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Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to common questions that have been asked of FUSTA teachers and judges. We have included questions that tend to be more general in nature. Specific questions such as "how long should I practice" or "how should I practice" are best answered by your individual teacher and are not included here.

Questions Regarding FUSTA

  1. My teacher is a member of the BATD, but not a member of FUSTA. Can I still register to compete or does she have to be a member of FUSTA?
  2. I'm a dancer who is registered with the SOBHD through FUSTA, does that make me a member of FUSTA?
  3. What really happens at the FUSTA Mid Winter meeting?
  4. How is the location for the National Championships decided?

Questions Regarding Dance Organizations

  1. What are the different organizations and how are they inter-related?
  2. How do I contact my examining body?

Dancer Registration Questions

  1. Where can I find a FUSTA dancer registration form?
  2. Why don't I get a new registration card each year?
  3. What is the reason for having a FUSTA card?
  4. How do I register and enter in SOBHD competitions in Scotland?
  5. How does a dancer move up to the next group?
  6. In the past, dancers moved up based on the honor system. Why do we have to register dancers now?
  7. Can a dancer really move up to a higher category at any time?
  8. Is there any way I can keep my Beginner registration card when I move up to Novice?
  9. Where do I get the Intermediate move-up form? The organizer didn't give me one.
  10. Why do I have to send in a photo with my registration if they are only going to put a sticker on it?
  11. I'm an Intermediate dancer. When my date comes for me to turn Premier, does FUSTA send me a new card automatically, or do I still need to send in a registration form for my new card?
  12. I am now a Novice dancer and I sent in my Beginner cared to receive a Novice card. That was nearly four weeks ago. I was just wondering when I might be receiving it.?
  13. As I am now attending a University outside my home region, I was just wondering if you could clear up FUSTA's rules about competing in a Regional Championship other than the one you were born in?
  14. We just got our FUSTA card and we found out that we are moving to a different region. Do we need to get a new card as soon as we move, or can we wait a little while? My daughter is dancing at a Novice level.
  15. As a teacher, it is easier for me to send all of my student's registration forms in at the same time in one large envelope. Is that all right?
  16. Sometimes, we run into emergency situations. Is it acceptable to ask the registrar to "rush" a registration card?

Questions Regarding Teaching/Teachers

  1. Where can I find help teaching young dancers?
  2. Where can I find a dance teacher near where I live?
  3. What are the criteria for becoming a certified teacher?
  4. What credentials should you ask for?
  5. Can a dancer take lessons from more than one instructor?
  6. How do you know if the instructor is doing a good job with the dancer?

Questions Regarding Judging/Judges

  1. What does it take to become a judge of Highland dancing?
  2. Why don't all female judges wear nice tartan skirts to judge in?
  3. Why do we seem to see the same judges in our area year after year?
  4. Why don't more judges control the tempo of the music more at competitions?
  5. When a piper's tempos are bad or unsteady, why doesn't the judge order a re-dance?
  6. How often are judges re-tested or re-certified to verify their knowledge is up to date?
  7. Is it the judge's or the organizer's responsibility to stop or move a competition due to inclement weather?
  8. Questions related to Competitions/Championships
  9. What is the rule regarding Primary dancers in the Pas de Basque's and High Cuts?
  10. I am hearing conflicting reports on some awards that are given to Primary dancers. Some give medals and/or trophies to Primary dancers, some only give ribbons and some get participation ribbons only. Others say no Primary in the U.S. ever gets medals or trophies - that's only done in Canada. Help please!
  11. How old does my child have to be before he/she can compete?
  12. What is the structure for the competition day? Who goes first? What order? Will it always be the same order - Beginner, Novice, Intermediate?
  13. How much time is between dances?
  14. Where do the dancers change clothes?
  15. What is the point system used for judging?
  16. What is the difference between "judge’s points" and "dance points"?
  17. Why don't parents/dancers get to see the points or receive feedback from the judges?
  18. What kind of supplies do you need to take besides the actual outfits, i.e. tents, chairs, food, etc?
  19. Can you explain the use of the dancer card and the stamping process?
  20. How does a dancer move from level to level? What are the levels?
  21. Who decides which competitions a dancer attends?
  22. Does the instructor have to approve each one or sign the form?
  23. Do you have to dance all the dances at a competition? Is it okay if you just know two and start with just those?
  24. What is a Championship? How are the dances chosen?
  25. What is the difference between an Open and a Closed Championship?
  26. What is a Regional Championship? Who can dance in it?
  27. Which region do I compete in if I'm a college student living outside my home region?
  28. What is the difference between a competition and a Championship?
  29. How do I know if a competition or Championship is approved by the SOBHD?
  30. How can I get information about competitions in other countries?
  31. How do I register and enter SOBHD competitions in Scotland?
  32. Why do some competitions use large handled swords, while others use flat swords?
  33. Why are cash prizes rarely awarded to dancers under the age of 16?
  34. Why have I seen some dancers using their head when they dance and others don't?

