I was searching through EDM mixes the other day on YouTube. Like flavours for the North American palate, we’ve become obsessed with combining things together. Our tastebuds are so used to getting assaulted with chemical combos that now there is such thing as honey dijon and poutine potato chips. Don’t take this for me complaining – far from it. But it extended into our music now, and I was dithering between ‘epic gaming glitch hop’ and ‘ultimate summer chill step 2016′. It was’t until I saw the Celtic gaming mixes that I saw my flavour of the day. I was pleasantly surprised.
I was practicing spinning my new fire fans in prep for Burning Man. I know that I’ve often said I’d never go, but I’m also fond of making a liar out of myself, and as a fire performer it’s the ONE PLACE you can go nuts and not have to worry about setting anything on fire unintentionally. This music was the perfect soundtrack to my practice and I almost start hopping around in a mock-Highland dance. Which got me to thinking about Highland dance and it’s origins, which bring me to the point of this post.
I took a lot of different dance classes in my formative years, but I seemed to escape tap and Highland dancing, whereas many of my friends did not. Highland dancing, if you’ve not seen it shows spritely young ladies dancing in formation over a pair of crossed sword. Modern Highland dance has many outside influences now – most notably ballet – but it is considered a sport, and is as competitive as gymnastics, skiing, and running. Like any other sport you train like crazy in your youth, do it as long as your body allows, and then are relegated, more or less, to teaching after your body can no long compete. The existential horrors of that aside, it’s the origins of Highland dance that got my wheels turning.
Ritualistic sword dances were all the rage in Europe back in the day. Earliest records of this preceded the 1500′s and was even used in assassination attempts when the killers insisted that the swords they danced over were part of their tradition, and when the time came they’d have their weapons close to dispatch their target. Not totally The Red Wedding of Game of Thrones, but you have to admire that kind of moxy. This was almost the case in 1573 when Scottish mercenaries were sent to slay Swedish King John III, but due to an agreement being signed, the hit never came to fruition. Most people know the legend of the origins of the dance from when Bonny Prince Charlie played his opponent, laid down is swords and did a victory dance over the body of his enemy.
This weekend is the Burlesque Hall Of Fame in Las Vegas. I just got word that our local homegrown crew, The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, who as been around as long as my own Sweet Soul Burlesque, won not only Best Large Group, but Most Comedic last night, further showing Vancouver’s homegrown talent is strong. As I reflect on the elements of striptease, the removal of layers, and laying them on the stage, I picture the laying down of swords. Ultimately, our victory dance comes not over the body of the enemy, but of the patriarchy. We do our naked victory dance over the death of body shaming, ageist thinking, and convention. Our audience applause is our war woops of joy on a battle long fought against the status quo.
We’ve still got a lot of battles ahead, but our sparkly army continues to grow.
Little Miss Risk