been in the pub ‘til the wee hours of the morning. The dancer chases her husband, flounces her skirt, and shakes her fists. Female dancers wear green/red dresses/skirts, complete with apron, and hard shoes for "stomping out the rhythm". It is just plain fun to watch their angry faces and strong movements. I am new as a Piping Mom...I love watching the Band compete. Beau also solo competes. But I don't know as much about it all yet. He is part of the White Spot Pipe Band in Surrey, B.C. I am impressed by their dedication. They have such good camaraderie too. I have never seen a group of kids work so hard for a common goal before. The band parents are so nice. The kids work so hard. I am thankful Beau has this opportunity. They will be at the Bellingham Highland Games this Saturday.


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