Questions Related to Competitions/Championships

  1. What is the rule regarding Primary dancers in the Pas de Basque's and High Cuts?
  2. I am hearing conflicting reports on some awards that are given to Primary dancers. Some give medals and/or trophies to Primary dancers, some only give ribbons and some get participation ribbons only. Others say no Primary in the U.S. ever gets medals or trophies - that's only done in Canada. Help please!
  3. How old does my child have to be before he/she can compete?
  4. What is the structure for the competition day? Who goes first? What order? Will it always be the same order - Beginner, Novice, Intermediate?
  5. How much time is between dances?
  6. Where do the dancers change clothes?
  7. What is the point system used for judging?
  8. What is the difference between "judge's points" and "dance points"?
  9. Why don't parents/dancers get to see the points or receive feedback from the judges?
  10. What kind of supplies do you need to take besides the actual outfits, i.e. tents, chairs, food, etc?
  11. Can you explain the use of the dancer card and the stamping process?
  12. How does a dancer move from level to level? What are the levels?
  13. Who decides which competitions a dancer attends?
  14. Does the instructor have to approve each one or sign the form?
  15. Do you have to dance all the dances at a competition? Is it okay if you just know two and start with just those?
  16. What is a Championship? How are the dances chosen?
  17. What is the difference between an Open and a Closed Championship?
  18. What is a Regional Championship? Who can dance in it?
  19. Which region do I compete in if I'm a college student living outside my home region?
  20. What is the difference between a competition and a Championship?
  21. How do I know if a competition or Championship is approved by the SOBHD?
  22. How can I get information about competitions in other countries?
  23. How do I register and enter SOBHD competitions in Scotland?
  24. Why do some competitions use large handled swords, while others use flat swords?
  25. Why are cash prizes rarely awarded to dancers under the age of 16?
  26. Why have I seen some dancers using their head when they dance and others don't?

Questions Related to Costumes and Choreography

  1. How strict are the rules? Does a Beginner have to be as strict?
  2. Where is the best place to buy outfits?
  3. How many pairs of shoes should a dancer have at one time?
  4. What outfits does a dancer need to get started?
  5. What are the different costumes used and what dances do they correspond to?
  6. When looking for my child's first Beginner kilt what are some things I should be thinking about?
  7. Does the Aboyne tartan have to be a DRESS tartan, and for that matter, can it be a cotton plaid and not a wool or wool blend tartan?
  8. Can the skirt of the white "Lilt" dress be "circular" and not gathered? If so, must they still wear a slip underneath?
  9. Why do most dancers wear black trunks under their kilts when colored trunks are legal?
  10. Why are bows only worn on the Aboyne blouse in certain areas of the country?
  11. Are earrings, rings or other jewelry allowed during competitions?

Questions Related to the USIR

  1. When a dancer holds a bye to the USIR, does the bye belong to the region or the age group in which the dancer won the bye?
  2. Do the US Champions automatically go to Scotland to compete at Cowal?
  3. Must a dancer be a US Champion before being eligible to compete at Cowal?
  4. How is the host for the USIR chosen?

Questions Regarding FUSTA

How is FUSTA and Highland dancing related to the SOBHD, BATD, STDA and the UKA? - FUSTA is an Affiliated Member of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD), which is the world governing body for Highland dancing. The British Association of Teachers of Dance (BATD), Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance (SDTA) and the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing (UKA) are also members of the SOBHD and are the examining bodies for Highland dancing. To be a member of FUSTA a person needs to be a member in the Highland branch of one of the above three examining bodies.

My teacher is a member of the BATD, but not a member of FUSTA. Can I still register to compete or does she have to be a member of FUSTA? - Yes, you may register with FUSTA to compete as long as your teacher has proof that they are an up-to-date member of BATD, SDTA or UKA. FUSTA does not require your teacher to be a member, however, we would encourage all teachers to become members of FUSTA, their national organization, so that they as teachers stay current with all important information put out by the SOBHD such as rules changes, technical comments, etc.

I am a dancer who is registered to compete with the SOBHD through FUSTA, does that make me a member of FUSTA? - No. FUSTA is an organization for teachers and judges of Highland dancing. If you are a teacher or judge who is still a competitive dancer, you may join FUSTA, but simply registering to compete doesn't make you a member of FUSTA.

What really happens at the FUSTA Mid Winter meeting? - Although it is hard to believe, the mid-winter meeting is just that, a business meeting. The FUSTA Board of Directors meet to discuss the ongoing business of running FUSTA including any issues or questions each regional delegate may bring to the meeting.

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Questions Regarding Dance Organizations

What are the different organizations and how are they inter-related? - The Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing (SOBHD) is the World Governing Body of Scottish Highland Dancing responsible for promoting, encouraging and developing Highland dancing throughout the world and for setting and controlling the technique and movements upon which Highland dancing is based. It also sanctions and registers Championships and competitions and sets rules for running them. The SOBHD and its agents in other countries register dancers who compete at their sanctioned events and also examines and certifies the judges who adjudicate these events. FUSTA is an affiliated member of the SOBHD with delegates and voting privileges. FUSTA is also the official dancer registration agent for the SOBHD in the United States.

The British Association of Teachers of Dance (BATD), Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance (SDTA) and the United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing (UKA) are also members of the SOBHD and are the examining bodies for Highland dancing. To be a member of FUSTA a person needs to be a member in the Highland branch of one of the above three examining bodies.

