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The dancers pose in kilts while stretching their arches. (Carly Fisher| Col­legian)

“ONE, Point behind-front-behind, TWO, behind-front-behind, THREE, behind-front-behind” Highland Dance instructor Alison Plemmons calls to her class of beginner Highland dancers. Five dancers hop lightly on their right foot, con­cur­rently tapping their left foot in front and behind their right leg in response to Plemmons’ com­mands.  

Plemmons has been teaching Highland dance, a Celtic dance developed in the 11th century,  for three decades and spent nearly half that time teaching an intro­ductory class at Hillsdale.

“I started dancing when I was two,” Plemmons said, “I have taught my two sons and have taught them some dancing but they’re mostly lacrosse players.”

She believes that the coor­di­nation learned from dance has only enhanced their sports.

Senior Rachael Menosky has danced in the class for the past three semesters and is also the pres­ident of the Highland dance club.  

“We stretch before we dance, we do a lot of swinging of our legs and marching to get our legs warmed up,” Menosky said, “Because the workout is so heavy on our legs and has a lot of jumping, we want to make sure that we don’t hurt our­selves.”

Special attention is given to stretching the dancers’ arches and calves, because the dance involves a great deal of hopping on the balls of one’s foot.  Highland dancing is dif­ferent from most other dances because of how much cardio is involved.

“A four step Highland fling at a com­pet­itive stand­point is car­dio­vas­cu­larly equiv­alent to running a mile a minute,” Plemmons said, “The con­stant jumping, con­stant hopping, are very strenuous.”

Instructor Alison Plemmons guides Carrie Olson with dance steps. (Carly Fisher|Collegian)

While the class has not com­peted in a dance com­pe­tition, they did perform a sword dance in the Tower Dancers per­for­mance last spring.

The dance is said to have been developed by Celtic prince, Malcolm Canmore, circa the year 1054 A.D. according to the Scottish Official Highland Dancing Asso­ci­ation website. After he anni­hi­lated his foe, he crossed his sword blades on top of the deceased and danced around and over the swords in cel­e­bration.

“It was orig­i­nally done by men, so usually very mas­culine,” Plemmons said, “But there are other dances that can show off the softer side and more beau­tiful side.”

Junior Ben Boyle has enjoyed taking the class for mul­tiple semesters. He joined the class with some friends just to expe­rience the art of Highland dance and try some­thing new.

“If you haven’t done any dancing before it’s some­thing you can pick up pretty quickly” Boyle said, “She works a lot with beginners, and it’s just a fun and relaxing class.”

Plemmons drives at over an hour and a half to come teach the class and  does with great pos­i­tivity.

“My favorite part about teaching is watching someone who doesn’t think that they can dance and watching them improve along the journey,” Plemmons said, “Going through with them on their journey of the dancing is very rewarding.”

The class is offered both semesters at 5:30 – 6:50 on Wednesdays in the Sage Center for the Arts.

“Please come join and please come see it, we have a good time, “ Plemmons said, “It’s a won­derful expe­rience and so many people have created great rela­tion­ships.”