World champion Highland dancer shares love of Scottish culture

July 28, 2020

Alumnus Fiona Lee’s strong connection to SFU began long before the former psychology major enrolled in the university. Her father, Terry Lee, was the SFU Pipe Band’s pipe major from 1981–2013.

“Growing up I would be at the university almost every week, as this is where the pipe band practiced,” says Lee. “In 2007, I graduated with my BA and on the day of my convocation my dad was receiving an honorary doctorate in fine arts for services related to the SFU Pipe Band and the university.”

Lee’s family commitment to Scottish traditions and culture includes Highland dancing as well as piping.

“Highland dancing has been in my family for many generations—my mom Nancy, dad Terry, great Aunt Adeline, and cousin Heather were all Highland dancers, so it was natural for me to begin Highland dancing at a young age,” says Lee.

She began dancing at age three and competed internationally for more than 20 years, achieving her ultimate goal of winning the 2007 Junior World Highland Dancing Championships. She attributes her success to growing up in a competitive family combined with a strong work ethic that drove her to dance nearly every day.

“Through the years, attending Highland Games, travelling to Scotland and competing locally, my technique improved and my confidence grew, allowing me to dance to my full potential,” Lee says.

Now, Lee has left the world of competitive dance and teaches Highland dancing. She enjoys sharing her love of dance and Scottish culture, particularly with her youngest students who are three to six years old.

“Teaching Highland dancing is a very different experience for me,” Lee says. “I feel I’m more nervous for my students up on stage than I was for myself.”

Highland Dancing Quiz

How well do you know highland dancing? Here are five questions about highland dancing. Make your guesses and we’ll reveal the answers on our social media channels!

1.     At what age can a highland dancer begin competing?  

2.     Can boys/men be highland dancers?  

3.     What shouldn’t a dancer do during the sword dance?  

4.     What costume does a dancer wear to perform the Scotch Measure?  

5.     Name one attribute that increases a dancer’s chances of becoming a champion.