She does it again!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I was a little surprised when Honours teacher suggested we enter her in another competition only 2 weeks away from her first. We were planning to be camping for that weekend, so I wasn't sure how we would work it out, but fresh off the excitement of her first medal, I both really wanted her to do another competition, and was scared it was just a fluke and she wouldn't do well at another. We decided to try to get her to it.

In the meantime, I really wanted to get Honour a proper Highland dance outfit. I had hopes that I could do it before the next competition, the Cambridge Highland games, but figured it was wasn't very possible. I started looking online for what could be found secondhand, but didn't see much out there at this time. I sent an email to my cousin Claire, who danced for many years, to see if she still had any kilts and such. She wouldn't be able to find out for another week, so I took a chance and ordered an outfit from Tartantown. It arrived in 2 days and Honour was so pleased that she was going to look just like the other girls. :-)

We arrived at Flamboro Valley to camp with friends on Friday night. Knowing how excited the kids were to be camping, I suspected they wouldn't mind staying with our friends on Saturday morning, while we took Honour over to the competition. It was quite pleasantly only a 20 minute drive away.

Things looked much the same as the Embro games, just a different backdrop. We parked and made the trek from the makeshift parking lot through the various gates. We realized somewhere along the way that we had left our lawnchairs back in the camp. Fortunately, there were about three other families from our school of dance, so we bunked with them for the morning.
I had put Honours hair up before we left camp, so now all that was left was to get her into her outfit. I had checked multiple times over that I had brought everything needed. She looked great.
The competition was about 45 minutes late in starting. Then when it did, Honours group (Beginners 7) was first up, with Honour up on stage with the very first group. The piper played the familiar Highland Fling tune (as opposed to Embro) and Honour did well. About 15-20 minutes later they moved onto the Sword and Honour was again first up. There was some stalling and confusion as they placed the swords up on stage as there didn't seem to be enough for all the dancers. When they finally located another pair, they placed them in the spot Honour would be dancing. I was chagrined as all the other swords were slim and flat, while the pair set before Honour had a high, rounded hilt. Unfortunately, the dancers are supposed to be able to dance over whatever they are presented with, so while it didn't seem fair, there were no grounds to protest.
Sure enough, she nicked the top of the hilt a couple times which led her to actually step on the swords as she danced. But she kept going, and did really well despite that. She finished her dances a bit later with a try at a new dance called the Sean Trews. Her teacher Dianne didn't have any expectations that Honour would place with the Sean Trews, but wanted her to try it anyways, as she feels that competition really lights a fire under dancers to work hard.

By 12:30, I had Honour back into her outfit with her dancers card on a lanyard around her neck. (Learned that from the last competition). We were so thrilled when they called the numbers of those winning a medal for her group and she was included. Up she went, standing smartly in first position (also something we learned from the last competition) and waited for the announcer to begin...
I said later to Dianne that "if she's anything, she's consistent!", as Honour again was awarded a third place medal, which meant another stamp on her card, in the Highland Fling. We were so excited!
Now it appears we'll have a longer wait until another competition, as Dianne recommended one in Pickering on September 17th. I was again both pleased for the interval, so that Honour can really work up her dances, and disappointed to have to wait so long until another. Plus we'll have the added conflict of my Musikgarten classes starting up that day (if I get students) so we'll have to figure something out if she's to dance at that one.

Honour waiting to go on stage.

Up on her toes for the Fling

The Sword Dance

Waiting to see what she won.

(If any family would like to see a video of her getting her award or dancing the Sean Trews, just email me or leave a comment and I'll send you the private link. :-)

Honour's First Highland Dance Competition

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In case you hadn't heard, Honour has been taking Highland dance from the Blackman School of Dance since last fall. I started thinking about it a couple years ago when the girls were interested in dance of some kind and I wasn't so thrilled with the idea of them going into ballet. My cousin did Highland dance for many years, and we do have some Scottish back on both sides of the family, so it was a natural consideration. I remember sitting with Honour and watching some videos on Youtube and she was quite interested and positive about the idea. So last fall we followed through and signed her up.

A couple months ago, we decided to enter her into a competition, upon her teachers recommendation. We almost ran into a bit of a crunch, as I didn't send off her registration for the Canadian Highland Dance organization (Scotdance) until the start of June. She needed a dance card to be eligible to dance and when the strike struck, her card was still en route. Fortunately, it arrived the day before the competition. (Phew!)

Honours teacher has been very positive about her progress and potential in Highland Dance, which of course we're very pleased about. I was happy to put her into a competition, because I think there are elements of competing that are good for kids to experience. Plus, it's like preparing a piece of music and having nowhere to perform it. It just loses some of it's appeal.

So yesterday was the day. I was up late the previous night getting her outfit ready, packing lunches and bags of all the paraphernalia we were going to need, as all four kids, plus Honours friend Tia were going. Then neighbours setting off fireworks at 3am didn't help matters. My mind started whirling again and between nerves and monitoring the clash between another neighbour that ran out to tell them off, I lost a good hour there. The alarm went off at 6am. Ugh.

