There wasn't much chance for rest at Tony Cargill's boot camp as the dancers practiced their steps and technique repeatedly over two five-hour sessions. Stephen Brun/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE - The term "boot camp" usually means an intense physical training session.
Couple that with Highland dance and it creates a unique and invaluable opportunity for dancers to compete at the world level.
This past weekend, four-time World Highland Dance champion Tony Cargill gave 29 dancers from across the Maritimes the chance to perfect their skills at a Championship Step Camp at his school of dance in the Waterfront Mall in Summerside.
"The Highland boot camp is just a different take on a workshop that I've set up so we can start working on the 2010 Championship Step," Cargill said.
Many competitors wait until January or February to begin preparing for the events but the premier dancers at his boot camp have a chance to get a leg up on their competition.
All 29 dancers who came to the boot camp are in the premier category - the elite grouping. All but one were from off-Island and five are Cargill's students, including sisters Eve and Caitlyn MacKay of West River Station, N.S.
Eve, 18, is a student at UPEI and lives in Cornwall.
"This is preparing us for the technique, while later on it will be more about fitness and stamina so we an get through the dances without needing to worry about the technique," she said of the boot camp. "Now we know what we have to work on so when we're practising on our own we can make sure we do these things."
There are several 2010 Championship Step events worldwide and every year the required steps are changed, making each competition unique. In 2010 the competitions will be in Canada, U.S., Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France.
"The steps favour one particular style of dancer," noted Cargill. "I was more of a power dancer. So, what one year would fit me, the next year it wouldn't. It makes it fair for everyone."
When he offered the camp, Cargill had hoped for as many as 20 registrations but didn't turn anybody away who wanted to take part.
The boot camp consisted of two five-hour sessions and dancers knew it would be an intense two days.
But Caitlyn, 16, said the difficult sessions were well worth it, both physically and socially.
"It's difficult, but the friends you make at the workshops makes it more fun," she said. "You meet new people and you can learn techniques you didn't know before."