Topic My thoughts
Highcuts: extended or small?

When should I dance 'extended' highcuts?

Is it when I reach 10 years of age? Or 12? Or 16?There is no definitive answer to this question.In my opinion, the correct time to dance 'extended' highcuts is when they can be danced well.What do I mean by '…danced well…'? I mean when the dancer can properly control the highcuts.

When should I compete using 'extended' highcuts?

Is it when I move into Novice? Or Intermediate or Premier?Dancing and competing are not the same.A dancer can practice highcuts in the house or at classes and decide when they think that they are good enough but for competing there are additional considerations. Conditions at competitions are different from those at home or in the class - the dancing surface, the weather (if outdoors) and the weight of the outfit are only some of the factors that make dancing at a competition more difficult than when practicing.

As a judge I would not expect to see dancers doing 'extended' highcuts until the Premier section. Some dancers may be more than capable of dancing good 'extended' highcuts in lower sections but I would suggest that those dancers may be too advanced for those lower sections and should progress through the grades soon.

I would say, however, that dancers aiming to compete and win at large Championships should be aiming to perform 'extended' highcuts - not many dancers win prizes at Cowal with 'small' highcuts!
Does a dancer get more marks for dancing 'extended' highcuts than for 'small' highcuts?

This is not an easy question to answer.Extended highcuts are difficult (more difficult than 'small' highcuts) and it seems reasonable to me that if a dancer performs nice 'extended' highcuts then these would attract a higher mark than nicely performed 'small' highcuts.

It is more difficult to compare 'extended' highcuts that require some more work with nice & controlled 'small' highcuts. In some cases the skill achieved in those 'extended' highcuts will prevail and in other the 'small' highcuts will win.

How do I improve my 'extended' highcuts?

PRACTICE!

Timing: is it really that important? I see dancers dancing off-time and still winning. So is timing really important?

Timing is very important. Bad timing is one of my biggest pet hates. In my opinion dancing off-time destroys the dance and any competitor dancing off-time should not expect to win.
Why is timing so important?

I believe that dancing is all about rhythm. Every dance is performed to music (sometimes played on an instrument, sometimes percussive, sometimes silent, but always to music) and the rhythms of the dance and of the music are integrally linked.

Try dancing the Fling to a Hornpipe - it does not work too well.

At competitions it is not a requirement that the piper selects particular tunes to match the steps and movements being performed but the correct style of tune is generally played - strathspeys for the Highland Fling, reels for Reel steps, and so on.
What is the effect of dancing off-time at a competition?

Part of a judge's remit is to consider a dancer's overall performance - dancing off-time will have a negative effect on the dance and thus will have a negative impact on the judges overall view of the dance.

It is also worth considering the following:

For every count that you dance off-time then either your supporting foot or you working foot or your hands are not where they are meant to be when they are meant to be. Technically speaking, this means that you are not in the correct position. It follows that if you dance off-time for quite a few counts then you have danced all those counts out of position and you should be judged accordingly and for excessive periods of dancing off-time you may even be disqualified!
I am not dancing off-time - I just land at a different part of the count!

Most cases of dancing off-time refers to a dancer landing off-time and I have heard it argued that dancers can land at different times but still all be on-time. I do not conform to this argument.

First and foremost I say that dancing is an art and not a precise science and as such it is not easy to put on paper when a dancer should land. BUT dancing is visual and follows a rhythm and for most competitive dances the dancer should land on each count with the counts equally spaced.
'But there is more than one part to the count and so dancers can land at different parts and still be on-time. Count 1 lasts until the instant just before count 2 begins.'

I agree that count 1 lasts until just before count 2 begins but do not agree that a dancer can land anytime between those points and be on-time.

Consider the time. When is it 1pm? Is it any time after the instant that it becomes 1pm until just before it is 2pm?, of until just before it is 1.01pm? or until just before it is 1.00pm and 1 second? NO - it is only 1pm for an instant, thereafter it is after 1pm.

In dancing terms if you land after the instant that count 1 arrives that that is no longer count 1 (might be 1&) and must therefore be off-time
I see dancers dancing off-time but they still win. Why?

Remember, that in competition how you are placed in a dance is dependent upon a number of factors - not just how you dance. The judge must compare your dancing with that of your competitors and timing is only one of a number of issues that the judge must consider. Each judge will not necessarily view issues with the same importance as each other judge. Judging is subjective because of the very nature of Highland Dancing (which makes the judges task all the more difficult and often more difficult to understand) and each judge will have their own preferences. Some may like a soft, flowing dancer, others may like a strong dancer, other may place great importance on turnout and less on elevation while some others may look for elevation and less for timing. It is thus possible for a dancer to dance off-time and still win if the judge considers that dancers overall performance still to be the best.

My advice, however, is to work to improve your own dancing and not worry about a competitor's faults.
Note: The above comments represent my personal view and are intended only to be a general guide. Where specific guidance is required I would recommend that you seek the advice of your dancing teacher / dancing association / the SOBHD directly.