Scottish dancing her way to energy

Norma Wilson and husband Mike Randall step lively with fellow members of the Gainesville Scottish Country Dancers.

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 3:01 p.m.

Four years ago, science teacher Norma Wilson shook up her usual summer routine of relaxing around the house, reading books. She discovered that the best way to recharge for the upcoming school year to is to dance until she drops.

Wilson now travels to the Thistle School of Scottish Country Dance at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. In July, she and eight members of the local Scottish dance group she founded will caravan to the school for lessons and performances.

"The Scottish dancers take over the dorms," she says. "It's exactly like summer camp."

Scottish country dance differs from its more famous cousin, Irish step dancing, in that most dances are for couples.

Wilson, who has Scottish lineage on both sides of her family, first learned the dances in college at the University of Miami in 1989.

"I had never been particularly interested in dance before, but I loved it from the first time I did it," she says.

At the Thistle School, Scottish dancers from around the world take classes with live music provided by the concurrent Celtic music school. Then the group heads to nearby Grandfather Mountain for the annual Highland Games, which features athletic feats from the hammer throw to the "kilted mile," and plenty of dance and music.

Another attraction is the crisp weather. "It's chilly at night. You actually have to wear a jacket," she says. "There's no air conditioning, and I've never missed having it." Between the classes all day and parties, talent shows and skits every night, Wilson isn't catching up on her rest the way she once did during the summer. The irony is, she comes back to her students at Loften High more refreshed than ever.

"I've found since I started spending my summer in a more active way, I come back a lot more ready to start the school year," she says. "You'd think I'd be tired, but instead, I'm energized. It's funny how exercise can do that."

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