How do I contact my examining body? -

BATD; Katrina Allan, Secretary
Pavilion 8, Upper Level
Watermark Business Park
315 Govan Road
Glasgow, Scotland G41 2SE
enquiries@batd.co.uk
011-44-141-427-3699

SDTA; 339 North Woodside Road
Glasgow, Scotland G20 6ND
sdta@btconnect.com
011-44-141-357-4994

UKA; 386-392 Lytham Road
Blackpool, England FY4 1DW
enquiries@ukadance.co.uk
011-4-1253-408-828

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Dancer Registration Questions

Where can I find a FUSTA dancer registration form? - You should be able to get one from your teacher if he/she is a FUSTA member, or you can go to the Registration Information page on this website and click on the "registration forms" icon, find your region and click on the appropriate region icon. Either way, your teacher must sign the form before you mail it in.

Why don't I get a new registration card each year? - By having Beginner and Novice dancers keep their original card until they move to the next category, it keeps the integrity of the card by maintaining the ORIGINAL games or dance competition stamp until the dancer achieves the required six stamps to move up rather than having to handwrite them in. Intermediates and Premiers do get a new card every year so it really only affects Beginners and Novice.

What is the reason for having a FUSTA card? - FUSTA is the registration agent in the United States for the SOBHD. Although it is a FUSTA registration card, it is the same as the cards that Canadian dancers get from ScotDance Canada or Scottish dancers get directly from the SOBHD. The purpose of the cards, no matter where they originate, is to ensure that all Pre-Premier dancers have the opportunity to compete with other dancers of comparative ability anywhere in the world, whether they are Primary, Beginner, Novice or Intermediate standard.

How do I register and enter in SOBHD competitions in Scotland? - Your FUSTA registration card allows you to enter any competition run under SOBHD rules anywhere in the world. To determine what Scottish Championships and competitions can be found when in Scotland, you can go to the SOBHD website found at http://highlanddancing.org/. Also, the Clan MacLachlan Association of North America's website for Scottish Highland Games at http://www.maclachlans.org is a very comprehensive site for games listings and it has contacts for each games as well. It should be noted that this site may not distinguish between competitions that are run under SOBHD rules and competitions that are not run under SOBHD rules.

How does a dancer move up to the next group? - There are five (5) levels, one (1) Premier level and four (4) Pre-Premier levels a dancer can move through.

  • Primary; A dancer under the age of seven may compete in this section until the seventh birthday is reached after which that dancer is classified as a Beginner dancer and is not eligible to enter a Primary event. A Primary dancer may elect to compete in a more advanced category at any time before reaching the age of seven, but thereafter must continue in the new category and/or advance in accordance with the Pre-Premier registration scheme.
  • Beginners; This status is held until the dancer either a) gains a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in six (6) separate competitions in either of the Highland dances - Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Triubhas, Reel, or Special or Trophy Fling; or b) until 6 months following the first Beginners stamp, whichever, a or b is the later, after which the dancer is classified as a Novice and is no longer eligible to enter a Beginners event. **
  • Novice; This status is held until the dancer either a) gains a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in six (6) separate competitions in any dance, or b) until 6 months following the first Novice stamp, whichever, a or b is the later, after which the dancer is classified as an Intermediate and is no longer eligible to enter a Novice event. **
  • Intermediate; This status is held for one year from the date of the dancer's first Intermediate competition entered, whether they actually dance at it or not, after which the dancer becomes a Premier dancer. (The exception to this Intermediate rule would be an extreme injury to the dancer, which would require a doctor’s note to extend the Intermediate year. The decision to extend the year would be made by the Scottish Official Board.)
  • Premier: This status is the final level a dancer can achieve in competition. Once a dancer has become a Premier dancer they remain at this level and are eligible to compete at Championships. A dancer under the age of 7 cannot enter to compete in a Championship.

** In regards to the six-month rule, a Beginner or Novice could conceivably enter and place in twenty competitions before the six months are up. There is no limit to how many wins you can achieve within that six-month period.

In the past, dancers moved up based on the honor system. Why do we have to register dancers now? - In terms of travel, the world has gotten much smaller than what it was back in the "old days" when dancers didn't travel as much to compete as they seem to now. As a result, the system we have in place now does a much better job of ensuring that a Pre-Premier dancer in the United States will be able to travel to Scotland or any other country with SOBHD style dancing and compete against other Pre-Premier dancers of like abilities in the same category.

Can a dancer really move up to a higher category at any time? - Yes. If a dancer chooses to compete in a higher category they may do that. It is important to remember that there is no going back. Once a dancer competes in a higher category they automatically move up and become that new category dancer regardless of whether they win or lose. So, if you find that it wasn't such a good decision to move from Novice to Premier after all, that's too bad because once you dance in that Premier category you are forever a Premier dancer. Because you might still have your old category card and not have a card of the category you are moving into the day of the competition, the organizer would have to issue you a temporary card and also notify the Regional Registrar so you will be issued a new card for the category you moved up to.

Is there any way I can keep my Beginner registration card when I move up to Novice? - Yes, you can. Some of the registrars send them back automatically. For other registrars, you may need to ask for it. But, you still must send the card in to the registrar when you move up.

Why do I have to send in a photo with my registration if they are only going to put a sticker on it? - Because Beginner/Novice cards don't need to be replaced unless the card is fully stamped or there is a change of address, etc. It is better to put a sticker on the card, especially if they have a number of original game stamps on the card rather than the registrar having to write in the stamps. However, if the card is a mess (like being put through the washing machine), the registrar will need to change it and they will already have a picture on hand.

