Cowal Highland Gathering Highland dancing
29th - 31st August 2019

Highland Dancing

© Photo by Ken Clark

Competitors  »  Highland Dancing

Highland dancing

Cowal Highland Gathering is host to the Scottish and World Highland Dancing Championships – the most important events in the highland dancing calendar. As a competitor you’ll be pitched against the finest dancers and perform in front of what’s possibly the most discerning dancing audience anywhere in the world. Are you aiming for the Cowal Gold Medal?

The dancing gets underway on Thursday with the Scottish National Highland Dancing Championship. Friday sees dancers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa join the Scots to compete in the Scottish Championship and the qualifiers for the World Highland Dancing Championship. And on Saturday it’s the finals of the World Championship.
We also hold competitions to encourage local, emerging highland dancing talent. If you’re a younger dancer at the start of your career, it’s a great opportunity to experience this great event and dance in front of the experts.

Highland Dancing Photos 2016

The dancing competitions at the Cowal Gathering kick off on the Thursday of the event with the Scottish National Highland Dancing Championships. This event is open to premier class dancers from throughout Scotland. As such it attracts the very best of our own home grown dancers to compete.

The Friday sees the international dancers arriving to compete in the Scottish (open) Highland Dancing Championships and the qualifiers for the World Championships.
Dancers from Canada, The United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa travel to Cowal to compete for the ultimate prize in the dancing calendar.

The finals of the World Highland Dancing Championships take place on the Saturday afternoon and see the 60 top dancers from across the world compete to be crowned World Champion.

The Saturday is also host to two local (confined) competitions including one which is specifically for the youngest dancers just setting out on their dancing career.

Scottish National Championships

Am Session - 9.30am start
Event A (7/9 years) East Platforms
Event B (9 years) East Platforms
Event C (10 years) East Platforms
Event D (11 years) East Platforms
Event E (12 years) Main Platforms
Event F (13 years) Main Platforms

PM Session - 1.20pm start (approx)
Event G (14 years) East Platforms
Event H (15 years) East Platforms
Event I (16 years) Main Platforms
Event J (17 years) Main Platforms
Event K (18 years) Main Platforms


AM session - 9.00am start

Event 12 (12 years) East Platforms
Event 13 (13 years) East Platforms
Event 14 (14 years) Main Platforms
Event 15 (15 years) Main Platforms

PM Session - 1.00pm start (approx)
Events 8, 9, 10, 11 East Platforms
(U9, 9, 10 & 11 years)

Events 55 & 56 Main Platforms


9.30am Start

Events 51,52,53 Main Platforms
(Argyllshire Championships)

Pre-Premier Competitions East Platforms - 10.30 am start

Please note that the primary competitions will be danced through first starting at 10.30am. The Novice and intermediate competitions will then follow at approximately 1pm.

Please note that this year the Pre-Premier competitions will take place on the East Platforms and not the West. This means it will be possible to purchase seats in the East stand to watch the Pre-Premier competition.
The East stand on the Saturday will be sold as an all day ticket.

World Highland Dancing Championships Finals Main Platforms

World Championships Trophy Presentations

March Past led by World Champions

No Information is available at present.
We are very grateful to the various dancing organisations who have aided us greatly in the selection process, these are:

A.B.H.D I. - Australia

ScotDance Canada - Canada

F.U.S.T.A - U.S.A

B.A.T.D. - U.K.

S.D.T.A - U.K

U.K.A. - U.K.

