Highland dedication makes dreams happen

Nicole Odo is a competitive Highland dancer, teacher and university student who’s been dancing for 13 years, since the age of seven. In the past year she has achieved her dream of placing top six in the World Highland Dance Championships in Scotland.

Odo and fellow competitor at the World Championships in Cowal, Scotland. The movement is called a "leap" where they hop into the air, extending both legs out to the side as if they're doing the splits in the air. Photo: Sinead Scobie
Odo and fellow competitor at the World Championships in Cowal, Scotland. The movement is called a “leap” where they hop into the air, extending both legs out to the side as if they’re doing the splits in the air.
Photo: Sinead Scobie

Now, she is preparing her own students for the Canadian Championships in July.

Odo manages to juggle teaching and practicing with her large course load. She says that practicing helps clear her mind.

“Dance isn’t the time or place to think about the 10 assignments I need to do and school isn’t the time to think about all the things I need to think about dancing,” said Odo.

“It’s busy, but I think you can always make the time for it”

Odo is said to be a very determined person. Scout McKee is one of Odo’s students and says that she has had a positive experience in dance due to being taught by Odo.

“She’s definitely inspired me to work harder and stuff, because when you’re with someone who works as hard as she does it kinda like makes you want to work even harder,” said McKee.

Nicole Odo (left) and Scout McKee (right) at the Canadian Open Championships in 2015. Photo: Nicole Odo
Nicole Odo (left) and Scout McKee (right) at the Canadian Open Championships in 2015.
Photo: Nicole Odo

During her practices, there is one main thing that encourages Odo to keep pushing. She says that she loves that Highland dance is an individual sport because it helps her see her own improvements.

“For me, it’s always been the competition,” said Odo. “I know that my results reflect my work ethic and how much time I’ve put in to dancing that year.”

Those practices are very technical. Highland dance is focused on intricate footwork, arm movements, head coordination and timing to the music.

In competitions, the judges look for all of that, plus their general conduct on stage. Winners are determined by the amount of points they have at the end of each day. Points can be deducted for the smallest mistakes. Disqualifications are also given when a dancer stops dancing, falls, or touches the sword in the Sword Dance.

Nicole Odo and competitor dancing at a competition. The dance is called the Reel and consists of four dancers intertwining and dancing together. Scoring for this dance, however, is individually. Photo: Nicole Odo
Nicole Odo and competitor dancing at a competition. The dance is called the Reel and consists of four dancers intertwining and dancing together. Scoring for this dance, however, is individually.
Photo: Nicole Odo

Due to this, Odo wants to make sure she gets everything right. The best way to do that, for her, is to break everything down step by step.

“I’ve always enjoyed taking something apart, working on it, and perfecting it and putting it all together in the bigger picture.”

Yet, when it comes to competition, she says it’s automatic and the steps come to her like second nature.

“I don’t think I have one thought. Which sometimes people don’t think it’s a good thing but its complete autopilot,” said Odo.

The hard work and dedication has paid off for Odo. Her first major goal was the placing in the World Championships.

“It definitely hasn’t come without a lot of hard work. You feel very accomplished when you put in so much time and you finally accomplish the goals you set for yourself. ”

Now, her goal is to place again. She has moved up a category, so the stakes are even higher.

“I would ultimately love to qualify in the world championships and place in the world championships again.”

Odo is thankful for her support system for her time so far in Highland dance.

“I’ve had an awesome experience with dancing. And I’ve thankfully had a lot of people who’ve supported me and helped me get toward those goals,” said Odo. “I’m pretty proud how far I’ve come, especially in the last few years.”

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