Celtic Meets Country in Canada – Bold Steps Dancers

Bold Step

Submitted by Sandy Graham

As we are fast approaching The Beach Celtic Festival on September 7 & 8 in Kew Gardens, Toronto,  I wanted to pay homage to a Scottish Canadian choreographer and her dancers, who have managed to take highland dancing, Ottawa step dancing and weave it into a country music song, all while maintaining  the roots of songs and steps.

Most of us have had the experience of bagpipes and highland dancers at some point at either a parade, wedding or festival. What drew my attention to The Bold Step Dancers was the unique choreography the do, especially to the showstopper of ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’, the Charlie Daniels Band hit. The song talks of a competition between the fiddler and the devil dueling it out musically; Bold Steps takes it one step further by dueling it out with their performance.

Meghan Bold credits her teacher, Rae MacCulloch as the inspiration who taught her to love the art of dance. “I travelled internationally with the troupe, places like Spain, Mexico, Disneyland, all over the US, Ontario and Quebec. I began teaching at 15 years old and I have loved it ever since.”

Highland Dance and competitions have long been a mainstay of Canadian events, with Highland Games being a centerpoint for competitions as well as all year round throughout the world. The Ottawa Step dancing is another thing all together.

Canadian stepdance, also known as Maritimes stepdance, is a unique style of stepdance in Canada, stemming from European origins including France, Scotland and Ireland. Canadian stepdancing involves fast dancing to fiddle music using shoes with taps designed to accentuate the dancer’s rhythmical, drumming foot movements. Dancers generally require little dance space to perform their routines. Some styles of Canadian stepdancing include upper-body postures that are relatively relaxed compared to older stepdance styles, allowing occasional arm movements that flow with the rhythm of the dance, or hands on hips.

There are three different Canadian stepdance styles originating from different regions across Canada. Cape Breton Style is unique to the Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia, and is danced with straight arms, stiff upper bodies, and quick, repetitive footwork. French Canadian Style originates from Quebec, and involves intricate footwork with arms relaxed but mostly immobile. Ottawa Valley Style, deriving from Ottawa, features variable, aggressive steps danced high off the floor, and flowing arm movements.

Bold Step Dancers demonstrate this in a routine they call ‘Acappella’ which in the music world means no music, and so they create the ‘music’ with their feet. It has a tribal feel and stirs the celtic blood just to watch it.

Meghan Bold also teaches classes and takes all ages young and old. All are welcome.

Music comes in all forms, and the history of the Celts in Canada was that they brought their songs and their dances with them from ‘over the pond’. Statistics show that one in five Canadians have Scottish and Irish heritage, and growing up ‘kitchen parties’ were a way of inexpensive entertainment. Neighbours showed up with food, instruments and they all sang and danced. Bold Step Dancers have a unique style of combining traditional highland with step dancing, and always bring a smile to the audience in their performances.

Bold Step Dancers appear at the Beach Celtic Festival on Saturday September 7 and Sunday September 8 in Toronto, Canada. www.thecelticfestival.com.

For more information about Bold Step and classes visit www.boldsteps.ca