Skye dancer So­phie helps keep an­cient Gaelic tra­di­tion alive

The Oban Times - - DISTRICTS -

A 26-YEAR- OLD dancer from Skye is help­ing to bring an an­cient Gaelic tra­di­tion into the 21st cen­tury.

So­phie Stephen­son, orig­i­nally from Fort Au­gus­tus, is an ex­pert in Scot­tish step dance and has taught and per­formed around the world, in­clud­ing Canada, the US, Nor­way and Spain.

Step dance is a per­cus­sive style that had al­most van­ished in Scot­land be­fore its re-in­tro­duc­tion two decades ago.

Its sur­vival can be at­trib­uted to 18th- cen­tury New World set­tlers who passed down the tra­di­tional Gaelic arts to their de­scen­dants over the cen­turies.

Like the sto­ries, mu­sic and crafts, step danc­ing is still very much alive in com­mu­ni­ties on the other side of the At­lantic to­day, par­tic­u­larly in the Cana­dian Mar­itimes, and was more re­cently re-in­tro­duced into Scot­land’s folk scene through work­shops and fes­ti­vals.

So­phie took her first step dance classes aged 11 with pi­o­neer­ing dancer Har­vey Beaton, from Cape Bre­ton. Af­ter univer­sity, she moved to South Uist and at­tended the Univer­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands in Ben­bec­ula. It was here she be­gan teach­ing weekly step classes. A dance travel schol­ar­ship then took her to Cape Bre­ton and Prince Ed­ward Is­land and then she came to Sab­hal Mòr Os­taig in Sleat in 2013 to study Gaelic.

She now works in the col­lege’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, while still teach­ing step dance through her Sophab­u­lous Step Dance classes and work­shops.

‘I am try­ing to pro­mote a fresh take on the tra­di­tion by bring­ing it into the­atre and film and through col­lab­o­rat­ing with in­ter­na­tional artists,’ she ex­plained.

So­phie heads for the Fes­ti­val In­ter­cel­tique de Lori­ent next month in Brit­tany be­fore re­turn­ing to Skye for a Sophab­u­lous Step Dance Week­end, with work­shops at Sab­hal Mòr Os­taig dur­ing the Skye Fes­ti­val – Fèis an Eilein.

The week­end takes place on Satur­day and Sun­day Au­gust 19 and 20 and is suit­able for adults and chil­dren over 12.

Scot­tish step dance spe­cial­ist So­phie Stephen­son.

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