Highland dancing through the pain

“Whenever I think about quitting, I just can’t imagine it,” said second-year St. Thomas University student Cindy Kimove. “It’s just been such a huge part of my life for my entire life that I can’t see myself stopping.”

Second-year St. Thomas University student Cindy Kimove is jumping her way back into the world of highland dance competitions after an injury last year forced her out of the Canadian Championship finals.

“I danced the first day of the competition and I hurt myself,” she said. “The physio people on site told me not to dance, but the next day was the actual championship. So I danced anyway.”

But Kimove quickly realized she had made a bad decision.

“I did one dance and I almost fell on the stage,” she said. “One of my metatarsals [a group of five bones in the foot] came out of its track and I was still jumping on it. When I finished my dance I tried to walk off the stage and I fell down. It swelled up and then I had to drop out of the competition.”

Kimove is one of the premiere highland dancers in Canada. She’s a member of the Scottish Dance Company of Canada and is currently the New Brunswick provincial champion. Among her many titles, she has placed in the top ten at the World Highland Dance Championships in Scotland.

Kimove said her injury has not deterred her from dancing. She’s currently training to get back on top of her game.

“[The Canadian Championships were] heartbreaking for me, but I’m slowly trying to work my way back up,” she said. “That’s part of my motivation. I want to do well at one more Canadians.”

Highland dance consists of dancers jumping repeatedly on their toes without the support that a ballet shoe has. This constant stress on the feet makes foot injuries very common.

“As soon as I decide to stop competing, I’m going to have to get foot surgery,” Kimove said. “I have two huge bunions on my feet that need surgery and they’ll also need to straighten out my big toe and put a pin in it.”

Kimove also needs to have her hips relocated every three months. But she said the pain is worth it.

“Whenever I think about quitting, I just can’t imagine it,” she said. “It’s just been such a huge part of my life for my entire life that I can’t see myself stopping.”

Although Kimove is a fierce competitor, she said performance is where her real passion for dance lies. She went to Cawthra Park Secondary School, a performance arts high school in Mississauga, Ont., where she was a dance major in ballet and modern.

Kimove gets to combine her love for highland dance with ballet and modern, while touring with the Scottish Dance Company of Canada. She danced on Broadway in New York City as part of Tartan Week – a venue she called one of her favourites.

“It was probably one the best audiences I’ve ever danced for. It was sold out, packed and it was crazy,” she said. “You just get goosebumps when you dance for an audience like that.”

Kimove says highland dance is limited in its traditional moves, so she likes choreographed dances that allow for more diversity.

“It gives more room for creativity. It shows off to an audience all the things you can do with your body,” she said. “Highland dancing is so restricting in its movements. But when you do stuff that has ballet and modern mixed in, you can just fly across the stage.”

When she’s not touring across North America, winning championships or going to class at STU, Kimove also teaches highland dance and choreographs as well. She’s lending her experience at Scot Dance New Brunswick Elite Camp in February, where she’ll be pushing the province’s top dancers to look into performance rather than focusing solely on competing.

“The Maritimes are overlooked a lot in highland dancing, but I know that New Brunswick is really pushing to be noticed right now on the national level,” she said.

With two years left at STU, Kimove is excited to continue to lend her experience and diversity to New Brunswick’s dance scene.
“New Brunswick has really stepped up its game in the last few years,” she said. “I’m excited about the direction it’s going in.”