DANCER OF HIGHLAND
It isn't often that Highland dancers celebrate other than in the competition venue. Yes! Mum, Dad, teachers, fellow dancers can join in the celebration of a hard fought for trophy. The moments up on the platform to be video taped and enjoyed for years to come. The times, that usually small audiences (in the general scheme of things), enjoy the dancers in performance venues.
Yes! these dances are about history and culture. The educated "Highland " audience can appreciate the technique skill and mastery of the dance. An excellent dancer can communicate through the dance the meaning of those dances. Very rarely does the Highland dancer communicate outside the Highland arena.
Recently a dancer, age 12 years old, who is featured in the "Jenny Douglas article" on this site used her talent and those of her two friends to communicate to a much wider audience. Elizabeth Watson, Ohio, communicated through dance and very special choreography, the heartbreaking story of the Jewish suffering under the Nazi regime.
As with the "Jenny Douglas" performance, this subject and assignment came from the very progressive school Elizabeth attends. The language arts class had been reading the "Diary of Anne Frank" and studying the Holocaust. Part of the assignment, each student had to do some project depicting what they had learned about the subject. Elizabeth with two other students asked if they could "write, choreograph and perform a ballet".
The three girls, according to Elizabeth's mum worked for weeks. Highland teacher Barb McConnell also helped Elizabeth in her portrayal of the German Soldier using many of the steps from Highland dances. History helping history! Julia played a poor Jewish girl and Rachel played a woman who helped hide the Jews during the occupation. The ballet titles "Helping the Helpless" was finally ready for taping. There were no props, the choice of music and mimes and the dance itself communicated the story without any artificial means. The taped performance and written report was turned into the school.
The teacher so touched and overwhelmed by the "work" turned it into a competition. The first step in a journey that would take the ballet "Helping the Helpless" much father than anyone expected. Since that first step the project has been slated for display at the Holocaust Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Now the "work", put together by three very talented children using their talent and expression, pulling from deep within their very young souls, this "work" has achieved a very great honor. Jan Watson, the very proud mother wrote to tell me " the teacher announced last week that the project went even further into the Competition and came in 1st Nationally and is going to be on display for 1 year at the Holocaust Exhibit in Washington DC. Her teacher is taking her and the two other girls to DC to accept their awards and to see their exhibit".
To be able, at such a young age, to communicate depth of feeling, to tell the "story" and yes! "To make a difference". Dancers around the world would give anything to have such talent.The Highland community should be extremely proud of this child. Elizabeth has accomplished at a very early time in her life what some of us can never hope to accomplish. Her talent and love of the Scottish culture has given her the tools in which to transcend other cultures, language through her dance tell a story, educate the world and make people "feel"!!!!
It has been an honor for me to be able to share Elizabeth's story and
I know we will be hearing a lot about this young lady in the future.
As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at
Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.