The 2018 Highland Dancing Judging Panel is;

Gemma Baillie
Gemma Baillie is honoured to have been asked to judge at this year’s world championship. She is a member of the BATD and represents Granite City festivals as a deputy delegate on the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. She is an SOBHD registered adjudicator and was an SOBHD competitor for 22 years for which she danced with Wilma Tolmie, she won many championship titles over the UK including the UKA, BATD, British open and European championships she also qualified to dance in the world championship finals 14 times and finished in the top six in the adult world championships in 2003, 2008 and 2009.
After finishing competing, Gemma enjoyed dancing at the 2013 Basel international tattoo and more recently, the Royal Edinburgh military tattoo when it was on tour in Australia and NewZealand.
Together with Rachel Mclagan, Gemma organised the 2010 charity highland dancing concert, assemble and leap to honour the 60th anniversary of the board whilst raising over £8000 for action Duchene and the MS society Scotland and in 2013 ran a charity highland dancing competition in Aberdeenshire in aid of breast cancer campaign.
Gemma would like to wish all the competitors the best of luck and hope they enjoy dancing in the most prestigious competition in the highland dancing calendar.

Heather Booysen
While growing up in Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) South Africa, Highland Dancing has been a strong influence in many ways since the age of age of 5yrs. I progressed through all the dancing age groups having been successful in winning many of them as well as being selected as a member of the Natal Provincial team that won the Inter Provincial Trophy in 1967.
My teaching career started 38 years ago in KZN and continues in the Western Cape. I have been blessed to have taught my 3 daughters and my 4 granddaughters.
My judging career started 36 years ago, this I have done throughout South Africa both at local and National Level, together with the fabulous opportunity to judge at Blairgowrie in 2000 and Cowal in 2013. It has also been my privilege to mentor candidates in sitting their adjudicator’s examinations.
Highland dancing has been an enriching and integral part of my life, and has been a wonderful opportunity to make friends and build relationships with people from all over the world.
When I have a spare moment, I love riding my Harley Davidson motor bike in the gorgeous Cape countryside.
It is an honour to sit on the 2018 panel and wish every competitor the very best of Luck.

Anne Donlan
Anne started teaching Highland Dance in 1981 in Shelburne, Vermont, when she became a Member of the Scottish Dance Teachers’ Alliance (SDTA). She taught in Vermont for 18 years and continued to teach when she moved to Saratoga Springs, NY in 1999.
Anne is a Member of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing Worldwide Judges Panel, and has judged throughout the United States, Canada, Scotland and most recently, at the 2016 International Highland Dancing Festival of Australia and the 2017 Scotdance Canada Championship Series. She is also a Fellow, Examiner, and Life Member of the SDTA and a Member of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing (BATD).
For the past 23 years, Anne served on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Highland Dance Teachers and Adjudicators (FUSTA); serving as Regional Delegate, Secretary, Vice President and President. She is currently the Chair of the FUSTA Board of Trustees.

Since 2007, Anne has served as the Highland Dance Chair of the New Hampshire Highland Games at Loon Mountain, and as a member of the New Hampshire Highland Games Board of Directors.

Anne currently lives in Saratoga Springs, New York with her husband, Jim and is honored to be judging at the 2018 Cowal Gathering.

Ann Johnson
Ann started Highland Dance lessons in Portland, Oregon when she was 7. Weekly lessons with a nod to her Scottish heritage developed into a life-long passion for Highland dance. She is an SDTA Examiner and Fellow, BATD Member, and member of the SOBHD Adjudicators’ Panel.

She attended the meeting that lead to the formation of the Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators (FUSTA) and has twice served as the organization’s president. She is currently a member of its Board of Directors, chairman of the FUSTA Scholarship Committee and one of five FUSTA members who wrote Raising the Barre, a researched based guide to teaching Highland Dance.

Ann has had her own Highland Dance school in Portland for over 40 years and is fortunate to have worked with many wonderful youngsters as they experienced Highland Dance. Some had successful competitive careers that included winning the USIR Championship, the North American Open Championship and qualifying for the World Finals at Cowal.

She has judged competitions and championships in the United States, Canada, Scotland and Australia and is very honored to be on the panel at the 2018 Cowal Highland Gathering

Judith Niven
Judy started highland dancing at the age of 5 initially with Balmoral Highland Dancers and then with Elizabeth McLauchlan, until retiring from competitive dancing when she passed her Judges Test. She also studied ballet, jazz and tap with the Debden-Pannell Academy of Ballet.

