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Style Magazine

Highland Dancing

Oct 31, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

The Scottish tradition of Highland dancing is alive and well in El Dorado Hills. Two area girls dancing in the tradition of their forefathers are Emma and Mary Larsen, who both started classes with Kyla Groeschel at the School of Highland Dance in Fair Oaks about a year ago.

Emma and Mary started dancing at the age of three and have studied various forms of dance ever since. Sixteen-year-old Mary performs several times each month with her high school dance team in jazz and hip hop, and several times per year with Groeschel in Highland dance. She has competed in Irish dance in the past and now participates in numerous competitions, traveling as far as Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Thirteen-year-old Emma also competes in Highland and has competed at the Prizewinner level in Irish dancing.

Both girls take part in the annual Sacramento St. Patrick’s Day parade in Old Sacramento (hosted by Old Sacramento Business Association, Old Sacramento Management and Embarcadero Lions Club), and this year Mary was named Miss Shamrock 2008 by the Shamrock Club of Sacramento. Her duties included riding in a convertible in the parade and making various television and in-person public appearances to promote the parade. Emma and Mary have performed at several television stations to promote the events they participate in, such as the Sacramento Highland Games and the Sacramento Shamrock Club events.

The girls’ proud mother, Laura Larsen (also a dancer), says, “I think Scottish Highland dancing is fun to watch; the bagpipe music is toe-tappin’ and Highland dance is a fun, wholesome, cultural activity in which to have kids involved.”

Each Highland dance is part of the Scottish tradition, including a sword dance that was performed before battle and the Highland Fling, which was danced over a shield. The Highland dances have a heavy ballet influence, characterized by graceful leaps that imitate the stag. Dancers perform the dances exactly as they were performed hundreds of years ago, wearing the same costumes. The kilts worn by the dancers are tartans that represent Scottish families, and many dancers like to research their Scottish roots so that they can wear their own family tartan.

As for Groeschel, Mary and Emma’s teacher, she takes students all over Northern California to perform and recently took Devon Yip of El Dorado Hills to Scotland for the world championships at the Premier level, and Devon came in sixth in the world in Seann Triubhas (a Highland dance of celebration). She was also second overall in the North American Championships and third in the United States.

Not only are Groeschel’s students accomplished dancers, but she is a wonderful teacher, as well. “She’s very kind and loving,” says Laura. “The kids love to do their best for her.” Mary adds, “Kyla is awesome!”

The feeling is mutual. “I love those kids,” says Groeschel of Emma and Mary. “They have a spirit for their dancing that comes from within. They dance with more than a love of the culture – they dance for the love of dancing, and it shows.”

For more information or to contact the Highland School of Dance, visit