“It is a good thing you have strong neck muscle,” Brenna Bourgeous’ mother Jill joked, as she draped her daughter’s prodigious collection of medals around her neck for a photo.
Indeed, if you look at the photo to the right, Brenna almost seems to be bending at the knees as she holds up the trophies she won at a ScotDance Canada Champion Series event in Calgary two weeks ago.
Brenna, who competes in the 10 and under 12 category, took home 11 medals from the championship, including a silver in the highland fling category and two bronze medals in the sword and reel dances.
The 11-year-old also received the Sherry Dalliday Highland Dancers Trophy as third runner-up in the Canadian championships in the overall category where all four dances the highland fling, sword, seann truibhas, and reel.
Bourgeois, who will be going into Grade 6 Barrhead Elementary School in the fall, earned the right to represent Alberta at the national championship by winning four gold medals at the ScottDance provincial championships in Red Deer on May 5.
“We couldn’t be more proud of her and all of her accomplishments,” Jill said. “She really has worked hard to get to this point.
Highland dancing is a style of competitive solo dancing developed in the Scottish Highlands in the 19th and 20th centuries. It requires you to dance on the balls of your feet and requires a great deal of technique, stamina and strength.
“My heritage is Scottish so it is something I have always been interested in and I thought Brenna might be too,” Jill said.
And she was correct, because ever since she started dancing at the tender age of three, Brenna has been hooked.
Twice a week, Bourgeois goes to Scottish dance classes in Sherwood Park. This is on top of her piano and voice lessons.
As regular Barrhead Leader readers may recall, Bourgeois is active in the community’s music and theatre scene and is a regular participant at the Barrhead Rotary Music Festival.
In order to make sure she was ready for the Canadian championships, Brenna competed in a highland dance event on the Victoria Day weekend in Regina as well as putting in numerous hours of practice at home.
Going into the event, Brenna said she was more excited than nervous.
Jill said adding to the excitement level was the amount of activity taking place.
In addition to the ScotDance Canadian Championships, three other competitions were taking place at the same time, including the Canadian Open Championship which featured dancers from all over the world.
Between all the different age categories, there were more than 1,000 dancers from Canada and other countries.
The first day, in a preliminary event before the Canadian Championships, Brenna won three medals, placing sixth in the highland fling, fourth in the sword and fifth in the reel. The second day featured the Canadian Championships.
“There were 23 girls from all over Canada. There were some from B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Eastern Canada it was a really good mix,” Jill said.
The competition took place in the morning and dancers were given about a minute and a half to complete their dance, which was judged by a three-person panel with judges coming from Canada, the United States and Australia.
To ensure impartiality, the judges were rotated so that no one judge would score the same dance or category twice.
“I felt pretty good about how I did on all of my dances,” Brenna said, adding it was a little bit nerve-racking having to wait to find out how she did.
Unlike a sport like figure skating, where athletes find out their marks shortly after their performance, the dancers had to wait until all the age categories were finished until they released the scores.
“I knew I did pretty good, and that I was going to get some kind of an award because they gave me a callback,” she said.
To celebrate her performance, Brenna and her mother attended the dancers’ banquet in the Imperial Ball Room of the Hyatt Regency.
After sleeping in the next day, Brenna took part in a premiership, where she won a gold for her golden jig and then placed sixth for her scotch measure dance.
The final day of the event was the Open Championship, where Bourgeois placed first in the seann truibhas (a highland dance that means “Old Trousers”) and second in the fling and sword.
Brenna also won the first runner-up prize when all the dances were considered.
“She actually beat some girls from Scotland, which is pretty cool,” Jill said.