Where do I get the intermediate move-up form? The organizer didn't give me one. - This form doesn't exist anymore because you don't need it. Instead you send your card into the registrar when you are ready to move to Intermediate. You will, however, need to send a signed registration form, new photo, your old card and a self addressed stamped envelope. Keep in mind the turn around time involved with issuing new cards and request the new card soon enough after the last Novice competition that you don't miss any competitions, unless you aren't in a hurry to move up.

I'm an Intermediate dancer. When my date comes for me to turn Premier, does FUSTA send me a new card automatically, or do I still need to send in a registration form for my new card? - You will have to do it. Just remember, any dancer who moves up from one class to another during the year will not pay an additional "upgrade" fee. You will, however, need to send a signed registration form, new photo, your old card and a self addressed stamped envelope. Keep in mind the turn around time involved with issuing new cards and request the new card soon enough after the last date of Intermediate that you don't miss any competitions, unless you aren't in a hurry to move up.

I am now a Novice dancer and I sent in my Beginner card to receive a Novice card. That was nearly four weeks ago. I was just wondering on when I might be receiving it? - Turn around time for new cards is three weeks, sooner if possible. If you have a problem receiving your new card in a timely fashion contact Diane Krugh, the National Registration Secretary at LadyDi5711@aol.com Diane will help to rectify the situation for you.

As I am now attending a University outside my home region, I was just wondering if you could clear up FUSTA's rules about competing in regional Championships other than the one you were born in? - Dancers who move from one region to another, or who attend school away from home, may dance in either the region of their birth or the region they are residing in, provided they have lived there for at least 6 months prior to that Regional Championship. Below are the steps you need to follow to if you choose to compete in a Regional Championship other than the region you are registered in:

  1. Starting in 2004, the Premier dancers will fill out a portion of the Registration Form that states in which Region they intend to compete for Regional Championships. If a dancer is registered in another Region or country, they will follow the process outlined below; however, they will have to contact the National Registrar of their intentions by January 31st. This will need to be done on an annual basis as long as they live in another Region or country.
  2. The National Registrar will send the dancer the new Request for Change of Regional Registration Form and inform them that as long as they live in a different Region or country, the form will need to be filled out on an annual basis and that the form must be completed and mailed back to the National Registrar by February 15th of the current year.
  3. The dancer must indicate on the Request for Change of Regional Registration Form the following information;
    1. What Region the dancer intends to compete in.
    2. Whether it is by "birth", in which case a copy of their birth certificate must be attached to the form, or by residence, in which case if the dancer is using their "current" address, i.e., college students, they will also need to indicate their permanent address along with their current address along with all other pertinent information requested.
  4. The dancer will send the completed form and information back to the National Registrar, who will contact all other necessary FUSTA and competition officials.
  5. The FUSTA Secretary will then contact the dancer by March 1st of the current year to inform them that they have completed all the necessary information and that FUSTA is pleased to inform them that they will be competing in the ______________ Regional for the year ____.
  6. Dancers who do not indicate otherwise will only be eligible for competition in their Regional Championship based on the Region of residency.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact your Regional Registrar.

We just got our FUSTA card and we found out that we are moving to a different region. Do we need to get a new card as soon as we move, or can we wait a little while? My daughter is dancing at a Novice level. - You won't need a new card until you move from Novice to Intermediate or until you have to register next year, whichever comes first. Your registration card is good in any region or country in the world that holds SOBHD competitions. So, next year you will register in your new region instead of your old one, but you are fine until then.

As a teacher, it is easier for me to send all of my student's registration forms in at the same time in one large envelope. Is that all right? - Some regional registrars don't have any problem with that, others do. Before you decide to send in one large envelope, you should first contact your regional registrar to see if that is a problem for them.

Sometimes, we run into emergency situations. Is it acceptable to ask the registrar if they could "rush" a registration card? - Again, this is something that is best asked directly of your regional registrar. Some are too busy to guarantee they will get the card back as soon as needed, others are happy to rush cards, but may have some specific needs before they will be able to do that. Contact your regional registrar to see how they handle rush cards before sending in the request.

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Questions Regarding Teaching/Teachers

Where can I find help teaching young dancers? - In regards to finding a place to help you teach young dancers, you may want to check out FUSTA's mentoring program. It is a program to help teachers find someone who is willing to help another teacher with problems such as yours. Contact either Kyla Groeschel kgroeschel@earthlink.net or Mandy McCulloch mandymc123@hotmail.com for more information. Also, you might consider attending teachers’ workshops, dance camps or conferences or requesting these types of classes at workshops. You may also want to consider getting together with local area teachers to discuss this topic and sharing ideas. Additionally, some of the Highland dance websites often have discussion groups about these and other topics.

Where can I find a dance teacher near where I live? - Go to the FUSTA Regions page. Find the region your state is located in and click on the appropriate delegate's email address. This person will help you locate the closest teacher to you.

What are the criteria for becoming a certified teacher? - You have to be at least 16 or 17 depending on which examining body you intend to be certified under. Also, you will have to pass an exam given to you by an examiner of the BATD, SDTA or UKA. To do this you basically have to know all the steps of all the Highland dances, not only in theory, but you will also have to be able to dance them. Also, the examiner will ask you teaching questions such as "how would you teach a young dancer who is having trouble learning Pas de Basques?" among other things. There is much more to it than this, but your teacher should be able to explain it to you. If you don't have a teacher near you, you may want to consider contacting the FUSTA mentoring committee mentioned in the first question of this section. Also, you may want to contact the examining body under which you want to be certified for an application form and syllabus for associate and members exams. Ask when and where exams are scheduled. The addresses for the examining bodies can be found above in the section "Questions Regarding Dance Organizations".

