“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.”
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.”