July 17, 2024 Donate

Chelsea, Community, Michigan, Washtenaw County

11-Year-Old Chelsea Resident to Represent Midwest at National Scottish Highland Dance Competition

By: Natalie Davies

Chelsea’s Sophia Demaagd is headed to the U.S. National Scottish Highland Dance Championship after winning the 10-12 age group in the Midwest Regional Competition.

Sophia, an 11-year-old home school student who just finished sixth grade, started dance lessons when she was 3.5 years old. Sophia was inspired by her older sister who started Highland Dancing after seeing it at a family visit to the Alma Highland Festival and Games. Sophia took part in her first competition at age four.

“For most dances you are strong and snappy, but for the national dances, it’s more ballet-like,” Sophia said. “It’s hard, but fun! All the dancers are quite nice, so it’s easy to make friends.”

Sophia’s mom Stephanie said Scottish Highland Dance involves jumping, leaping and artistic creativity.

“It is a very physical type of dance that requires strength, stamina, and technique,” Stephanie said. “Scottish Highland Dance involves the use of the entire body, including head and arms, and involves turnout of the legs and feet.”

Sophia hugs her teacher Kate DeGood after winning the Regional Championship.

Competitions take place throughout the year and in many different countries. Sophia competes about twice a month, and Stephanie said the family is fortunate to live in Michigan where several Highland Dance competitions are within driving distance.

The journey to becoming a champion in Scottish Highland Dance is a demanding one. Dancers start at the Primary level and progress through various levels—Beginner, Novice, Intermediate, and Premier—by earning stamps through competition placements. Only Premier-level dancers can compete in championships.

“Advancement depends a lot on how many competitions you opt to compete in and how well you place in them,” Stephanie said.

Championships consist of a competition in four Highland Dances: Fling, Sword, Seann Triubhas and Reel. Most dances are danced and scored individually.

Sophia’s commitment to dance is evident in her rigorous practice schedule. She practices every day with one rest day per week and attends classes four days a week, mostly online but with once-a-week visits to the dance studio.

Stephanie said her mother (Sophia’s grandma) is of Scottish descent, but Sophia’s immediate family didn’t know anything about Highland Dance until she and her sister started taking lessons.

“There are so many positives to be found in Highland Dance,” Stephanie said. “There are all sorts of character-growth lessons, friendship opportunities, travel chances (whether you want to stay close or go far), and physical fitness benefits.

Outside of dance, Sophia enjoys arts and crafts, sewing with her grandmother, swimming and online gaming with friends.

Sophia expresses her gratitude to teachers, Kate DeGood and Jennifer Craig, as well as to her supportive family and the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit and the Clan MacLean Association in the United States that have provided scholarships for her dance education.

“I want to thank God for giving me the ability to dance,” Sophia added.

Sophia is looking forward to competing at the U.S. National Scottish Highland Dance Championship in Boston on July 20.

All photos by Stephanie Demaagd.