By Loraine Ritchey
Wesley's Workshop A Hit! By Loraine Ritchey
World-renowned and three time World Champion Highland Dance Champion Victor Wesley took time from his "flying" visit to his homeland, Scotland, to work with the children and dancers of Highland.
Recently Mr. Wesley's, whose reviews on dancing have appeared in Celtic World, demonstrated to the 100 dancers and teachers of the SOHDA just what he has been talking about in his critiques;
"Invariably natural head positions have been replaced with unnatural body twists. In some cases contorted extraneous movement culminating in spinal misalignment. Every dancer look tired from performing limited (6) steps. Overall the chosen dancers in each final were not "all" of a higher level or training or ability. It would have been better to eliminate, by cutting the fat and showing the "very best" competing. Dancers were dancing set steps (SOHBD) which were either not suited to their particular level of ability and others were "restricted" in confinement of their particular ability. The educational aspect of the importance of dancing correctly and the physiological and anatomical approach to teaching is an art itself and one that I can see is being disregarded on the whole in teaching. Teachers are responsible for knowing right from wrong, what can ultimately harm the body and improper training methods can cause damage that will show up in later life. This lack of understanding by those training today's dancers is quite prevalent when seeing some dancers compete. When watching the dancers of today's competitions either the dancers themselves are unaware of these potential hazards on the body or the teachers are not aware of the anatomical damage they are responsible for and imposing on the dancers. Maybe there is another lucrative profession looming in the future for highland dancers a future in physical therapy! Celtic World "Wesley on Cowal 02"
Jane Knox tells Celtic World:
"I was there and absolutely loved it - he deserves a lot of praise!! I have to say he is the best dancer I have ever seen. I sat in on the morning session as I had 17 of my younger pupils attending; I took part in the afternoon session myself. Several of my dancers are also ballet dancers, the majority of my class including myself have no ballet experience so were a bit apprehensive as we weren't quite sure what to expect.
The classes were fantastic - from the minute Victor pointed his toe everyone was captivated! The classes comprised of barre work, exercises and a piece to music. The content was cleverly chosen to work hand in hand and compliment the positions and movements we use in highland.
Victor discussed and demonstrated a wide range of subjects from the basics - i.e. correct body alignment, breathing, to the small touches such as a tip of the head that make a huge difference to the finished performance.
As a teacher, I think that it's often the case that one of the last thing teachers add to the complete package of their pupil is the embellishments that give the dancer a bit of 'finesse' which makes them stand out from the crowd. It can be difficult enough sometimes to get some through a four-step Fling! Victor proved through his demonstration, the importance of this. He said it was like eating a burger, why have plain old ground beef when you could add some cheese, herbs and have a nice glass of wine!
Everyone I have spoken to who saw Victor on Sunday was amazed by his skill - what a dancer, just amazing! Some of the parents who stopped briefly to drop of their children had also commented on this - I thoroughly enjoyed watching Victor dance on Sunday and I'd have loved to have seen him dance during his competitive days.
I learnt such a lot from that workshop - I know my dancers did too. I am pleased to say that I saw some heels slightly further round during last night's classes (thank you Victor!)
Aileen Brown, President of SOHDA had this to say: " I didn't participate but everyone seemed to be having a really good time. Although not up there in dancing shoes, one or two phrases by Victor stuck clearly in my mind.
He said that we should remember that our muscles were only like elastic bands and that we can only stretch them so far, push gently or they will snap.
High cutting should sound like the noise of patting a baby's bum after it has been talcummed.
Be aware of the whole body when you are dancing and remember it is visible from all angles.
Two of the most important thoughts in dance should be bending and straightening. They must be done at the correct time to protect our bodies and perform the dance correctly.
Victor spent most of the workshop on basic ground and feet positions. Covering the importance of body alignment. Making us fully aware of the impact of poor alignment. Exercises so simple that they could be performed whilst standing waiting for a bus!
Dancers and teachers are eagerly awaiting Mr. Wesley's return late summer, when he will also be adjudicating the Royal Braemar Gathering and hopefully sharing more of his expertise with the dancers of Highland.
NOTE; THERE IS A FOLLOWING ARTICLE COMING SOON ON THE SCHOLARSHIPS THAT HAVE BEEN DONATED TO THE WORLD OF DANCE IN MEMORY OF THE LATE JAMIE JAMIESON WHO WAS PRONOUNCED ". D.G. Maclennan in his prologue "Highland and Traditional Dances" writes "Today America's leading man is James MacGregor Jamieson"AND WAS MR. WESLEY'S MENTOR AND ADOPTED FATHER.
As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at
Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.