On the 15th & 16th of May 2021 (depending on the time zone) the Highland Dancing World came together for the David Wilton Dance Clinic. The Clinic, hosted online using the Microsoft Teams platform, saw dancers from Canada, USA, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and Bermuda login-in to meet and receive instruction from some of the Worlds very best Highland Dancers and Teachers in an event that spanned 48 non-stop hours. The event’s workshops were all recorded for participants to watch at their leisure for 30 days after the event – just in case they were asleep during anything.
“The big vision was to give the dancers an event that they could gain inspiration from, helping to keep these competitive dancers motivated during the unprecedented delay to their competition season. Staring down the barrel of the cancellation of two Cowal Gatherings (the Scottish and World Highland Dancing Championships) two ScotDance Canada Championship Series (Canadian Championship) and two United States Inter-Regional Championship in a row, we felt the urge to give the dancers an event to look forward to and remember.” David Wilton
Having the dancing community thrusted into an online learning environment, something that was not commonplace before the various lockdown restrictions, meant that dancers had to quickly adjust to the new environment without knowing when all their hard work and dedication to the sport was going to come to fruition again. “It felt like a never-ending tunnel, with no light at the end” expressed David “and knowing what it is like to be constantly motivated by the next performance goal or competition, it was easy to imagine what these poor dancers were going through. So, we had to do something.” Looking into all the aspects of competitive dance, David and his wife Clare set about putting a program of small sized classes, of no more than 20 dancers, and workshops together, aiming to bring the dancing community in one place over the weekend, something the dancers have sorely missed. Their motivation was to give the dancers an opportunity to interact with each other and the instructors with the main objective for the event to be fun.
Once the concept was in place, David and Clare then brainstormed who the instructors should be, considering the worldwide nature of the event with various time zones, creating a wish list of the very best of the best, resulting in a line-up of Anthea Bundy (Scotland), Bill Troock (Canada), Bill Weaver (USA), Delma Wilson (Scotland), Dave Cashley (Scotland), Jackie Smith (Canada), Mark Cashley (France), Morgan Bamford (New Zealand), Sheryl Joyner (Canada), and Shelley Easton (New Zealand), alongside David Wilton himself from Scotland. Once the instructors were on board the ideas came thick and fast resulting in the Clinic offering 68 dance classes, 17 workshops, 6 yoga classes, 2 injury Q&A’s, 8 picnics, 2 virtual Scavenger Hunts and a Kahoot Quiz. And, in partnership with Wilton Collection Dance Shoes and Tartantown, they were able to offer great prizes for their Flag Bearer choreography competition, vision board competition, made to measure kilt raffle and dancer scholarships.
“The biggest challenge was going to be timetabling an event of this size; thanks to my extremely clever and organised wife, we managed to get something together that meant participants in each time zone had the option of seeing each instructor in each dance class (fling, sword etc.) at least once over the weekend.”
In the build up to the event, the Clinic showcased each instructor with a 10min interview with some unexpected ‘curve balls’ thrown in to keep the instructors on their toes but also to highlight the fun nature of dancing that we have all missed. “We wanted to break down barriers between the participants and instructors before the event started by getting to know them a little better.” It certainly set the tone for what was instore for the dancers with so many laughs had over the weekend. A particularly fun highlight being the Scavenger Hunt with Anthea, where she would have the kids find various weird and wonderful objects in their houses, bring them back to the screen and talk a little bit about them. All for fun, but knowing the Highland Dance community, competitive of course! The Kahoot quiz also went down a storm with David and Clare managing to convince the instructors to do a recorded charade for the participants to guess, one anonymous instructor dressing up as Ariel from the Little Mermaid and splashing around the pool was a definite highlight.
Mostly though, the vast amount of knowledge shared from instructor to dancer over the weekend helped inspire, share and improve – The Clinic’s moto – with the dancers going home, or should we say logging off, with corrections that they can achieve, perspective on performance mindset, advice on injuries, a connection to the community they love but, most importantly, their own love for dance rekindled again. “The overwhelming feedback from the participants has been that they have regained their love of Highland Dancing again, something we are incredibly proud of. Dancing has given me many opportunities over the years and, that I was able give something back during these difficult times, is the most rewarding feeling by far. Throughout this whole process it has felt like the instructors and dancers have been a part of our family, feeling more connected than ever, and we are eternally grateful to them for that.”
David and Clare plan to do it all again on the 13th and 14th of November later this year, relishing the opportunity to have more than 2 months to put it all together, as well as some free mini events in the months in between (still to be finalised). All of these will be found on the Clinic’s website www.dwdanceclinics.com as well as https://www.facebook.com/DavidWiltonDanceClinics/ and https://www.instagram.com/dwdanceclinics/
Some quotes from our feedback survey:
“This weekend made me feel the most connected to the highland dance community I have since the pandemic started. It has motivated me and made me even more excited for competitions and other events to start again. Thank you so much for organizing this!!”
“As a parent, I would like to say thank you so very much for putting this on. My daughter has been at home since December with the lockdown here and has not seen her friends since last year and this clinic has put a smile on her face and was a huge pick me up for her. She loved seeing familiar faces and seeing new faces :)”
“Loving the workshops to watch after clinics. So much great stuff!”
“Just wanted to say thanks again for a wonderful weekend of dance… in these difficult times it has been a shining light for dancers and my daughter asked if she could do it all again this weekend. So, we are planning to head back to the dance shed and watch the workshops again. Thanks to all involved and looking forward to the next one!”
“Loved how everything was live over the weekend and not pre-recorded. Gave it more of a personal feel. Loved how the classes were small and teachers did an amazing job watching and giving individual corrections.”