What credentials should you ask for in choosing a dance teacher? - Any Highland dance teacher who claims to teach SOBHD style competitive Highland dancing should be a member of either the BATD, SDTA or UKA. They should be able to produce a current membership card from one of these associations.

Can a dancer take lessons from more than one instructor? - There is nothing in the rules to prevent this, however, not all teachers want their students taking from another teacher. You should speak to your teacher before pursuing this.

How do you know if the instructor is doing a good job with the dancer? - Each individual has his or her own opinion as to what constitutes "doing a good job". It all depends on what you want out of your own Highland dancing experience. This is a very personal question that could be answered a hundred different ways depending on whether good means the dancer wins trophies and medals or just wants the experience of learning how to dance Highland dances.

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Questions Regarding Judging/Judges

What does it take to become a judge of highland dancing? - You have to be 21 years of age. You must be a full member of the Highland branch of one of the SOBHD recognized examining bodies. Remember that in order to pass the members exam, you will have to dance the four Highland dances. You must pass the judges test, which consists of three (3) parts, a written exam, judging a mock competition and an oral section. The oral section of the exam tests your knowledge of not only the four Highland dances, but also the Hornpipe, Jig and all three versions of the eight National dances performed in competition. You may want to consider taking up dialogue with someone who is a judge as this would be helpful in understanding what is involved in this endeavor. If you are seriously considering becoming a judge, the FUSTA mentoring program might be a good starting point.

Why don't all female judges were nice tartan skirts to judge in? - This is something that is left to personal choice. Though it is recommended that female judges wear tartan if they can, it isn't mandatory.

Why do we seem to see the same judges in our area year after year? - There could be a couple of reasons for this. First, the organizer's budget may dictate that they look for judges that are more local rather than from areas in other parts of the country or outside the country. Second, the organizer may be comfortable with the selection of judges they generally ask. There is no rule stating that there is a limit to the number of times a judge may be asked back for a competition, but most judges would decline to come back a third time in as many years out of respect for the dancers. By the way, for a Championship, a judge may only return for up to 3 years in a row.

Why don't more judges control the tempo of the music more at competitions? - There could be a couple of reasons for this as well. Possibly, the judge doesn't feel that there is a problem with the tempos, therefore, there is no need for control. Possibly, they are too intimidated to ask the piper to adjust his or her tempos so they let them go. Lastly, they may have already spoken to the piper about the tempo, so the piper is already playing what the judge wants, and you just don't agree.

When a piper's tempos are bad or unsteady, why doesn't the judge order a re-dance? - The judge may not feel the tempos were bad enough to affect the dancer enough to warrant a re-dance. Possibly, the dancers had done enough things wrong regardless of the tempos that a re-dance isn't necessary.

How often are judges re-tested or re-certified to verify their knowledge is up to date? - To remain eligible to judge Championships all judges are expected to attend at least one Championship set step lecture each year as well as at least one judges meeting every two years. If a judge does not attend a set step lecture, they will not be eligible to judge Championships the following year. If they do not attend at least one judges meeting in a two year period, they will be removed from the judge’s panel.

Is it the judge's or the organizer's responsibility to stop or move a competition due to inclement weather? - It is the organizer's responsibility to make that decision, however, a judge may override the organizers decision if he/she feels the decision puts the dancers in danger.

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Questions Related to Competitions/Championships

What is the rule regarding Primary dancers in the Pas de Basque's and High Cuts? - Primary dancers may do six Pas de Basques and four high cuts or they may do five Pas de Basques with an assemble and five high cuts. Either way is acceptable.

I am hearing conflicting reports on some awards that are given to Primary dancers. Some give medals and/or trophies to primary dancers, some only give ribbons and some get participation ribbons only. Others say no primary in the U.S. ever gets medals or trophies - that's only done in Canada. Help please! - It is entirely up to the organizer as to whether the dancers are awarded individual medals and/or ribbons for each event. For the most part, most games give all primary dancers a participation ribbon or medal, and then they also give out 1st, 2nd and 3rd place medals. Primary dancers should not be awarded trophies either as individual prizes or for most points awarded, however, no matter what country the competition is held in. Also to keep in mind that registration cards are not being stamped for Primary dancers.

How old does my child have to be before he/she can compete? - Children must be four years old before they can register to compete at SOBHD competitions. Each child develops at different rates and therefore the teacher should make the decision as to when they are ready to compete. There have been children as young as 4 competing in the Primary sections.

What is the structure for the competition day? Who goes first? What order? Will it always be the same order - beginner, novice, intermediate? - This depends on the organizer of the competition. Generally, the start times, who goes first and the order of the dances is all printed on the entry form. In the United States, the Pre-Premier (Beginner, Novice, Primary) generally are in the morning and the Intermediate and Premier groups are in the afternoon. The order of the dances generally follows the order as printed in the entry form.

How much time is between dances? - That depends on the size of the entry, the number of judges and how fast the organizer wants to get through the dances, among other things. Some competitions have been known to have less than 5 minutes between dances, though not often. Other competitions there have been more than 30 minutes between dances and this is probably closer to the norm. Generally, organizers try to schedule events to allow a reasonable recovery period between dances.

