A Celebration of Highland Dance-22nd annual Tartan Day on Ellis Island celebrates Highland Dance

The 2024 Ellis Island celebration of Tartan Day featured a Celebration of Highland Dance through interpretive exhibits, dance costumes, performance videos and live performances. On Sunday, April 7, over 60 dancers representing the US, Scotland, Canada, and Australia performing traditional dances and a majestic mass Highland Fling in front of the New York City skyline. Performers included members of Shot of Scotch (New York City), the OzScot Dancers (Australia), the Fling Together troupe (US and Canada), the Maloney School of Dance (New Jersey) and Scotland’s Lindsay School of Dancing. Emily Ritter of Shot of Scotch served as Dance Director and piping was provided by John Loiacono.

Commenting on the experience, Debra Henry of the Lindsay School of Dance from Stonehaven, Scotland said, “Dancing on Ellis Island has been an amazing experience for our dancers with the most iconic backdrop of the New York City skyscape behind the Mass Fling. We all have memories to last a lifetime.”

A Celebration of Highland Dance.

Opening on March 27 to kick off Scottish heritage celebrations in New York, the exhibit has been extended until April 18. The program was dedicated to the memory of beloved Scottish dance teacher Mary Stewart. Stewart (1918-2001) came to America from Glasgow in 1951 and became a renowned teacher of champion Highland Dancers.

Producer Robert Currie, Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie expressed his gratitude to the entire event team, especially the incredible dancers, the US National Park Service and the Scottish Government. Additional support and coordination was provided by ScotDance USA.

Rich cultural heritage

Jackie Bird, President of the National Trust for Scotland, and Robert Currie, Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie.

Scottish dancing in North America can be traced back to the migration of Scottish immigrants who brought their cultural traditions, including dance, to the continent. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Scottish settlers and their descendants continued to practice traditional dances, adapting them to the new surroundings. These dances were often performed at social gatherings, celebrations, and events within Scottish communities, helping to preserve and pass on the rich cultural heritage. Over time, Scottish dance evolved and diversified in North America, with various styles and regional influences contributing to its vibrant presence today.

Dancer Mariah Rust.

Highland dancer Mariah Rust who took part added, “Since I first participated in 2018, the Tartan Day on Ellis Island performance has become one of my favorites, not only because it’s in a beautiful spot with views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan, but also for the significance dancing on Ellis Island holds. It was amazing to be able to share this experience with so many friends from Shot of Scotch, Fling Together, OzScot Australia and more. Thank you to the Learned Kindred of Currie/Clan Currie Society for organizing this performance year after year and for including me for a third time.”

Part of the North American celebration of Tartan Week, Tartan Day on Ellis Island is one of the United States’ major annual Scottish heritage events. Each year is highlighted by an exhibit exploring a specific aspect of Scottish-American history and culture. The celebration also features performances by a host of Scottish artists, including pipers and drummers, Highland dancers, fiddlers, jugglers and harpists. Attendance regularly exceeds 8 thousand visitors per day.

Past exhibitions have included, Scotland’s Gift’s to the World, Captain Kidd and the Hangman’s Noose, A Celebration of Tartan, and Golf – Scotland’s Gift to the World. The Society also produced the award-winning documentary film The Crafter’s Song – Tartan Day on Ellis Island in 2003.

The event is produced by the Learned Kindred of Currie, a leading Scottish-American cultural and educational non-profit dedicated to preserving and promoting Scottish and Highland heritage and the arts through a wide variety of programs including special events, scholarships and heritage programs.

For more information on Tartan Day on Ellis Island please see: www.tartandayonellisisland.com

Images courtesy of Tartan Day on Ellis Island and Fling Together Collective.

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