The making of the next Highland Dance Champ

Emma practising her moves on a Harris beach.
Emma practising her moves on a Harris beach.

A new fast-paced documentary about young Highland dancers from around Scotland is being shown on BBC ALBA next week.

Dannsa Gaidhealach - An t-Slighe a Chomhaill (Highland Dancing - The Road to Cowal) follows the children as they prepare to compete at the pinnacle of the Highland Dancing calendar - the World Highland Dancing Championships.

Held each year at the Cowal Games in Dunoon, the event celebrated it’s 125th anniversary this year.

Among those taking part this year is 14 year old Emma Peterson from Harris.

Emma attends two classes a week and her mum drives almost 150 miles a week to get her to classes.

Emma said: “I think dancing is a sport. It keeps me healthy because I move a lot.”

Emma’s teacher Claire Wilson used to compete at the Cowal Games and this is the first year that she planned to take one of her pupils to Cowal as it’s a fairly new dance school.

Emma said: “It isn’t easy to attend the competitions on the mainland because of the distance, but it’s good fun when I win them.”

Claire, who runs the Claire Wilson School of Dance, said: “Emma has a silent determination to do well and an internal drive to do well. She stopped halfway through at a few competitions just with that panic of thinking that wasn’t right or wasn’t good enough or what comes next.”

Emma starts to feel the pressure during the preparations for the Cowal Games and Claire attempts to push her to achieve the dream that she has for herself without being an ogre.

In the end they decide that Emma’s not ready for the Cowal Games this year, not because her dance ability is lacking but because she isn’t mentally prepared for it.

Claire tells her: “If you get on the boards and you crumble, and get really nervous or really upset, it will put you off dancing for good and I don’t want to do that to you.”

Emma has a fear of being watched by lots of people, so they decide to try to build her confidence so that she can compete next year instead.

Viewers will also meet former champions, and also see the rigorous practise routines that the girls are involved in. It’s not just about the dances though.

Fitness and strength and conditioning classes are also a vital part of their week.

The programme airs on Monday, October 28 on BBC ALBA from 9pm to 10pm.