Where do the dancers change clothes? - Often, the organizer provides an area for dancers to change. This isn't always the case, however. Quite often, if they do provide changing facilities, it is normally only for female competitors. Male dancers are generally overlooked so you may want to look for the nearest restroom or bring a big towel. A small personal tent would be useful. Young dancers should be supervised if they must use public restrooms to change.

What is the point system used for judging? - 1st = 88, 2nd = 56, 3rd = 38, 4th = 25, 5th = 16 and 6th = 10.

What is the difference between "judge’s points" and "dance points"? - Judges points are the scores each dancer receives from the judge for each dance. The number could be any number from 0 for a disqualification to 100 for a perfect dance, though 100 is extremely rare. Judges points are used only to determine what place each dancer receives for each dance. Dance points are the points that correspond to the 6 possible placings, 1st through 6th, where 1st = 88 points, 2nd = 56 points, 3rd = 33 points, 4th = 25 points, 5th = 16 points and 6th = 10 points. Dance points are added up for each dancer for all dances in which that dancer placed and the highest cumulative number of dance points determines the overall winner for the group.

Why don't parents/dancers get to see the points or receive feedback from the judges? - Judges are hired to adjudicate, not to give dance lessons. The difference between being judged in a class and being critiqued as an individual is very significant. When judging a group the judge is looking at the dancers and comparing them to each other, which therefore makes it difficult to write down many comments for feedback for each individual dancer. For this reason, medals tests are given through the various branches (BATD, SDTA, UKA) which offer the dancers feedback on their individual ability and areas for improvement.

As far as seeing the "judge’s points" given, since all judges can create their own range for points the only significance to the point value is that it shows who will be awarded 1st through 6th place. In other words, the judge’s markings are simply a tool to help him/her select the top 6 dancers. If parents received copies of the sheets, they could make some erroneous deductions from the markings. For example, a dancer who sees that he/she only received 60 "judges points" for their performance may feel that this is poor, as a grade of 60 in school would be nearly failing, when in fact 60 points may be the top of the range in that class and be the equivalent of a 1st place medal.

What kind of supplies do you need to take besides the actual outfits? i.e. tents, chairs, food, etc. - It is important to find out whether the event will take place indoors or outdoors. For an outdoor competition you may need to bring any of the following: chairs, tents, blankets, sunscreen, umbrellas, and slip on shoe covers to avoid ruining the shoes in the dirt or grass. For an indoor competition there will likely be seating and no need for protection from the elements, however your dancer may want to have a blanket to put on the ground to stretch on. For any competition no matter where it is held it is always important to bring the following: plenty of water for the dancer to drink, some healthy snacks, an ice bag in case of injury, extra supplies for doing hair in a bun, glue for repairing a shoe if needed, etc. there is much, much more that could be included. A good start is to ask your teacher, better yet, ask other parents who have been going to competitions for some time.

Can you explain the use of the dancer card and the stamping process? - Always have your dancer registration card with you when you go to competitions. Some competitions require the card when you register; all competitions require the card during the awards. If you receive a 1st, 2nd or 3rd in any dance you need to get your card stamped by the organizer. When a competitor has gained a 1st, 2nd or 3rd, their registration card MUST be presented before the prize is given to the competitor. Any competitor unable to show their registration card will forfeit the prize until such time as the card is produced. Just as importantly, the card may be used as an identity card so that the organizer knows on the day of the event that the person competing is the person on the card and they are registered for the current year they are competing in. Also the date of birth ensures they are competing in the correct category and the color of the card identifies which group they belong in.

How does a dancer move from level to level? What are the levels? - There are five (5) levels, one (1) Premier level and four (4) Pre-Premier levels a dancer can move through.

  • Primary; A dancer under the age of seven may compete in this section until the seventh birthday is reached after which that dancer is classified as a Beginner dancer and is not eligible to enter a Primary event. A Primary dancer may elect to compete in a more advanced category at any time before reaching the age of seven, but thereafter must continue in the new category and/or advance in accordance with the Pre-Premier registration scheme.
  • Beginners; This status is held until the dancer either a) gains a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in six (6) separate competitions in either of the Highland dances - Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Triubhas, Reel, or Special or Trophy Fling; or b) until 6 months following the first Beginners stamp, whichever, a or b is the later, after which the dancer is classified as a Novice and is no longer eligible to enter a Beginners event. **
  • Novice; This status is held until the dancer either a) gains a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in six (6) separate competitions in any dance, or b) until 6 months following the first Novice stamp, whichever, a or b is the later, after which the dancer is classified as an Intermediate and is no longer eligible to enter a Novice event. **
  • Intermediate; This status is held for one year from the date of the dancer's first Intermediate competition entered, whether they actually dance at it or not, after which the dancer becomes a Premier dancer. (The exception to this Intermediate rule would be an extreme injury to the dancer, which would require a doctor’s note to extend the intermediate year. The decision to extend the year would be made by the Scottish Official Board.
  • Premier: This status is the final level a dancer can achieve in competition. Once a dancer has become a Premier dancer they remain at this level and are eligible to compete at Championships. A dancer under the age of 7 cannot enter to compete in a Championship.

** In regards to the six-month rule, a beginner or novice could conceivably enter and place in twenty competitions before the six months are up. There is no limit to how many wins you can achieve within that six-month period.

Who decides which competitions a dancer attends? - That should be a decision between the teacher, their individual dancers and the dancer's parents.

Does the instructor have to approve each one or sign the form? - Some entry forms require a teachers signature, others don't.

