Twin 15-year-old sisters from Henderson are heading to Scotland in late August to compete at the World Highland Dance Championships.
Erica and Jamie Stewart, sophomores at Coronado High School, started with highland dancing when they were 5.
In July, they competed in the U.S. Inter-Regional Championships in Las Vegas. Erica was named the national champion among 14- and 15-year-olds.
“They’ve both been working extremely hard,” teacher Natalie Foley said in a phone interview. “They’re both very dedicated.”
Erica and Jamie take lessons twice a week via Skype with Foley, who lives in Mission Viejo, California. Once a month, they travel to Orange County to take in-person classes. And between lessons, they send videos to Foley to show her their technique and issues they’ve corrected.
Erica and Jamie have different personalities, said Foley, who’s from Canada and won the World Highland Dance Championships twice.
“It’s been interesting seeing how to motivate each of them differently,” she said.
Erica and Jamie’s older sister, who’s 20, started taking highland dancing lessons as a child. The twins followed in her footsteps.
Erica described highland dancing as “like a mix between ballet and Irish dancing.” Dancers wear kilts and dance to bagpipe music, Jamie said.
Their first teacher was their babysitter’s mother, Kristen Brimhall. For the past 1 1/2 years, the girls have taken lessons with Foley.
Foley has other Skype students, too. Taking lessons remotely is becoming more common, she said, particularly because it’s often a long drive to take in-person lessons.
Highland dancing isn’t nearly as popular in the U.S. as in Canada, Foley said, adding, “The teachers are kind of farther apart.”
It’s fun to compete and perform, Erica said while seated next to her sister Aug. 15. To prepare for the world competition, “we’ve been kind of doing a little more with our teacher.”
While in Scotland, the family plans to do some sightseeing. They’re flying into London and taking a train to Dunoon, Scotland. It’s the twins’ first visit to Scotland.
Highland dancing encompasses traditional Scottish dance steps, according to the Las Vegas Highland Dancing Association’s website. The association lists some of the dances students learn most often: the fling, sword, Seann Triubhas, lilt, flora, hornpipe and jig.
Dancers follow a series of steps, and it’s an extremely technical form of dancing, teacher Natalie Foley said, adding, “I always say it’s very much like ballet because we have all of the same positions as ballet.”
Judges are looking mostly for which competitor is the strongest and performs the technique most accurately, Foley said.
“Everyone is doing the exact same steps,” she said.