During her competitive years she successfully competed in competitions and Championships throughout Australia and also competed in Scotland, which was a lifetime goal.

Judy started teaching at 16 under the instruction of her mother, adjudicator Wendy Davidson, and eventually ran her own very successful dancing studio for a long time. Whilst no longer actively teaching her own studio, she does get called upon regularly to guest tutor and take workshops.

Judy has also been active at the administration level of Highland Dancing. Having been an active delegate to the Victorian State Committee of Highland Dancing for many years, she eventually became President in 1997 and held that position until the end of 2004. She has just completed a term as Senior Vice-President of the ABHDI, whilst the Board was domiciled in Victoria.

Outside of dancing, Judy holds Leadership roles with Scouting, and is a member of the Scouts Australia National Training Team.

Professionally she is the IT Service Desk Manager for a well-known Australian homewares organisation.

Judy is married to Brian Niven OAM, RSPBA International Piping and Ensemble Judge and they have two boys – neither of whom is interested in either Highland Dancing or Pipe Bands!!

Arlene Penny
I have been involved in highland dancing since I was three years old. I started competing when I was six and won my pre-championship when I was nine. I had a successful championship career over the years with many line up places, however winning my first open championship title was not meant to be missing out by just two points at Corby championships. My dancing career highlights include winning the area finals at Oban as part of the Aberdeenshire team, gaining four confined championship titles and qualifying for the world junior finals at Cowal when I was sixteen years old.

I now teach highland dancing regularly in my hometown of Oldmeldrum and have recently also become a highland hustle instructor. Since passing my adjudicators in 2004 I have had the opportunity to judge all over Scotland, however judging Cowal will be my greatest judging achievement to date.

Outwith dancing I am a busy wife to Andrew and mum to four year old twins Aidan and Addison. Last year I added to my nursing qualification by qualifying as a health visitor where I work part time in Aberdeen.

I am really looking forward to judging the world highland dancing championships at Cowal this year and although I will be nervous, I am excited to be part of this amazing experience.

Natalie Quick
Natalie Quick is a fellow of the BATD and a member of the SOBHD judging panel. Her major accomplishments include three time world champion and six time Canadian champion. Natalie has judged competitions in Canada, USA, and Scotland and teaches in Toronto.

She lives in Toronto and works as a senior clinical manager at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Linda Rankin
Linda is a respected member of the national and international Highland Dancing community enjoying many years of success and experience as a competitor, teacher, adjudicator and examiner. As a competitor, she has won all major British championships and is a three-times World Champion, Junior in 1973 and Adult in 1975 & 1977.

Linda is a Member of the BATD, a Fellow, Life Member and Examiner of the SDTA and a member of the SOBHD World Wide Adjudicators Panel. To date, she has also given many years of service to the SOBHD and has been an active member of many of its committees. Having served as Vice-President of the Board from 2012 – 2016, Linda was elected as an Independent Member in November 2017. She continues to be a loyal and avid participant at Board meetings and is proud to have the opportunity to contribute to the work of the SOBHD and the continued development of Highland Dancing both at home and overseas.

Prior to being elected as Vice President of the SOBHD in 2012, Linda was ScotDance Canada’s Head Delegate for many years and was made an Honorary Member of ScotDance Canada in 2010.

Jennifer Strachan
Born into a dancing family I was lucky enough to be introduced to highland dancing at the age of 3 when I joined my big sister and started lessons with Miss Wilma Tolmie, who remained my dance teacher for the next 23 years.

This great hobby has given me the opportunity to make many friends and travel the world competing and performing in destinations as far afield as China.

