Skye dancer Sophie helps keep ancient Gaelic tradition alive
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.