Alexandra Stubbs, 12, from Hawke's Bay and Struan Hayes, 15, from Scotland, compete at the New Zealand Highland Dancing Championships, which were held in New Plymouth.
The coiffed hairstyles, graceful sweeps of arms and legs and passive faces belie just how agile and athletic you need to be to compete at highland dancing.
Steps, twirls and dance moves, all timed to the tempo of Scottish bagpipe music, filled the Plymouth International Hotel on Saturday and Sunday, when 80 entrants competed for titles in the New Zealand Highland Dancing Championships.
New Plymouth played host to the national champs, which are held every two years. Toni Ramage, President of Highland Dancing Association of Taranaki, said entrants, who ranged in age from four years to 20 plus, came from around New Zealand and as far afield as Australia and Scotland for the competition.
"We've got a record number of boys this year - six - which is a bit of a coup,"Ramage said.
Scotland's Struan Hayes was one of the six males to perform over the weekend. At the age of 15, he has been involved in the activity for the last nine years. Along with helping him keep fit, highland dancing has social benefits as well, he said. "It's a good experience to meet new people and travel the world”. While a very popular past-time in Scotland, Hayes is used to being in the minority as a male competitor in international events. He practices every day, under the tutelage of coach Shendl Russell, and his favourite dance is the Seann Triubhas. This dance, along with several others, were judged over the weekend by an international panel, which included Diane Krugh of the United States, Avril O 'Leary from South Africa and Australia's Christine Shield.
Krugh, who is based in Houston, Texas, has been a teacher of highland dancing for 45 years and a judge for more than three decades. "Basically you're looking for technique, timing and deportment,"Krugh said of the judging standards. She described the quality of the dancers' efforts she had seen over the two-day competition as "outstanding". "There's been some beautiful dancing," she said.
On Monday, Krugh will also host a workshop for dancers, where she will be able to give those in attendance direct feedback about how they went over the weekend, with the view of helping them develop as performers.