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'Rare brain condition will not control me' – Strictly Inverness dancer's efforts are tribute to grandad

By Andrew Dixon

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Kaitlyn Heggie and Emma MacDonald.
Kaitlyn Heggie and Emma MacDonald.

A young entrepreneur with a rare lifelong brain condition is pushing herself by competing in this year’s annual Strictly Inverness dance contest in honour of a grandad she sadly never had the chance to meet.

Kaitlyn Heggie (18) – whose mum runs Cheryl Heggie School of Dance which specialises in Highland dancing – was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy two years ago.

“Doing Strictly is pushing me out of my comfort zone in ways I never thought were possible,” she said. “I want to show other people with lifelong conditions that their condition doesn’t have to control them or take over their lives."

Kaitlyn is hoping to bring in donations for event organisers and hosts Highland Hospice and Inverness Ice Centre by staging a family ice skating disco party at the rink this Saturday. She has organised it with dance partner Emma MacDonald.

“I used to dance in Strictly in the opening ceremony as a Highland dancer when I was younger from 2016-2019,” Kaitlyn said. “I’ve always wanted to be part of the main show, I’ve just never been old enough!

“My grandad, Alexander Heggie, died in the hospice before I got to meet him, so I am doing this in memory of my family.

“From a young age I can remember my family volunteering at many hospice events over the years and I want to give something back too.”

Alexander Heggie.
Alexander Heggie.

The Inverness native runs Unstoppable Fitness as a women’s mindset and lifestyle coach.

“I help women to develop a positive relationship with their body image, self-esteem and mindset toward nutrition and fitness by empowering women from all over the world and encouraging them to prioritise their overall health and wellbeing,” she said.

Alongside Emma (34), of Muir of Ord, they are learning a salsa and musical theatre number, as well as a group dance ahead of the contest in May. They are among the contest's first same-sex dance partnerships.

“I don’t mind being with Emma at all because it’s been super fun and I like to be different,” said Kaitlyn, who is the youngest competitor at the year’s event. “I’m the leader in all the dances and Emma is the follower.”

Kaitlyn is no stranger to the stage having performed at a number of events as a Highland dancer, including the Inverness Tattoo, Belgium Tattoo and even Disneyland Paris, adding: “But Highland dancing is completely different to this. Highland is all danced mainly on the spot, and is a solo dance. The dances for Strictly are all partner/group dances with lots of movement.”

In addition to the ice skating party, she has two more fundraising events lined up:

  • Curling event, March 1, Inverness Ice Centre
  • Boozy bingo, March 15, Chieftain Hotel, Inverness
  • Dinner dance, April 13, Nairn Community & Arts Centre

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