Shot of Scotch breaks new ground in Highland dance with a tale inspired by the Battle of Culloden
One of the defining moments in Canadian colonial history was the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, when British troops under General James Wolfe defeated the French in 1759. This led to the surrender of Quebec and historical grievances that endure in this province to this day. .
The Scottish equivalent was the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when British government force felled the Jacobite army, led by Charles Edward Stuart. This war had deep ramifications in the UK and Canada, according to Susan Nase, one of the founders of the Highland dance troupe Shot of Scotch.
“The Battle of Culloden is over and the English have really made an effort to prevent any future uprisings from happening,” Nase told the Straight by telephone. “They banned the wearing of kilts. They banned the Gaelic language. There were many atrocities that happened over the next decade as they then cleared the land and forcibly removed many Highlanders and put them on ships to the colonies. This is how some of our ancestors may have arrived here in Canada.
Once they arrived, they were part of another aspect of British imperialism: the seizure of lands and resources from indigenous peoples.
“So that made us complicit in the colonial system to this day,” Nase continues. “So it raises a lot of questions and thoughts.”
Additionally, the Battle of Culloden continues to have an impact in Britain, fueling the Scottish independence movement. In 2014, 44.7% of Scots voted yes in an independence referendum. This too echoed the Canadian experience. More recently, Scotland voted 62% to remain in the European Union, in stark contrast to the 53.4% in England who voted to leave.
Shot of Scotch, which was launched in Vancouver in 2013, transforms this legacy of the Battle of Culloden into the world’s first comprehensive production of traditional Highland dance. Nase spent two years as choreographer and director of this work in progress, Do you want to gowhich will be presented at the Scotiabank Dance Center on April 29. It’s one of many free live, online events that the dance center offer on international dance day.
She describes Do you want to go as an investigation into the humanity and depth of Highland dance and its connection to Brexit and life on unceded land in Canada.
“It’s been difficult on the dance side because my dancers are such well-trained, competitive and powerful Highland dancers,” says Nase. “Working to find ways to express human emotion outside the confines of Highland dance has been a real journey for us.”
They seek authenticity without feeling obliged to become contemporary actors or dancers. For Nase, that means finding ways in their vocabulary to alter the quality of movement.
Additionally, she incorporates other aspects of music, lighting, or projection to help drive the story forward in a way that retains the integrity of the highland dance training they all have. .
The dancers are Shannon Cressey, Katelyn Currie, Lindsay Ellis, Crystal Greentree, Megan Hall, Meghan Pike, Erin Robertson and Danielle Senyk, with music by Tim Fanning, Robyn Carrigan, Stephanie Cadman and Sandy Marshall. Itai Erdal is in charge of light design with Cande Andrade and Jennifer Stewart in charge of projection design.
Shot of Scotch also has a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the full production.
“Highland dancing is not well known to the public,” notes Nase. “One of the reasons is that it’s a very competitive dance form. Thus, generally, the Highland dance is seen during very specific Scottish competitions or events, such as the Highland Games or the Celtic Fest, for example.
“It’s a very virtuosic and powerful dance form,” she continues. “It’s very strongly structured with a very rigid technique. And dancers train from an early age on a set number of traditional dances. The goal is perfection. »
Nase’s family history adds another intriguing dynamic: she’s not purely of Scottish descent. She is actually a mix of Scottish, Irish, English and a bit of German heritage. This raises questions about the role his family history played in the Battle of Culloden.
“I know I have MacDonalds in my family, which is a Highland clan, so it’s very likely there were MacDonalds involved in this,” Nase says. “I also know that I had family in England and in the Lowlands of Scotland.
“In the Battle of Culloden there were a lot of people involved,” she adds. “It wasn’t just the Scots against the English. Sometimes it was Scots against Scots and English on both sides. There were French people involved as well as Irish people. There is much uncertainty in the truth of these historical events.