Do you have to dance all the dances at a competition? - No. Is it okay if you just know two and start with just those? - There is no rule against doing that, but, that is best decided between the teacher and the individual dancer. It is in the dancer’s best interests to be as prepared as possible before entering any competition. As a courtesy to the organizer, you should be clear about how many dances you will perform at a given competition.

What is a championship? How are the dances chosen? - A Championship is a more prestigious form of a competition. The organizer must apply to the SOBHD and be approved before the Championship can be held. Whereas a competition uses only one judge per group, a Championship uses three (3) judges, all judging independently. The scores are averaged to determine a winner in each group. The dances are set by the SOBHD and always consist of the Fling, Sword, Triubhas and the current year's reel, which could be the Strathspey and Reel of Tulloch, or Strathspey and Highland Reel, or Reel of Tulloch or the Strathspey, Highland Reel and Reel of Tulloch. The steps for the dances are set each year by the SOBHD Technical Committee so competitors of the same age dance the same steps.

What is the difference between an Open and a Closed Championship? - There are five (5) classes of Championships; World, National, Area, County and Additional Titles as appropriate. An Open Championship is one which competitors living outside the area named in the title may compete. For example, Alma, Michigan hosts the Great Lakes Open Championship, which is open to all Premier dancers. If the word "closed" is in the title, only those dancers residing in the named area are eligible to compete. As an example, Alma also hosts the Great Lakes Closed Championship, which is open only to those dancers residing in the Midwest region of FUSTA.

What is a Regional dance championship? Who can dance in it? - A Regional Championship is a closed championship. That means dancers eligible to enter must live, or have been born, within the boundaries of the region they want to compete in. They can meet eligibility one of two ways. First, they could meet eligibility by having been born in the region. Second, they could meet eligibility via residency by having lived in the region for six months immediately prior to the regional championship.

Which region do I compete in if I'm a college student living outside my home region? - Dancers who move from one region to another, or who attend school away from home, may dance in either the region of their birth or the region they are residing in, provided they have lived there for at least 6 months prior to that Regional Championship. Below are the steps you need to follow to if you choose to compete in a Regional Championship other than the region you are registered in:

  1. Starting in 2004, the Premier dancers will fill out a portion of the Registration Form that states in which Region they intend to compete for Regional Championships. If a dancer is registered in another Region or country, they will follow the process outlined below; however, they will have to contact the National Registrar of their intentions by January 31st. This will need to be done on an annual basis as long as they live in another Region or country.
  2. The National Registrar will send the dancer the new Request for Change of Regional Registration Form and inform them that as long as they live in a different Region or country, the form will need to be filled out on an annual basis and that the form must be completed and mailed back to the National Registrar by February 15th of the current year.
  3. The dancer must indicate on the Request for Change of Regional Registration Form the following information;
    1. What Region the dancer intends to compete in.
    2. Whether it is by "birth", in which case a copy of their birth certificate must be attached to the form, or by residence, in which case if the dancer is using their "current" address, i.e., college students, they will also need to indicate their permanent address along with their current address along with all other pertinent information requested.
  4. The dancer will send the completed form and information back to the National Registrar, who will contact all other necessary FUSTA and competition officials.
  5. The FUSTA Secretary will then contact the dancer by March 1st of the current year to inform them that they have completed all the necessary information and that FUSTA is pleased to inform them that they will be competing in the ______________ Regional for the year ____.
  6. Dancers who do not indicate otherwise will only be eligible for competition in their Regional Championship based on the Region of residency.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact your Regional Registrar.

What is the difference between a competition and a Championship? - A Championship must be applied for and approved by the SOBHD before it can be held. A competition can run under SOBHD rules, but does not need to apply for approval from the SOBHD. Winning a Championship is more prestigious than winning a competition as the quality of dancing is generally higher at a Championship.

How do I know if a competition or Championship is approved by the SOBHD? - A list of North American SOBHD Championships and competitions can be found on the events list page of this website. Also, Scottish Championships and competitions can be found on the SOBHD website http://highlanddancing.org/ and is usually mentioned on the entry form and/or program. In North America, most, if not all, competitions and Championships are SOBHD approved and run under SOBHD rules. This is not always the case overseas. Also, you could discuss it with your teacher who should know the answer.

How can I get information about competitions in other countries? - To determine what competitions are in other countries, I suggest you go to the Highland Island website at http://www.highlandisland.com/. This site is a fairly comprehensive site for games listings and it has entry forms for many of the games as well. You can also find an official list of competitions in Canada on the FUSTA website under Resources/Competitions. If you are interested in Scotland in particular, you would do well by going to the SOBHD website http://www.sobhd.net/ where all SOBHD run Championships are listed. Although not all of them have a contact address or phone number, some do. For a comprehensive list of competitions in Scotland go to the Toe and Heel website at http://www.toeandheel.com/. This site has many competitions and championships listed for Scotland, some with entry forms. It also has some of the competitions and championships for Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and the United States.

How do I register and enter SOBHD competitions in Scotland? - Your FUSTA registration card allows you to enter any competition run under SOBHD rules anywhere in the world. If you are interested in Scotland in particular, you would do well by going to the SOBHD website http://highlanddancing.org/ where all SOBHD run Championships and competitions are listed. Although not all of them have a contact address or phone number, most do.

