With the last name of Scott, it will surprise no one that a part of my family heritage is Scottish. I will declare it loudly and proudly, and with the exception of haggis, I embrace the unique aspects of Scottish culture: bagpipes, fish and chips, kilts, Arbroath smokies, and Scottish Highland dancing!
For several years, I have had a lot of exposure to Scottish culture, both here at home as well as in Scotland. One of the things I have most enjoyed is the spectacle of children and adults of various ages, dressed in their unique kilts and performing a form of dance known as Scottish Highland dancing.
Like most forms of dance, it is fascinating to watch, and leaves the observer with an appreciation of the abilities of the dancer. Scottish highland dancing is a perfect combination of balance, strength, power, core stability, coordination, flexibility and cardiorespiratory endurance dressed in a pretty kilt and wowing audiences everywhere!
A few months ago, I decided to take Highland dancing lessons, and I personally experienced the many physical demands imposed by this dance form on the human body!
Watch these more experienced dancers and the physical demands of this form of dance.
To prepare the body to successfully execute the demands of Scottish Highland Dancing, I have included 5 key exercises to incorporate into a conditioning program:
1. Because of the cardio-respiratory demands of Scottish Highland Dancing, it is important to include a cardio component to your program. I recommend the eliptical for the following reasons:
- it involves coordinated activity of both arms and legs
- the body moves in a vertical orientation simulating the movement of the body during dance.
2. Plie squats with calf raise:
- several of the positions in Scottish Highland dancing requires an outwardly rotated position of the hip. A plie squat places the hip in such a position and loads the leg in a fashion similar to the demands of the dance.
- it allows the body to load the soft tissues of the lower leg and then explode up onto toes, training the calf muscles to generate power for the vertical lift during the dance.
3. Single leg balance with hip lateral rotation and toe tap:
- the outward position of the hip mimics the position of the leg in the dance
- the toe tap provides a challenge to maintaining balance
4. Lateral lunge with toe tap:
- it loads the muscles of the hip in a weight-bearing position as during dancing
- the toe tap provides a further challenge to balance
5. Plie double leg jump:
- many of the steps in highland dancing involve jumping in a position with the hip laterally rotated
- trains the power-generating capacity of the calf musculature
Scottish Highland Dancing should be experienced firsthand, so I encourage you to come see for yourself! The Missoula Highland Dancers perform with the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band throughout the year at such venues as First Night Missoula and at the Celtic Fest.
Written by Jessica Scott, DPT, CAFS at Missoula Bone & Joint Physical Therapy