Ten Things I Wish I Had Done When I Was A Highland Dancer

Some food for thought for competitive highland dancers. Doing some of these things may prevent some of the problems I hope to look into as part of my practitioner enquiry research….


I particularly agree with number 8 as I supplemented highland with ballet, jazz and street styles over the years and was a much better dancer for it.

Laban Analysis

This weekend I have had some time to reflect on the new module – Context and Culture in Dance – and the work we have undertaken so far in our practical sessions.

We started our first session by looking at Laban Analysis which is a method and language for describing, visualising, interpreting and documenting all varieties of human movement. It originates from the work of Rudolf Laban and is based around the basic principles of actions, space, dynamics and relationships. This is a good way to encourage pupils to start to think about creating their own new and unique movement phrases.



We use LABAN analysis in S3 when pupils start their National Progression Award level 4. It works as stimulus for how pupils might start to create their own choreography sequences and gives them the start of a theoretical understanding of analysis. This works well in my classroom/studio environment and just as done in the picture above can be completed as a group activity. With a thorough understanding of LABAN analysis pupils feel more confident when beginning their own choreography.

Recommended reading on injuries and competition

Crossman, J. 1997. Psychological rehabilitation from sports injuries. Sports Medicine, 23 (5), 333-9.

Eldridge, W. 1983. Importance of psychotherapy for athletic related orthopedic injuries among adults. In M.J. Kelley, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30 (2), 202-21.

Ford, N. 1981. Minding your body. In M.J. Kelley, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30 (2), 202-21.

Gavin, J., & Gavin, N. 1995. Psychology for Health Fitness Professionals. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Gould, D., et al. 1997a. Stress sources encountered when rehabilitating from season-ending ski injuries. Sport Psychologist, 11, 361-78.

Gould, D., et al. 1997b. Psychological strategies for helping elite athletes cope with season-ending injuries. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 409). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hardy, C.J., & Crace, R.K. 1990. Dealing with injury. Sport Psychology Training Bulletin, 1 (6), 1-8.

Ievleva, L., & Orlick, T. 1991. Mental links to enhance healing. Sports Psychologist, 5 (1), 25-40.

Kelley, M.J. 1990. Psychological risk factors and sports injuries. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30 (2), 202-21.

Kraus, J.F., & Conroy, C. 1984. Mortality and morbidity from injuries in sports and recreation. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 398). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Larson, G.A., Starkey, C., & Zaichkowsky, L.D. 1996. Psychological aspects of athletic injuries as perceived by athletic trainers. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 398). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Nideffer, R.M. 1981. The ethics and practice of applied sports psychology. In M.J. Kelley, Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 30 (2), 202-21.

Nideffer, R.M. 1983. The injured athlete: Psychological factors in treatment. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 401). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Petitpass, A., & Danish, S. 1995. Caring for injured athletes. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 405). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. 1999. Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Williams, J.M., et al. 1991. The effects of stressors and coping resources on anxiety and peripheral narrowing. In R.S. Weinberg & D. Gould, Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (3rd ed., p. 405). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Williams, J.M., & Andersen, M.B. 1998. Psychosocial antecedents of sports injury: Review and critique of the stress and injury model. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10, 5-25.

The links between injuries and self-esteem

I have wanted to explore this for some time as I highlighted it as a potential problem faced by competitive highland dancers in my research project and have been suffering from a long term injury myself. This is now having a knock-on impact on my Context and Culture in Dance module.

I looked up an article this evening which had some interesting thoughts on the impact of injuries on athletes:

“An injury is a traumatic experience for anyone who has devoted a lot of time and energy to fitness and recreational achievements.” (Ball, 2002)

I agree strongly with this as I first suffered a bad injury to my foot six years ago when I was competing at a relatively high standard. Although I recovered and was able to compete again it was always much harder work and I was tentative at times when before the injury I would have experimented. In the last two years my foot injury has come back and I have had to retire from competitive highland dancing. Although I still perform when I can I have not even been able to attend a competition class for nearly a year and feel my self-esteem has been affected as highland dancing was what I considered I was good at and now I don’t even have that. Some of the research suggests that this then affects a person’s ability to recover…

“The psychological factors that contribute to injury are viewed primarily as stress-related…(There is) a direct relationship between life stresses and injury rate.” (Williams and Andersen, 1998)

If competition itself is stressful does this make competitive highland dancers more prone to injury than other non-competitive dancers?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross discusses psychological reactions to exercise and athletic injuries as having a five-stage grief response: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance and reorganisation.

This is an interesting way of viewing injuries and I certainly recognise some of these feelings. It may be important to add a research question to my project looking directly at these responses. 

“When a person’s self-concept is almost entirely tied to exercise goals or athletic success, the self-concept will assuredly suffer in the face of an injury…Many athletes…who suffer a lengthy injury experience decreases in self-esteem and self-worth and increases in anxiety and depression.” They fear the embarrassment or ridicule they associate with poor performance. (Eldridge, 1983)

I agree particularly with the last statement as this fear of failure comes hand-in-hand with the competitive environment and is something I highlighted already in my project proposal and is something I look forward to investigating further.

Final Poster Presentation

The aim of my research is to explore the impact of competitive highland dancing on the self-esteem and confidence of teenage girls between 16 and 18 years old. I am particularly interested in the potential negative impacts. I will explore this impact through a qualitative research study looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the competitive environment, the feelings generated from not doing well and how those feelings affect dancers in everyday life. I have already looked in-depth at the competitive environment of dance through studies by Samantha Sobash and Donna Krasnow, Lynda Mainwaring and Gretchen Kerr. I will conduct my own research using a focus group and hope to find an answer as to whether or not there are negative impacts and if so, what they are. Following completion of my study I will disseminate my findings to my own school, to the SQA and to the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.


Working on my presentation…

Tonight I am working on my poster presentation based on my feedback. The main points are:

  • Literature research should stand alone without the need for dialogue so I will need to add a few more slides to summarise my findings.
  • The ethics slide also needs more from the dialogue.
  • Research questions should come before the methodology.
  • Work on dissemination slide – how are you going to spread the word to other schools?
  • Include the benefits of practitioner enquiry to me personally.
  • Add a bibliography slide.

I have never done a poster presentation for an assessment before so I am quite pleased with it but I now understand that it needs to stand alone as if the people seeing it will not also be hearing what I say.


Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom

Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom is a book by Denis Lawrence which looks at many interesting concepts related to my research including a clarification of what self-esteem is and why it is important:

“Self-esteem is the individual’s evaluation of the discrepancy between self-image and ideal self. It is an affective process and is a measure of the extent to which the individual cares about this discrepancy.”

Lawrence also goes onto say in his opening chapter that “unrealistic demands may result in self-esteem” and perhaps this goes some way to explaining one of the issues which may arise from competitive dance. However, if teachers make no demands than pupils tend not to succeed so a balance must be struck and it is important to remember during my research and personally that there are many advantages to taking part in competition and pushing yourself to be the best.  

There is a really helpful chapter on assessing self-esteem which I will examine closely as I work towards conducting my research as there are interesting questions and links to other research from this area and following this Lawrence dissects what teachers can do in the classroom to enhance self-esteem. This may be particularly important for me to delve into depending on the results of my study.

The final chapter explores the teacher’s self-esteem and the influence this can subconsciously have on their pupils if they are not aware of their own self-confidence and self-image. If I went through the competitive dance scene and the results of my study show a clear correlation between low self-esteem and competitive highland dance could that be having a knock-on effect on the youngsters I teach?


Lawrence, D. (1996). Enhancing Self-Esteem in the Classroom. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.