By Tina Comeau
In her homeland of Scotland, Pat McMester says highland dancing is classified as a sport. And a rigorous, disciplined one at that.
“It’s a cross between ballet and gymnastics. You have to be able to leap like a gymnast and dance like a ballet dancer. It’s very, very long and hard work and the children have to practice all the time, so it keeps them busy, it keeps them off the streets,” she said.
McMester was recently in Yarmouth to test members of the MacKenzie School of Highland Dance. As a judge and examiner with the Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance, McMester finds herself hoping on at least 24 flights a year to conduct testing in highland dance.
She no longer lives in Scotland. Instead she calls Ontario home. But her judging takes her places to across the country and to other parts of the world. And she still makes the trek home to Scotland for dance competitions.
Her recent trip to Yarmouth involved testing for the amateur medal exams. There is also a professional level.
Students of highland dance are required to be tested once a year.
“It’s very structural, very disciplined,” she said.
“They must follow the syllabus rules as you go from Scotland. The medal and certificates will come from Scotland,” she explained, pointing out no matter where the testing is taking place, whether it is in Japan or Yarmouth, the syllabus is the same.