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FUSTA...Twenty Five Years and Going Strong!
Written by Christie Freestone on the Occasion of FUSTA's 25th Anniversary

Few highland dancers today, remember a time when there was not a FUSTA organization in the United States. However, those of us who remember when Primary dancers were called "Babies," Premier dancers were called "Open" and "Best Dressed" referred to how well you wore your kilt (not to Hollywood's Top Ten) remember all too well! In those "Pre-FUSTA" days, highland dance flourished in many segregated areas of the country. Dancers often spent their entire competitive dancing career venturing no farther than a tank of gas would take them. An eastern area champion could reign and retire without ever dancing a propelled pivot turn with their western counterpart. North, South, East, West... and never the twain shall meet! Little did we know that highland dancing in the United States was about to change....

The vision for a national organization came in the spring of 1979, when the idea of a national highland dance championship was introduced to the Detroit area dance teachers. The United States was the only country in the highland dance world which did not host a national championship competition. While the idea appealed to the local area teachers, it was imperative that all areas of the country embrace the concept for a U.S. championship to become a reality. The idea was taken to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games that summer, where it was introduced to a select group of judges and teachers from around the country. The response was overwhelming! The next step of the journey was to secure national support.

At the Professional Highland Dance Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1980, Jeanne Roberts and Janis Burkhardt facilitated the first organizational meeting of U.S. teachers and judges attending the conference. Finally, East met West and North met South! Consolidated in their desire to sponsor a United States Highland Dance Championship, officers were elected and commissioned to initiate a national organization representing all regions of the country. The Federation of United States Teachers and Adjudicators of Highland Dance (FUSTA) was established!

First OfficersThe founding officers, armed only with their enthusiasm, began the complex task of creating a national organization from the ground up. The first officers were: Christie Freestone, President; Jeanne Roberts, Vice-President; Janis Burkhardt, Secretary; and Diane Krugh, Treasurer. They were responsible for naming the organization, designing the logo, writing the by-laws, raising funds, instituting traditions, as well as generating the framework upon which the organization would continually build.

OFFICERS Diane Krugh, Jeannie Roberts, Christie Freestone, Janis Burkhardt



FUSTA Presidents - Jumping the Hurdles and Leading the Way

Over the past 25 years, eleven dedicated individuals have held the office of FUSTA President. They have impacted the essence of highland dancing in the United States immeasurably. Each entered their term of office with unique goals and are remembered for their varied accomplishments.

Christie FreestoneChristie Freestone, the first FUSTA President (1980-1982), never imagined that her original dream of having a national championship would evolve into the prestigious organization FUSTA is today. "The time was right, the enthusiasm was high, and the need had come for the United States to take its rightful place in the world of highland dance. I was inspired by the great American highland dancers and teachers of my day, and it was important to me to ensure that the American dancers, teachers and judges of the future would be respected around the world always!"

Janis BurkhardtJanis Burkhardt, the second President of FUSTA (1982-1983), dedicated her term to escalating the prestige and recognition of the regional finalists. As president, she solicited funding through a letter writing campaign, contacting over two-thousand Scottish organizations throughout the United States. As a result of her efforts, many U.S. Governors wrote personal letters of congratulations to their state highland dance finalists. "I am proud I was able to continue to carry the torch in developing FUSTA into a professional organization."

Ann JohnsonAnn Johnson is the only individual who has served as president twice. She recalled the most difficult moment in her first presidency (1983-1985) as her most significant contribution. "I am probably most remembered for correcting a scrutineering error. This particular error resulted in the wrong dancer being awarded a U.S. Championship title. Not correcting the error would have been a contradiction in the standard that FUSTA had worked so diligently to establish."

Marguerite ReidMarguerite Reid, fourth President of FUSTA (1985-1987), was the instigator of the first meeting between FUSTA and the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dance (SOBHD). Establishing communication between these two organizations was a priority during her term. She was remembered as saying, "The standard of dance has definitely improved since the establishment of FUSTA."

Sharon FarrarSharon Farrar, fifth President of FUSTA (1987-1989), is best remembered for her efforts and accomplishments in securing tax exempt and incorporation status for FUSTA. She had the foresight to recognize the changing needs of a growing organization. In response to these changing needs and to our desire to be an SOBHD Affiliated Member, Sharon initiated the revision of the original by-laws to make FUSTA's organizational structure acceptable to the SOBHD. In 1988 during Sharon's term, the Board approved FUSTA's application to be an Affiliated Member. "My most enjoyable and memorable duty as president was to give a toast of honor to our USIR finalists as they prepared to compete at Alexandria, Virginia in 1988 and Monterey, California in 1989. The excellence of our United States dancers is a tribute to FUSTA's success."

Sandra WeymanSandra Weyman entered her term as president (1989-1991) during a rather difficult time in FUSTA's history. "I spent many hours in phone calls and personal contacts, facilitating open communication between the regions. It was important to me to promote and encourage harmony among the regions. I wanted all members to appreciate each other's contributions to highland dancing." The results of a survey she created led to the shifting of FUSTA's focus from simply hosting the United States Inter-Regional Championship to that of a more nationally incorporated organization.

