81° F Saturday, June 24, 2017
PHOTO BY DEVIN MONK  Quinn Wallace teaches the audience a pasque de bas dance step during her Scottish culture presentation Saturday at Bee Cave Public Library.

Quinn Wallace teaches the audience a pasque de bas dance step during her Scottish culture presentation Saturday at Bee Cave Public Library.

As a child, Quinn Wallace took part in several types of dance – ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop, to name a few. But for the past few years, the Lake Travis High School senior has focused on Highland dance, a dance that brings her in touch with her Scottish roots.

Wallace performed several Highland dances and made a presentation Saturday at Bee Cave Public Library as part of her Girl Scout Gold project. Wallace said the documentary she’s creating about Highland dance and other Scottish traditions is near completion.

Her goal is to distribute the documentary to schools and libraries in order to spread awareness about Scottish history and culture.

“What I hope is that people learn more about Scottish performing arts,” Wallace said. “This gives them the opportunity to come across it in daily life and say, ‘Oh yeah, I saw that once at the library.’ ”

Wallace has been competing in Highland dance competitions since she was 6 years old, and said the dance fits her personality.

“I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s really athletic, and it requires perfection and dedication, which is a concrete goal for me to strive to.”

Wallace explained that though Highland dance is often confused with Irish dancing styles, the two are fundamentally different. Dancers jump on every beat and perform complex footwork. Wallace characterizes it as a very strict and precise form of dance, but also an expressive one.

“There’s a very small community in the U.S. of about 1,000 Highland dancers registered,” Wallace said. “When I go to competition, it’s really exciting to meet other dancers. Even though it’s technically a competition, it’s very exciting to have this very basic connection that you love to do what they love to do.”

She perseveres through the rigors to get the most out of herself.

“What I’ve gotten the most out of it is how much dedication it requires,” she explained. “It requires a lot of time and direction to perfect something over and over and over again and take criticism all the time. It’s difficult, but it’s a great challenge, and it has really shaped me.”

Amanda Orach met Wallace a year ago when she and Wallace took the same Highland dance class together. Orach, who like Wallace competes at the national level, explained that each Highland dance is tied to a story and illustrates Scottish traditions.

“The sword dance is always a fun story,” Orach said. “Soldiers would perform the sword dance before battle, and if they kicked the swords they would be defeated or die in battle. If they completed the dance without kicking a sword, they would go to victory.”

Wallace’s mother, Debra, said Highland dance has given Quinn and her older sister, Bree, skills that they use in other parts of their life.

“It has created incredible discipline in them, as well as posture and presence,” Debra Wallace said. “Quinn has been drum major in marching band, and that experience helps the kids be able to command themselves in a group.”

Her daughter focused her documentary not just on Highland dance, but on the traditions of the Highland Games.

“It incorporates several interviews with different people, Scottish people from Portland and Austin,” Quinn Wallace said. “I interviewed dancers and pipers with different levels of experience, and they all had valuable things to say about their experience. It also has photos I’ve taken with narrative, clips of pipe bands competing and performing, and different elements of the Highland Games like the [caber] toss where they flip the telephone pole.”

Both her older brother and sister participated in Scouting and completed their Eagle and Gold projects, respectively. Wallace’s father Charlie Graham thinks his daughters’ projects should be given the same level of recognition as Eagle Scout projects.

“She’s learning an enormous number of skills by doing it; she’s had to teach herself how to make movies on the computer and edit the video,” Graham said. “Quinn and Bree both did very extensive projects.”

Wallace is looking at several colleges up north and is unsure where she plans to go, and is also unsure if she’ll continue to dance. She has an interest in possibly teaching it someday.

“It’s cool to realize, ‘Wow, I’m doing something that has been around forever,’ ” she said. “I’m preserving this amazing art form.”

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