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Introducing... Kathleen Gilbert, Highland dancer

Updated: May 28, 2019

We're getting nearer and the nearer to the first concert of our "Pheasant's Eye" tour in Newcastle this Thursday! We're delighted to have Kathleen Gilbert with us for this project - we chatted to her this week to find out a bit more about how she got into Highland dancing...

How did you first get into Highland dancing?

I first saw Highland dancing at a local summer fair when I was 7. There was a dance competition going on and I was fixated, watching the intricate footwork. Instead of going on rides or eating candy floss, I chose to sit for the afternoon as the dancers performed on stage. I convinced my mum I wanted to try this and I've never looked back.

We know that you do a lot of dance teaching and adjudicating. How does this inspire your own performances?

Judging at competitions is such a joyous opportunity as I get to watch dancers present all of their hard work. Seeing the faces of the youngest competitors (age 4) stand on stage with beaming smiles, reminds me of that inner joy dance brings. I, in turn, attempt to bring this to the pieces I choreograph.

Tell us one thing that people don't know about Highland dance!

The traditional 'Highland' dances (Fling, Sword, Seann Triubhas and Reels) were only performed by men in competition until the 1950s. Women had separate 'National' dances. Today men and women compete alongside each other, not in separated categories like most sports.

What's your favourite piece to dance to in the Pheasant's Eye programme?

I really enjoy the variety of songs and the 'story' I get to tell with each one. I think the most exciting piece is the fugue (McGibbon's Sonata) as I get to become another instrument in the ensemble, weaving my 'melody' between the others.

How do you find working with Early Musicians?

Working with Ensemble Hesperi has challenged me to hear music in a different way. Highland dance is built on a regular, repeated phrase lengths at a steady tempo (we like to count to 8!). Many of the Baroque songs we use in the programme do not follow this structure, which has enabled me to be more creative in my choreography.

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