Highland dancing requires the endurance and strength of an athlete, the artistry of a dancer and has as much in common with ballet in terms of its technique. In order to be a successful competitive dancer, students require many hours of practice and training over a period of many years. In fact, centuries ago, Scottish regiments used Highland Dancing as exercise to keep the troops in shape and ready for battle. Consider that with a typical six-step Highland Fling dance, a dancer will jump 192 times, while tensing muscles into precise positions, in under two minutes.
Highland Dancing is the traditional solo dance of Scotland that has been introduced by Scottish migrants across the world. The origins of Highland Dancing are unkown because early Highland culture was largely an oral culture, and little was written. The first-ever recorded instance of Highland dancing was in 1285.
Until the early 1900s, only men entered Highland Dancing competitions. Females now out-number males, however, the sport welcomes any and all, and from any culture, who want to compete. Competitions are now regularly organized in Scotland and the UK, Canada, New Zealand, United States, Australia, and South Africa.
Highland Dancing is a very unique form of dance, there are only about 80 instructors in all of Ontario. We, in Stouffville, are lucky to have one of the best in the world – we have the Breck School of Highland Dance. The Breck School has been operating since 2008. It operates out of the lower floor of the Richardson Masonic Lodge (Ninth & Main). The relationship makes sense, as the oldest proven Masonic lodge still in existence dates back to 1599 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Lisa Breck grew up as a Highland Dancer in Kingston. “I wanted to move this way because the GTA has some of the best Highland Dancing outside of Scotland.”
“I wanted this school to be ridiculously fun, mixed with incredible technique,” said Lisa. “It is possible to be both, and my dancers are happy and very successful.” Although it is referred to as a ‘dance’ – Highland Dancing is a competitive sport, quantitatively judged on timing, technique and posture. Breck School students have won the Ontario Championships, the Canadian Championships, the Scottish Championships, and the Commonwealth Championships. “To win these,” says Lisa, “means you are the unequivocal best at those competitions – there is no subjective judgement.”
Lisa has approximately 50 students currently from the age of 3 through university. Her students are local and regional, but because the school is so highly regarded, students come from as far away as Cobourg, Barrie, and Windsor. “I do not desire to grow more than I alone can manage,” she stated, “but I want to maintain our size.” Lisa explains that she alone provides the instruction as she wants to direct each dancer’s progress. She is a qualified teacher with the British Association of Teachers of Dance, and a qualified adjudicator with the Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.
She explains the value of Highland Dancing. It teaches kids strength, athleticism, performance and competitive drive. The students, in turn, are disciplined, active and social. Traits from this experience, she claims, can be used anywhere in life. Typically, a student would enroll in Highland Dance by the age of 3 or 4. They learn to be a dancer, perform, start as a beginner in competitions, and with hard work can be doing championships by the time they are 9 or 10.
The pandemic has had an impact on the school, with competitions being cancelled world-wide. However, it is a great time to get a young student started, as competitions begin again, and the school is a safe and happy environment. Lisa only admits about 10 new students a year.
For more information: www.facebook.com/breckschooldancers.