As part of our series on Highland Dance we just had to feature a piece on the latest fitness craze sweeping the nation. Meet Gillian, founder of The Highland Hustle fitness class. Lifelong dancer and 4th in the World Highland Dance Championships and soloist performer at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Gillian is now a PE teacher, wife and mum to three children so this is clearly a lady who likes to pack plenty into each day.
Taking inspiration from the smiles on everyone's faces at ceilidhs, Gillian was struggling to find a dance exercise class that she found fun and fulfilling so she decided to create her own:
I loved running and cycling but the feeling of dancing just never leaves you and I could not find an exercise class that allowed me to dance and push myself both physically and mentally too. I also wanted to help share some of the basic movements of Highland dance with friends who had never danced before and so to start with I tested routines and ideas on family and friends until I was sure I had a concept that worked.
The very first class was held in February 2014 in a Church Hall in Perthshire and today there are classes in six countries. Gillian still teaches classes herself and tests the music and moves on these willing participants before releasing new programmes to her team of teachers around the world. If you can't get to class there are DVDs and online streaming so you have no excuse not to give it a go because in Gillian's own words "Highland Hustle is all about getting people dancing no matter age, shape or ability and celebrating everything Scottish."
And Gillian isn't stopping here. As a class targeting all ages Hustle Tots is the new big thing:
It is so important for me to be able to respect and raise the profile of traditional Highland Dance too, particularly to encourage children to get involved. Our newer Highland Hustle Tots class is encouraging parents to start dancing and exercising with their tiny tots. The aim is to help children then find Highland Dance classes to progress to. Parents, family and friends can go along to Highland Hustle and to introduce children to dance, rhythm and lots of Scottish influences from the earliest age!
We caught up with Ann and Heather who attend our local Duns class to find out just why the classes are so special:
Ann told us "I love Highland Hustle because I can be me! Not mum, not Miss Lindsay, not even Ann the home maker or local event organiser, it's time for me and Hustle and nothing else. I've attended Highland Hustle classes across the Borders and is such a friendly activity, wherever you go, if you know people or not, you are welcomed and encouraged. Dance and exercise is why we all go, the added social side is a welcome benefit. Eileen is such a great instructor, she's so welcoming and inclusive. There are low and high levels and she will show you both, no judgement from anyone only encouragement. The Duns group varies in age from 14- 60+, but when we are all dancing none of that matters, we just crack on, dance and have fun."
This is my favourite quote and what you see on the faces of participants if you peep in door:
I love to sing, music had always been a passion of mine, dancing at Hustle gives me the music and you can sing along too! It gives you a sense of freedom, escape from daily pressures.
Heather went to the Hustle on Wednesday night for the first time: "It's a fun class that combines exercise moves with Highland dance moves and all to great music. I did the low impact stuff as a newby! I am stiff as a board today but oh it's fun."
If these lovely ladies haven't inspired you I don't know what will. Find out about your local Highland Hustle class here and spread the love of Highland Dancing, smiling and feeling fit. We have 2 DVD's to give away so head over to our Facebook page for the chance to enter our competition.