A wee bit of summer fun

Peddie science teacher Katy Lambson performs in a traditional kilt costume.

Several Peddie students can now add Scottish Highland Dancing to their educational pursuits thanks to the school’s pilot Summer Seminar Series, which debuted in June.

Summer seminars offer incoming and returning students the opportunity to choose from more than two dozen virtual classes taught by Peddie faculty on topics ranging from backyard architecture design and comedy improvisation to the history of women’s sports teams and the role of literature in a crisis. 

For certified Highland dancing instructor and Peddie science teacher Katy Lambson, Ph.D., teaching a summer seminar has been a great way to share her passion with Peddie students.

“During the pandemic, I thought that a lot of students were probably feeling as cooped up and inactive as I was,” she said. “Since Highland dance doesn’t take up much space and it is a really good workout, I thought that it would be a fun way for them to learn something new.”

Scottish Highland Dancing is a culturally rich form of dance with roots dating back to the 15th Century. It is a particularly athletic type of dancing done by bouncing entirely on the balls of the feet while employing intricate footwork. 

Lambson has been Highland dancing since she was six years old and competed as recently as three years ago. “Highland dance has always been an integral part of my life, and many of my best childhood memories are centered around dance,” she said. 
 
Arantxa Galvan ’21 was excited to join Lambson’s seminar after her family was forced to cancel their summer plans. “I’ve always liked to learn about different cultures,” she said. Meanwhile, Mia Huang ’22 said she “wanted to learn a new skill this summer.”

Every week, students agree on a cultural topic to research, like history, pop culture or food. During a recent class, Huang presented a history of Mary, Queen of Scots as part of the Scottish royalty theme.

Next, it was time for everyone to kick up their heels.

Peddie students Highland dancing

Traditionally, two swords are laid on the ground in the form of an "X" to prepare for a sword dance. Here, Peddie students improvise during their virtual Scottish Highland Dancing seminar with items from home, like golf clubs and a duster.

After a few high cuts and Pas de Basques during a sword dance instruction, Lambson checked in with her students, “how are we feeling?” She was met with a chorus of breathy “ok”s, smiles and nods.

Despite the intricate movements and tough workout, students remained upbeat and eager to learn more.

“To anyone who is considering taking a class on it, don’t worry about not having any prior experience because you’ll be fine,” said Paige Pakenas ’21.

“It might seem embarrassing to learn a dance in a class of peers, but everyone is so friendly, and mistakes are part of the lessons,” said Galvan. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence from learning how to Highland dance because I realized that if I can dance, then I can do a lot of other things I previously thought were impossible.”