Why do some competitions use large handled swords, while others use flat swords? - The decision as to which type of sword to use in a competition is left up to each organizer. In a Championship, all organizers must use sets of right and left handed raised hilted swords.

Why are cash prizes rarely awarded to dancers under the age of 16? - There is no rule prohibiting the awarding of money to dancers younger than 16. Often, budget constraints prohibit awarding money for all groups. Generally, it is thought that it isn't necessary to award money to younger competitors, who often prefer medals anyway.

Why have I seen some dancers using their head when they dance and others don't? - Pre-Premier dancers do not need to use head positions, though they may, so this may be what you have seen. Premier dancers must use head positions.

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Questions Related to Costumes and Choreography

How strict are the rules? Does a beginner have to be as strict? - This is a difficult question. One should try to follow the rules as best as one can. Having said that, the most that can be deducted for costume violations is five points. In regards to Beginners not being as strict in following the rules, the dress code for Pre-Premier is very lenient as it is. As a result, FUSTA encourages all competitors to attempt to follow the dress code as closely as they can.

Where is the best place to buy outfits? - Discuss with your teacher the best way to go about getting an outfit. Beginners may be able to find handed down costumes that are available within the dance school or other dance schools and most competitions have dancers selling old outfits. There may be a local seamstress in the area that makes costumes for dancers as well. Also, many companies make and take orders for dance costumes.

How many pairs of shoes should a dancer have at one time? - You will find that over time, eventually it is recommended that you have at least two pairs if possible. A good pair that fit well and make your feet look good for competitions and a second pair that were once your good pair that have been recycled down to dance class shoes or practice shoes. When you buy your next pair, you will have at least a pair for competition and a pair for class. Many premier dancers have three or four or more pairs of shoes, just in case.

What outfits does a dancer need to get started? - A Pre-Premier dancer’s most basic outfit would be a white blouse, plain hose, a pleated skirt and Highland dance pumps. These costume details are on the SOBHD costume flier and your teacher should have access to this. Or, you can go to the Costume/Choreography page on this website.

What are the different costumes used and what dances do they correspond to? - Highland outfit is worn to dance the Highland Fling, Sword, Seann Triubhas, Reels, Highland Laddie and Barracks Johnnie. National outfit is worn to dance the Scottish Lilt, Flora MacDonald's Fancy, Blue Bonnets, Scotch Measure and Village Maid. Jig and Hornpipe have their own outfits, plus male dancers may wear trews to dance the Seann Triubhas and the National dances. Again, refer to the Highland Outfit requirements put out by the SOBHD, or you can go to the Dress Code/Choreography page on this website.

When looking for my child's first beginner kilt what are some things I should be thinking about? - Think about the size of the dancer and the size of the sett of the tartan, i.e., a smaller sett looks better on a smaller child. Also, think about how much possible growth to allow for. A hem in the kilt is fine, but be careful not to overdo the amount of the hem because too much affects the look of the kilt while dancing. Hopefully some indication of your child’s interest in staying with Highland Dance would dictate how much to spend as dance costumes can be very costly. Stage presentation can also play a factor, i.e., dark colors versus bright colors.

Does the kilt have to be made out of a “dress” tartan? - Although “urban legend” seems to indicate otherwise, you do not have to wear a kilt that is made out of a "dress" tartan. The fact is, any recognized tartan is acceptable to use for a dancing kilt, but dress tartans are brighter and the matching hose tend to show off the dancer’s feet better.

Does the Aboyne tartan have to be a DRESS tartan, and for that matter, can it be a cotton plaid and not a wool or wool blend tartan? - The "tartan" for the Aboyne dress can be a real tartan or a "tartan like" material. It can be worsted wool, or it can be a wool blend, or it can be a cotton plaid or polyester, etc. Most of the usual "plaids" you find at Jo Ann Fabrics would work fine for an Aboyne skirt. What the tartan skirt can't be is a shiny material (such as taffeta) or have any shiny material in it.

Can the skirt of the white "lilt" dress be "circular" and not gathered? If so, must they still wear a slip underneath? - Although the tartan skirt must be gathered, the skirt part of the white dress can be circular, but it still has to be full enough to be held out in front with enough extra material to allow it to hang correctly. Yes, you still have to wear an underskirt no matter which style of skirt you wear.

Why do most dancers wear black trunks under their kilts when colored trunks are legal? - It could be because most people think you may only wear black trunks even though trunks colored to match the kilt are acceptable. Also, it may simply be easier to find black trunks.

Why are bows only worn on the Aboyne blouse in certain areas of the country? - Some may be under the misconception that it isn't acceptable to wear bows on the Aboyne blouse. Others may simply choose not to wear them.

Are earrings, rings or other jewelry allowed during competitions? - No

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Questions Related to the USIR

When a dancer holds a bye to the USIR, does the bye belong to the region or the age group in which the dancer won the bye? - Neither. The bye belongs to the dancer and moves with the dancer if he/she moves regions or age groups.

Do the USIR Champions automatically go to Scotland to compete at Cowal? - No, but they may compete at Cowal if they choose to.

Must a dancer be a US Champion before being eligible to compete at Cowal? - No, Cowal is open to any Premier level dancer.

How is the host for the USIR chosen? - The site for the USIR rotates between the six regions, making a complete cycle every six years. The FUSTA members of the host region determine which site within their region will host the USIR.

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© 2014 FUSTA - webmasters: Bruce Farrar & Bill Weaver - updated 01/08/2014