A teen from Nanaimo is Vancouver Island’s first national champion Highland dancer in more than 30 years.
Annalise Lam, 17, who trains with Brigadoon Dance Academy, won the Canadian championship for her age division earlier this month at the ScotDance Canada Championship Series in Regina. According to Brigadoon instructor Diena Henry, Lam is the first Islander to win a Canadian championship since Sidney’s Jennifer Lindsay accomplished the feat in 1988.
Lam’s results at provincials in May qualified her for nationals, and she said she kept training hard and made a few adjustments, “but nothing too drastic,” to prepare for Canadian championships.
She’s been to nationals several times and her best finish prior to this year was fifth place.
“There’s just so many talented dancers all over Canada…” she said. “It’s just an amazing atmosphere and such a big stage to compete on.”
Lam started the competition “really strongly” with the fling, one of her best dances. The next event was the sword dance, which was challenging as all the swords were moving around a little bit on a slightly bouncy stage. Then the music was a touch off in the seann triubhas and the reel, but Lam adapted.
“I was feeling fairly confident,” she said. “I didn’t expect to win, but I felt strong in my dances.”
In Highland dancing, the results of the judging aren’t revealed until all the dances are complete, and then all the dancers who placed are called up to the stage. Lam ended up finishing first in the fling, fifth in the sword, and second in both the seann triubhas and the reel.
“For my group, the results were very inconsistent, so there wasn’t a clear winner and I was trying to do the calculation,” she said.
But as the runner-ups were announced, it became apparent that Lam was on her way to first overall and a Canadian championship.
“It was amazing. It was just a dream come true,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that all my hard work and dedication had paid off. I was in complete shock.”
The Canadian championship isn’t the end of Highland dancing season for Lam. She and her friend Keltie Willis, another Brigadoon standout, will be going to world championships at the Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland, at the end of August.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Scotland, because that’s where the best of the best dancers in the world go to compete and I’m just so excited for that experience,” Lam said.
Henry said in an e-mail to the News Bulletin that Brigadoon dancers worked hard during the pandemic despite event cancellations and were thrilled to compete again, and Lam said that was a motivating factor that helped her achieve success.
“It was a big incentive after the [first two years of] the pandemic, when competitions and championships came back, to make the most of every opportunity to perform,” she said. “I’ve been really practising a lot and I’ve really changed and shifted my mindset to be prepared for these big championships.”