East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, July 20, 2019, WEEKEND EDITION, Image 17

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WEEKEND, JULY 20, 2019
makes a home in Eastern Oregon
Staff photo by Jessica Pollard
Annie Pankratz performs the basic steps
to the Sword Dance on July 13 at the Ath-
ena Caledonian Games.
Three young dancers
take competitions
‘quite serously’
East Oregonian
The Caledonian
Games last week-
end brought a
Highland dance
the region for the
fi rst time in six years.
The competition was hosted
in Athena but the 19 competi-
tors came from as far as Seattle
and Boise, Idaho, to take aim
at winning medals for their
stamina, precision, and timing.
The three carrying the torch
for Oregon were some of the
youngest competitors.
Kimberly Kilgore, 7, and
Penelope Benitez, 8, both
of Athena, competed in the
beginner’s bracket, and Annie
Pankratz, 4, of Milton-Freewa-
ter, performed as well.
They all donned traditional
kilts, tartan hose, velvet jackets
and ghillies — shoes that look
like ballet slippers, but with
many more straps.
Their teacher, Cassandra
Humphrys, an organizer for the
competition, has been dancing
for over 20 years. She teaches
at the Mid-Columbia School of
Highland Dance in the Tri-Cit-
ies while attending school full
time to become a nurse.
While the competition
offered a brief glimpse into the
world of Highland dance for
the audience, it’s a year-round
reality for those interested in
perpetuating the rich Scottish
heritage represented by the
With a grant from the Uma-
tilla County Cultural Coali-
tion last year, Sue Friese, pres-
ident of the Athena Caledonian
Games, invited Humphrys to
begin instructing in Athena.
Now, she drives down to
the historically Scottish town
weekly to teach the young
“Athena needs to have the
dancing, and by golly we get
to see them,” Friese said before
Saturday’s competition.
Humphrys said she hopes
the competition will drive new
dancers her way. At its peak,
the Athena program had 10
dancers, but currently it’s just
the three girls.
She said that competitions
are becoming few and far
between in the Pacifi c North-
west area.
Pankratz’ mother, Emily
Holden, sells clothing at the
Staff photo by Kathy Aney
Four Highland dancers perform July 13 during the Caledonian Games in Athena.
Staff photo by Kathy Aney
Bree Ross of Colbert, Wash. (left), Kimberly Kilgore (center) and Penelope Benitez (right) perform the
Highland Fling during the Highland dance competition on July 13.
A Highland dancer bows after
competing July 13 during the
Caledonian Games in Athena.
Caledonian Games. She said
last year, her daughter saw the
Highland dancers and fell in
“She’s always very excited
for a competition,” Holden
said. Pankratz had the stage to
herself, as she performed some
beginner’s steps, and gave a
gracious bow.
Holden said her daughter
takes the competitions quite
After the competition, Beni-
tez and Kilgore ran around the
park and spotted ladybugs in
the grass. The pair attends
Athena Weston Elementary,
and appears to be insepara-
ble. They’ve been dancing with
lend clues as to why.
“For her it’s a lot of work. It’s
not easy. It’s pretty athletic,”
said Kilgore’s dad, Brian.
He said sometimes she gets
distracted, but she loves the art
Kilgore and Benitez both
said they plan on dancing for a
long time.
Benitez, who sported blue
last Saturday, said she wanted
a red kilt like Kilgore. But the
color of her kilt didn’t stop her
from placing fi fth in the begin-
ner’s bracket.
She said she loves Highland
dancing because, as she puts
it, “you move your legs and it
makes you strong.”
Staff photo by Jessica Pollard
Humphrys for a year and a half.
“When we’re not danc-
ing we like to do stupid stuff
together,” Benitez said with a
But when it’s showtime, the
girls put on serious faces and
get down to dancing. Right
now, they just know two dances
but are both hoping to learn the
Scottish Lilt, a national dance
with ballet infl uence.
Their favorite, in the mean-
time, is called the Sword.
jaw-dropping about watching
elementary schoolers hop over
swords with seemingly syn-
chronized precision.
The swords are props, but
that doesn’t make the reality of
the dancing any less interest-
ing. Like many of the Highland
dances, the Sword dance — or
Ghillie Callum — is steeped in
varying tales of folklore.
One of the most promi-
nent, according to the Scot-
tish Offi cial Highland Dancing
Association, is that centuries
ago, Scottish prince Malcolm
Canmore defeated one of his
enemies, crossed his bloody
sword over that of the slain
and danced over the weapons
Highland dancing is con-
sidered a sport by the Sports
Council of Scotland, and
watching it happen live can
Staff photo by Kathy Aney
Three young Highland dancers compete July 13 at the Caledonian Games in Athena.