Jeannie BraunsJeannie Brauns accomplishments as FUSTA's seventh president (1991-1993) include sponsoring the first national workshop tour open to FUSTA members and delegates in all regions in the U.S. She must also be remembered for her efforts in the first co-sponsored FUSTA/ScotDance Professional Conference in Las Vegas in 1992, as well as the institution of the first national registration scheme of U.S. highland dancers. "I fondly acknowledge all the many willing workers.... for nothing happens without their cooperation and hard work."

Elizabeth CoyleElizabeth Coyle, eighth President of FUSTA (1993-1995) saw the initiation of the World Wide Registration scheme during her term of office. Elizabeth maintained a passionate desire to achieve national identity for the FUSTA organization during her presidency. Like other past presidents, she credits FUSTA with, "raising the standards of highland dancing in the United States."

Catherine HyndCatherine Hynd, the ninth President of FUSTA (1995-1997) achieved a stronger voice for FUSTA on the SOBHD by attending the first Liaison Meeting in Glasgow, initiated the revision of the FUSTA bylaws, published a competition list, printed the FUSTA brochure, provided duplicate judge's sheets for U.S. championships, established a Judges' Committee and produced the FUSTA tape/CD of music for dancing. Emphasis was decidedly on service to the members of the organization. "This is not about what I have done, but about what we have done: three sharp, efficient officers, bright, objective regional delegates, willing committee chairmen and the general membership have made it possible to provide greater service to our members and to move FUSTA toward strong national leadership and independence."

Nancy StrolleNancy Strolle (1997-1999) focused her term of office on motivating and encouraging the membership to become involved in "their organization." Under her leadership, the bylaws were completed. Nancy was the first president to take part in actual SOBHD Board Meetings and the SOBHD AGM. This was one of many turning points in the history of FUSTA that have served to make the organization the dynamic force in the United States that it is today. "How wonderful it was to have had the opportunity to attend the various SOBHD meetings and help to bring a "face" of FUSTA to Scotland and bring a better understanding of the SOBHD back to FUSTA. Our attendance at those meetings helped to open the door to better relationships. After all, we were all working towards the same goals...that of furthering highland dancing even if we weren't always on the same page."

Bill WeaverBill Weaver, FUSTA's first and only male president (1999-2003) helped to increase communication by establishing the FUSTA website. During his two terms as president, he worked to foster global change by pushing for a true worldwide board that included an organization which represents Scotland as an entity separate from the SOBHD which continues to be developed. Bill's hard work was responsible for the fact that overseas organizations such as FUSTA are now being treated as peers by the SOBHD as evidenced by the fact that FUSTA and other organizations have been given more autonomy to act on many domestic issues as well as being asked for input on various global issues and problems that come up for discussion. "Although people may not agree with every decision the President makes, I feel that I had the strength to act on my convictions always in the best interests of FUSTA and highland dancing."

Ann JohnsonAnn Johnson, in her second term as President of FUSTA (2003-2009), believed that FUSTA's focus had not really changed since the organization was founded in 1980, but it had expanded. In the early years the focus was building the organization. As FUSTA grew and became more established, it successfully balanced meeting the needs of its diverse membership with assuming a larger role in the world wide community of highland dance. She believed that the challenge for the future would be to maintain that balance to ensure FUSTA's longevity. "One of the things I find most appealing about FUSTA members is their collective willingness to make significant changes without compromising the integrity or ideals of the organization. Each change has become a part of FUSTA's story, defined its history and shaped its future."

Anne DonlanAnne Donlan, the current FUSTA President, came to office in 2009 after 15 years of service on the Board of Directors. As Vice President, Anne succeeded in persuading all the competitions in the United States to register with FUSTA. She compiled a Competition Organizers' Manual that is issued to Organizers when they register and is updated on a regular basis. This manual is invaluable when new people assume the role of Organizer. Anne also wrote a USIR Manual that records the details of running a USIR. "It is a privilege for me to serve as FUSTA President, after serving in the positions as Eastern Region Delegate, Secretary, and Vice President over the course of the past 15 years. As FUSTA celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year, we reflect on how far we have come and look forward to the future and expanding on our achievements, meeting the needs of our membership, and continuing to work with the SOBHD and member organizations to promote Highland Dancing throughout the world."


USIR - Past and Present
The first 29 years as written by
Diane MacPhee Krugh

The first USIR (United States Inter Regional Championship) was in 1981 and 12 miles from the center of freedom, our Nation's capital, Washington, D.C. The host hotel was located in the heart of Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles away from the USIR venue. The day was hot and sunny when all those dreams became a reality and history was being made for Highland Dancing in the United States. Since that time we have had 28 USIR Championships in 20 different cities all around the country.