Even after I stopped competing, highland dancing has continued to provide me with lots of opportunities. In 2006 I became a member of the UKA and in 2013 I followed in my mum’s footsteps and qualified as a member of the SOBHD adjudicators panel, since then I have had the honour to judge at many competitions and championships. More recently I had the privilege to be involved in the revamp of the SOBHD Official Highland textbook, where I was able to combine my love of dancing with my professional design skills.

I am delighted to have been asked to join this year’s judging panel.

Doreen Wallace
Doreen is a retired PE teacher who lives and teaches in Stranraer, Dumfries & Galloway.
She has had her own dance schoolfor many years specialising in Highland Dancing, which is her first love, but also teaching Stage and Acro Gymnastics.

A successful competitive Highland Dancer herself, Doreen’s ambition was to produce dancers of the highest calibre who
could compete with the best at Championships but, most of all, to coach someone to win a Cowal Championship and reach
the World Finals. This she has done with several past pupils who have won titles or been in the top six.

A Fellow and Life Member of the BATD & Member of the SDTA, she regularly presents dancers for BATD examinations
which have resulted in a number being nominated for and winning Junior & Senior Scholarships.
Over the years, she has also put dancers through their Associate teacher examination.
After attending Cowal for many years to support her successful pupils, Doreen is honoured to be invited to
adjudicate this year and is looking forward to seeing some excellent performances from all the competitors.

Victor W Wesley
A Former 3 time Adult World Highland Dancing Champion, winning the titles under three various bodies of adjudication during the transition years in highland dancing, finally winning under a complete S.O.B.H.D. panel of judges.
He immigrated to the United States and was the first American dancer to win the Adult World Championship while dancing for the 1972.
He is a member of the S.D.T.A, the B.A.T.D. a life member Fellow and Examiner of the U.K.A. Highland and Faculty of Kindred Arts. Victor currently serves on the S.O.B.H.D. as a Board delegate and is on the world wide judge’s panel.

For many years now he has been working on a transcript form of “Old Highland Steps” that were previously danced by the great masters of the past from throughout the world. It is his hope that they may be preserved and utilised by the SOBHD for future generations of dancers, and hopefully that they will be resurrected and performed once again in competition in the not too distant future years.

Victor went on to train in classical ballet in the Imperial Russian style, and received great acclaim by achieving the highest professional level as a “Premier Danseur”. He has partnered some of the greatest named ballerinas of our time, has performed and was featured throughout the world with many leading professional ballet companies. He has assisted and restaged works for the legendary choreographer Agnes DeMille, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and New York City Opera Company’s restage of Brigadoon, as well as choreographing many of his own works.

While living in the U.S. he also coached the Olympic Ice Skating champion “Debbie Thomas” when she won the Olympic title and gold medal for senior ladies.

He has taught former World and Scottish Champions, and has received further notoriety by being presented to European Royalty. Consequently, he has been a recipient of accolades, commendations, and numerous honours in recognition of both his career and his humanitarian charitable work on behalf of children. He has been recognised by Civic Groups, Mayors, Senators, and U.S. Presidents for his life time achievements and his contributions to dance.

Many organisations and individuals both overseas and within the UK, have been recipients of his philanthropy through sponsorships, and scholarships, whereby, allowing him the greatest opportunity in being able to give back to highland dancing in support of today’s dancers. He provided the 1st place championship trophies for the Glasgow, Commonwealth Games 2014.

It is a great privilege to be a part of the S.O.B.H.D. international family and to adjudicate on the world platform of highland dancing again at The Cowal Highland Gathering.

Jill Young
Jill has been actively involved in the Highland Dance community since 1979. She is a member of the SDTA and has been a member of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing Judges’ panel since 1990.

Jill had a successful competitive career for many years, winning the title of many major Championships. Over the years Jill has had the opportunity to judge across North America, Australia and Scotland including the SDCCS, USIR Championships and the Cowal World Championships.

Jill is currently the Co-Chairperson for the SDCCS 2018 Event being held in Calgary. She continues to work with all levels of dancers from beginner to champion level in Calgary where she resides with her husband.