Newton’s Ellis retains Highland dancing world championships

Double World Champion Highland dancer Ellis Hayes from Newton Stewart meets Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.
Double World Champion Highland dancer Ellis Hayes from Newton Stewart meets Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.

Newton Stewart teenager Ellis Hayes has conquered the world once again by retaining her title as a global sensation on the Highland dancing circuit.

Last month in Dunoon, the 14-year-old was crowned Juvenile World Champion for the second year in a row after beating competitors from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA and South Africa to take the prestigious title. That success crowns a fantastic year for the teenager during which she has danced for film stars, pop stars and politicians.

Yesterday, the delighted schoolgirl, a pupil at Kirkcudbright Academy, said: ‘It’s great to be World Champion again as many dancers win the title only once. I was determined I was going to win the World title again in my dancing career. I can’t believe I managed it two years in a row. In fact it still hasn’t sunk in yet!”

In the last six months, the youngster has lifted every elite title in the Juvenile section – from Scottish Championship to the British, European, United Kingdom and Commonwealth Championships.

She successfully completed the set when she defended her world title at the Cowal Highland Games on 25th August in front of a packed grandstand at Dunoon, Argyll.

Ellis, who started dancing when she was just four years old, said: “I just love dancing, training and performing. I have lots of great friends from all over the world now thanks to Highland dancing and I get opportunities to travel to the USA and Canada, as well as all over Scotland, because of it.

“We train all winter and in some cases only meet at the World Championships. That’s when you find out whether all the hard work and training has paid off and you can hold your own with the rest of the world. Everyone gets stronger as they get older but sometimes dancing techniques can be more difficult if you have a growth spurt, so my fellow competitors’ abilities change from year to year.”

Ellis, who admits it is a struggle to control her nerves sometimes before competitions, added: “This year, I was actually looking forward to the World Championships as it is the main event that I train for all year and at last it was here.”

Her success is down to a rigorous training schedule which sees her travel a 180-mile round trip two days a week after school to Glasgow, where she attends the Fiona MacNeil School of Dance to be put through her paces.

The school, based in Newton Mearns, also holds training camps in Spain and England.

Ellis added: “They are hard work but fantastic fun. I also love dancing at events outside the competition circuit. It’s not every day you get to meet famous people but, through my dancing, I have. It’s great.”

In June, she was invited to perform in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle at the official reception for the Scottish Premiere of the Disney Pixar movie Brave.

Among the stars who watched her dance were Kevin McKidd, star of Trainspotting and US TV blockbuster Grey’s Anatomy, and Harry Potter actor Robbie Coltrane, as well as Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, Ellis and fellow dancers met The X Factor judges at the Glasgow auditions for the show. The girls danced in the green room for Gary Barlow, Anastacia, Louis Walsh and Tulisa Contostavlos before chatting with the stars.

Ellis said: “Anastacia and Tulisa were great fun. They even tried it!”

This summer, Ellis, her younger brother, Struan, 11, who is also a Highland dancer, and her parents travelled to Canada to take part in the North American Championships.

Not only did the teenager win at the Title in Edmonton for the third time but she also won the sword dance challenge award and was presented with 1000 Canadian dollars as well as a pair of magnificent engraved silver swords.

Now she plans to concentrate on school work, as well as more training and conditioning work for the 2013 season, which will see her competing in Montreal, Canada, and Arizona, USA, for the American open championships.

She said: “I’ve got some new dance steps to learn and perfect. I’ve also still got a few more championships to compete in this year in Forfar, Aberdeen, Inverness and Dumfries.

“In January, my dance school is also producing a history of Highland dance show called Across the Board with Highland Dancing, it is being held in Paisley Town Hall, and I’m involved in many items.”

Proud mum, Sheron, said: “Ellis is a perfectionist who is self-motivated and will work till she can get her dances as good as she is able.

“Holes in her socks and blisters on her toes are proof of that. She has an amazing bond with her dance teacher, Fiona, who guides her every step of the way.

“Ellis is so disciplined, I admire her, what with travel to school, school work, travel to dance class and competitions and training every night of the week - amazing dedication and determination in one so young.”