Having performed in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (2015), the Kremlin Military Tattoo (2017), and the Belfast International Tattoo (2019), I was well aware of the cross-cultural exchanges and learning opportunities that exist within the realm of the arena floor. Dancing in Berlin, however, during the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, over Remembrance Day weekend, was an experience unlike any other. A reminder that music is a universal feature of the human experience, transcending cultural boundaries, our International Tattoo Highland Dance team gathered in Berlin to perform with the European Union Pipes and Drums at the Max-Schmeling-Halle November 7-11, 2019. 

Our team arrived in Berlin on Thursday afternoon, and immediately after settling into our hostel, we took to a grocery store parking lot to mark the choreography. Wrapped in our jackets and bouncing to keep warm in the crisp November air, I reminded myself of how I had auditioned via video for the team during my time in Spain, where the +44-degree Celsius heat had me sweating through each dance. Despite the chill, there was an electric energy amongst our group as the steps we had practiced on our own started to take the shape of something bigger.

One of the many joys of dancing on various teams is meeting friends from around the world. In this instance, I was thrilled to reunite with my Vancouver School of Highland Dance teammate, travel buddy and best friend, Heather, as well as Liz, Anna, Tina, and Lindsay, all fellow Canadians with whom I have danced alongside in Halifax, Russia, and Northern Ireland.

Over the course of the next few days, we worked tirelessly to perfect our dance. I was reminded once again of how unique the sport of Highland Dancing is; our international team of dancers came from variety of backgrounds, but were made a family through a shared love of dancing.

International Tattoo Highland Dance Team – photo credit to Crystel Benton.

The highlight for me was taking the floor for the finale, which was danced to the Gael. We joined musicians from across the globe on the arena floor, and my heart swelled with every step. The video of the finale is available here.

The cast during one of our Finale numbers – photo credit to Crystel Benton.

Before we knew it, we had said our good-byes to our teammates, and Heather and I retreated to “Books and Bagels”, where we drank copious amounts of tea and I justified purchasing two new books. I decided that post-dancing bliss in a Berlin bookshop is a favourite place to be.

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