July 13, 1998
Michelle Liu/staff photo
by Michelle Liu
Grace Hoffman is talented in a type of dance people may have heard of but probably have never actyally seen. It's called Scottish Highland Dancing.
Her fascination with Highland Dancing began when, as a 12-year old, her family went to the Highland Games at the King County Fair.
Hoffman and her sisters, Sharon and Esther, liked the dancing so much they signed up for lessons at Marian Webb's School of Highland Dancing in Bellevue.
Now, eight years later, Hoffman is the best highland dancer in the Northwest for her age bracket. She placed first at the regional competitions in 1992 through 1996 and again in 1998 giving her the opportunity to compete on a national level during those years. In 1995 she placed 2nd; in 1994 6th and 5th place in 1992. This year's nationals will be held in Detroit, Michigan Aug. 1.
Highland dancing is very athletic and uses of a lot of jumping and arm movements, but it's also a series of complex moves with a meaning.
"It follows a historical story like every ethnic dance," Hoffman said.
The Ghillie Chalium, or Sword Dance, for example, dates back to 1054 when King Malcolm Canmore defeated one of MacBeth's chiefs. Canmore grabbed his opponent's sword and placed it on top of his own and then danced over it to the music of the bagpipes.
Or, the Seann Triubhas (pronounced Shawn Trews). It dates from the mid 1700s when the English forced the Scots to wear trousers instead of their native kilts. The dance starts by mocking how restrictive trousers felt to the Scots and ends showing how free and easy it is to wear a kilt.
The color and design of a kilt symbolizes which clan a person belongs to.
Although Hoffman is Scottish, Welsh and English, she doesn't wear her clan's kilt. "Dancers go with the look and color more than the clan, at least the U.S. dancers do," Hoffman said.
A dance outfit, including kilt, vest/jacket, blouse and socks, costs between $400 and $500, with the kilt alone priced at $300.
At competitions, all the dancers are in full-dress and perform the same dances to the same music. But, that doesn't make it easy. Usually, three dancers are lined up on a stage dancing at the same time. Judges can compare and scrutinize the dancers individually and as a group. Hoffman said there is a way to stand out, "Get up there with personality; it's your grace and poise."
Hoffman will be performing at the 52nd annual Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering July 25-26 at the King County Fair in Enumclaw. Also featured at the event will be pipes and drums, dog demonstrations and a Scottish athletic competition.
When Hoffman isn't jumping around performing Highland Dances, she's jumping to help customers at the Woodinville Cafe.
The 1996 Lake Washington graduate will attend Shoreline Community College in the fall. She hopes to study dance and one day be an instructor. "Dancing is like an addiction for me. I love Highland Dancing, ballet, performing. It gives me a rush," Hoffman said.
To help reduce costs of performing at the national competition in Detroit, donations are being accepted at Marion Webb's School of Highland Dancing. Call (425) 454-7382 for information.