As we drove, Honour was excited and giddy, telling us all how she wanted to win a First, a Second, a Third and a trophy. I tried to soften her expectations somewhat... :-)

The competition was taking place in Embro, which is about an hours drive west of us. It was happening as part of a larger Highland Games festival which attracts about 5000 people each year. We got in the gates, through admission and planted ourselves on some bleachers.

The competition started about 9:00am. Out of four possible dances Honour could have done, she was only entered into two of them, as the others weren't ready for competition yet. She would be dancing the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance. She was in the Beginners 7 group, which appeared to have about 18 girls entered.
I nearly goofed right at the start. We'd only seen one competition before, Honour and I, a few months ago when there was one happening in Ancaster. I had forgotten that they dance all the girls (I should say entrants; there were a few boys) through the same dance, all the age groups. Then when that is done, they all dance through the next dance. (Yes, it means you see and hear the same dance about 15 time in a row :-).
I had forgotten this, and even though there were groups up there dancing a different dance from Honours two, when they called the Beginners 7 group, I took her up to the ready tent.
Fortunately we realized the mistake and pulled her out before she got up on stage!

I had a severe bout of nerves for her as the Fling dances started and I didn't recognize the music. Honour has been practicing every day for the last two weeks or so (and close to everyday before that) with the help of a sticker chart on the fridge. But for the physical ability, I could dance those dances myself, I've heard them so many times! I knew that some girls might dance the various dances with slightly different steps from each other (making it difficult to focus on your own dance), but I didn't realize that it wouldn't be the same music. I was just sure this would throw Honour off completely, but she surprised me!

With just one tiny mis-move of her foot, she danced her Fling quite nicely. I was so relieved I could have cried. Over my life time, I have sung for thousands of people, and sometimes even that many at one time; none of these compared in how nervous I was for Honour.

By the time the Sword dance came around, I felt significantly better. She did great with the Sword, but touched it as she danced, a no-no. She would likely be out of the running for any medals because of that. I really didn't care: she had done it! Gotten up and danced in the sun in front of hundreds of people!

We got her out of her outfit after that to have some playtime. It was a clear shining day and the kids were anxious to get away from the bleachers for a while. We had some lunch with other dancing friends from the Blackman studio under a tent one of them had brought. The kids had lots of fun.
Soon after, one of the moms mentioned to me that Honour should get back into her outfit for the awards ceremony. I guess I hadn't really thought that she might win anything and had figured we would get her back into her outfit if we really needed to. It seemed I needed to. :-)
At 12:30 we made our way to the arena for the awards, as further festivities were happening out at the stage area during that time.
They started calling up all the little wee ones (4, 5 and 6 years old--soooo cute!) and they all got a prize for dancing. The best of the little ones were given medals for placing.

Suddenly Honours teacher came running over asking if we'd heard them call number 135. That was Honours number (which I had kinda forgotten). We hadn't; the sound system was not the best quality and was rather muddy sounding in the arena. I was confused, because I didn't realize that her entire group wouldn't be standing there: they would only be calling the numbers of the winners with the older dancers. Once they went up to the presenting area, then we'd find out what they'd placed in. I figured they would call them again and a few minutes later, they did. To our great excitement, they had called #135. "This means she's won something", said her teacher. I grabbed Honours hand and started around the back of the crowd to get to stage right where the dancers were lining up. I noticed that all the little girls were clutching their blue dancers cards. "Does she need her card?", I asked one of the ladies in charge. She answered affirmatively and I scurried off to my purse, thankful that I had it close on hand. I delivered it back to Honour before her line proceeded across the presenting area. Phew!

They gave out the awards for the first dance that Honour hadn't danced in. Then came the awards for the Fling.
First was awarded.
Second was awarded.
Third was called....#135. We all broke into cheers and claps!

Strangely though, the lady handing out the medals did not come over to Honour. Honour kept looking around with a slightly anxious look on her face, but did not say or do anything. A bit of commotion broke out amongst the other parents from our studio and the teacher. They had called #135, hadn't they? Why weren't they handing her the medal? I was fairly sure that the lady presenting had gone down the line and handed it instead to #145. Ohhh dear....
Fortunately, Honours teacher is extremely experienced and judges competitions herself. James had even seen some of the organizers consulting her during the course of the morning. She hurried herself over to the announcer and at a pause, discreetly inquired as to the true winner of 3rd place. The awards froze for a moment while the kerfuffle was sorted out.

In the end, the medal was taken away from #145 and given to the the true winner, Honour wearing #135. I was so relieved. I would have felt badly for poor little #145...(if she didn't already have a couple medals around her neck:-)
They went on to announce the Sword dance winners and the other dance that Honour hadn't competed in. The parents around us congratulated us all, and, as nearly all the Blackman Dancers placed in more than one dance each, were beaming themselves.
What a fabulous day! When's the next one!?!