Over the years FUSTA has had to alter the original format of the championship to accommodate the ever-increasing number of competitors. For the first twelve years, dancers competed in four age groups: 12 years and under, 15 years and under, 17 years and under and 18 years and over. Then the top three dancers in each age group received recognition. By 1993, participation had grown to the point that FUSTA decided to add an 11 years and under group and changed the 12 years and under to 13 years and under. In 2004 the number of dancers recognized in each age group grew from three to six. Additionally, each U.S. Champion earns a bye for the following year's regional contest and automatically receives a spot at the USIR.

The USIRs not only have raised the standard of Highland Dancing in the United States, but they have also built camaraderie amongst the country's Highland Dancing community. Before the USIR, Highland Dancing competitions were primarily regional, making opportunities to meet other dancers from around the country very limited. Now dancers look forward to traveling each summer to new cities and states, to see old friends and make new ones during a long weekend that includes sightseeing, banquets and dances (not the Scottish kind!). It is unanimous that everyone enjoys the social gatherings. Parents mingle with other parents at breakfasts, afternoon teas, or evening wine and cheese, while teachers and judges have their own time to socialize.

One of the highlights of the USIR weekend is a special lunch or dinner that honors that year's USIR representatives. This event also includes the announcement of a new Hall of Fame member and the winners of the FUSTA Academic Scholarships.

Traditions associated with the USIR have evolved over its twenty-nine years. For example, at the first championship, the dancers were given punch cups and the very first USIR toast was made to the dancers around the swimming pool of the host hotel. Now, those punch cups are presented to the teachers who have dancers attending the USIR for the first time and all the teachers who have had a representative at the USIR get recognized the day of the championship.

At the second USIR in Portland, Oregon, Lynne Dickson Abbott from Australia thought we should recognize the dancer/teacher partnership that had gained the most aggregate points in the USIR. Ms. Abbott donated the Australian Achievement Award - a lovely wooden boomerang for the dancer, plus an opal ring for the dancer and his/her teacher. After nine years, in 1994, the award was changed to the perpetual FUSTA Achievement Award - a crystal bowl presented to the dancer who gained the most aggregate points. In 1998, that award was retired.

Until 1997, a Dancer of the Day Trophy was presented to the winner of a dance off. Now, all the US Champions dance a four-step Victory Fling. Since 1999, all the teachers of the U.S. Champions are presented gold charms signifying the year their dancers won. In addition, each U.S. Champion in the 11 and under, 13 and under, and 18 and over age groups receive a monetary scholarship in honor of three special ladies, Mrs. Marguerite Reid, Mrs. Betty Lawrence, and Mrs. Jessie Haggerty, MBE.

The Parade of Regions is one of the traditions that has remained the same over all these years. Dancers from each region line up behind their banners and are presented to the audience in a display of regional pride. Each dancer is then presented a certificate of accomplishment.

We have come a long way from those early years. We as teachers have grown from strength to strength in our knowledge and appreciation of Highland Dancing. We consider it an honor and a privilege to have our students be part of Highland Dancing history. A special note of thanks and gratitude to those great talents, past and present, from Scotland, who educated us and fostered the growth of Highland Dancing in the days before FUSTA. From each of us in the United States to all in Scotland, thank you for sharing your love, appreciation, technique and dedication. We are truly grateful!

FUSTA Milestones

1980 The first FUSTA meeting is held at the Professional Highland Dance Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
1981 The first USIR is held in Alexandria, Virginia.
1982 The FUSTA Newsletter is published for the first time with Sharon Farrar as editor.
1983 FUSTA is incorporated as a non-profit tax exempt corporation.
1988 FUSTA becomes an Affiliated Member of the SOBHD.
1992 FUSTA establishes a national dancer registration scheme and soon becomes part of the SOBHD Worldwide Registration Scheme.
1995 FUSTA President Cathy Hynd attends the first SOBHD Liaison Meeting on August 21, 1995 in Glasgow. A FUSTA representative has attended this meeting every year since its inception.
1996 FUSTA holds its first Midwinter Meeting in Chicago, IL.
1996 Bill Weaver creates FUSTA's first website.
1998 FUSTA establishes the policy of sending its President to the SOBHD AGM and November Meeting every year. Nancy Strolle becomes the first FUSTA President to attend.
2004 FUSTA establishes an academic scholarship for our college-bound dancers.
2005 FUSTA invites our Head Delegate to the SOBHD, Miss Aileen Robertson, to attend the FUSTA Midwinter Meeting annually.
2005 FUSTA celebrates the 25th USIR at Mt. Vernon, Washington.
2006 FUSTA establishes the FUSTA Hall of Fame.
2007 FUSTA National Scrutineering Certification Course is introduced.
2008 FUSTA Competition Organizers' Manual is written and distributed by Vice President, Anne Donlan.
2008 FUSTA honors Jessie Stewart Haggarty, MBE for her contribution in developing Highland Dancing worldwide and especially in the United States by establishing a scholarship in her name to be presented to the Adult Champion at the USIR.


© 2019 FUSTA - webmasters: Bruce Farrar & Bill Weaver - updated 01/07/2019