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Scottish dance and music comes to Bemidji

submitted photo Jennifer Licko-Carrere and piper Dick Hensold will perform starting at 7 p.m. Saturday at the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji.

BEMIDJI — Bemidjians will have a chance to see and hear the dance and music of historic Scotland when Jennifer Licko-Carrere and piper Dick Hensold perform starting at 7 p.m. Saturday at the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. The program includes songs by Licko-Carrere in Scots-Gaelic and traditional Scottish Highland Dance and Step dancing.

Hensold’s pipes are not those we usually see at parades in Bemidji. He will play the Northumbrian softer-sounding small pipes and Reed pipes to complement the singing and dancing.

Tickets for this family-friendly event, Scots-Gaelic Song and Pipe Music from the Western Isles of Scotland, will be sold at the door for $14 and $16.

Scottish dancing is more regimented and usually relates to a specific meaning or event. Warriors danced the Sword Dance before a battle; swords would be crossed and laid on the ground and the dancer would dance around and between the swords. Legend has it that if the warrior would hit or touch a sword that meant he would lose. The Victory Dance is reserved for after a battle. These are not improvisational fun dances. It is competitive athletic-type dance judged for precise and controlled movements.

There are a few dances that are known as women’s dances and they are related to the Irish Step Dance, although they are more lyrical in nature and build in difficulty as the dance continues. The kilt is usually a skirt that flares similar to a peasant woman’s dress and scarf.

Irish Step Dancing starts and ends with high-energy taps and jumps with the dancers’ kilts and highly ornamented aprons adding to the excitement. Irish also keep their arms at their sides while dancing while the Scottish dancers use their arms and jumps in almost a balletic nature.

As a child in North Carolina, Licko-Carrere traveled the world performing Scottish Highland dances, competed at Scottish Festivals and learned many aspects of Scottish culture and tradition.

A professor at East Carolina University in North Carolina encouraged her to pursue her interests and study Scottish music as part of her vocal major with a piano minor undergraduate education. Eventually, she was a recipient of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study a language only spoken in the Hebrides, Scots-Gaelic. The Rotary had to do a lot of bending and stretching to fit Licko-Carrere’s desire to save a dying language spoken in the Hebrides, a magical outcropping from the mainland Scotland.

The Rotary host in Scotland set up Licko-Carrere to live in an apartment with other students and she went to class at the university and took advanced classes in Scottish history.

“I went to Rotary meetings and met so many people,” Licko-Carrere said. “I would talk about North Carolina and how different it was from Scotland. It was so much fun. Then my host set up a move to the Hebrides to stay with families who still speak the Scots-Gaelic as that is the only place it is still spoken. It was a fantastic experience.”

Licko-Carrere used her experience as a Rotary Scholar to study from the British Isles; she traveled throughout Europe, Canada and South America.

After returning to the U.S. from Brazil in 2009, she developed educational programs to share and help educate young generations through music in elementary schools across the U.S. with cultural concerts and workshops.

 “It’s programs like the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that continue to nourish small communities across the world, as well as promote cultural knowledge and understanding,” said Licko-Carrere. “I have been able to take my experience as a Rotary Ambassador and share this with thousands of people — from young kids to adults.”

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota state arts board thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.