‘It’s a dream come true’: Island dancer wins Highland Dance world championship in Scotland

(Supplied by Brigadoon Dance Academy, Instagram)

After 11 years of dancing, triumphs and numerous ups and downs, an Island dancer is now considered among the best in the world for Highland Dancing.

Annalise Lam of Nanaimo has been dancing since she was six, focusing on Highland dancing. The dance form has been done for hundreds of years according to Annalise’s instructor Diena Henry of Brigadoon Dance Academy.

The dancing was done primarily by males, telling a story as part of their military-style training for cardio, agility and strength.

Annalise was drawn to highland dancing through her sister’s interest in the art.

“She was one of my biggest idols, so of course, I wanted to follow in her footsteps because she always looked like she was having so much fun doing it,” said Annalise. “It seemed natural for me to do it too and I started it and I loved it so much.”

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After many years of training, Annalise won the Canadian National Championship and the World Junior Championships in Scotland, having only placed as high as fifth in years before.

The journey to winning the championship has never been easy, according to both Annalise and Diena.

“There’s been a lot of obstacles,” Annalise said. “I haven’t always dominated or anything close to that.”

“Watching Annalise since she was little, she’s just always been so focused,” said Diena. “In any sport, you let kids have a quick water break. She would use that time to go to the mirror to fix a correction we had been working on.”

Outside of competition and training, injuries have caused setbacks in her progress along with the pandemic which Diena says saw Canadian dancers be left out of international competitions.

Through all the difficulties, however, Diena says she has always kept her head in the game with training and showing up to competitions even when she was injured.

The World Championship was a fast-paced competition, where neither Annalise nor Diena knew if she had won while points were calculated and put together.

At the end of the competition, Diena said to take it all in after they learned she had won the competition.

“It feels amazing, it’s a dream come true. Just going this year has been such a breakthrough in my dance career and it’s just been going up and up, climbing higher and higher,” said Annalise. “It’s a really proud moment for me.”

Annalise says her next steps will bring more challenges over the coming years. As she turns 18, she will move from the junior to adult categories, pitting her up against some of the best dancers in the world.

However, she feels she has the tools and background to continue propelling her forward.

“There are so many people that support me, it’s overwhelming,” she said. “After I got Wi-Fi in Scotland after I had won worlds, I had so many messages, so many people support me and were genuinely happy for me.”

She thanks everyone who has been supporting her over the years and looks forward to the road ahead.