Avri Penner

Avri Penner

Highland dancers vie for scholarship

Avri Penner, Samantha Stables and Claire Liversidge competing Oct. 5.

Two Highland dancers from Maple Ridge and another from Pitt Meadows will battle 70 dancers from across Canada and the United States for a scholarship this week.

Avri Penner, Samantha Stables and Claire Liversidge are three of six dancers representing B.C.

They were nominated by Betty Sutherland for the James L. McKenzie & Elspeth Strathern Scholarship, which will be handed out at the annual Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance North American Conference on Oct. 5.

All three are students of Heather Neill, who has been teaching highland dancing for more than 20 years.

“These are very hard working dancers,” said Neill “They come for lessons three times a week-spending anywhere from three to five hours a week with me.”

The scholarship consists of six different sections that will test various dance skills as well as dance theory.

The dancers will be judged by a panel of four adjudicators from Scotland, Canada and the United States. They will be graded or ranked in each section and at the end of the day. The top three dancers in each age group will be awarded a monetary prize.

Conference registrar Dana Gamache said the winners can spend their scholarship money however they choose, but are encouraged to put it towards their own dancing dreams and goals whether it’s for travel, costumes, dance gear, competitions or classes.

Winning the scholarships won’t be an easy task.

The dancers will write a written examination that will test their dance theory knowledge; participate in a master class that will test their versatility and learning agility and dance a Highland Fling as well as a ‘Sword Dance’, which will test their ability to perform steps correctly without touching the swords.

The competitors will also perform a Tribute to J.L. MacKenzie, a dance in honour of one of the founders of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dance.

Finally, the dancers will be tested in choreography, which will allow them to craft a dance of their own.

“This will be an opportunity for the dancers to really show their personality and to shine for the judges,” said Gamache.